Just two-and-a-half hours south of Paris, Bourges bursts with culture and charm. This city checks all the boxes: art, architecture, history, cuisine, and beautiful gardens, putting it on our Where To Travel In 2020 list.
If you appreciate culture, art, gorgeous scenery, music, and great food and drink, beautiful Bourges, France, located in the center of the country, offers many tempting reasons to visit. Steeped in history, Bourges is the capital of the Cher department of France in the central Loire Valley, and visitors to the town will discover a feast for the eyes as well as for the taste buds.
Historically significant architecture, a vibrant town center, special entertainment options, unique museums, and beautiful parks provide numerous opportunities to discover and enjoy this dynamic city.
Here are seven great reasons to make time for Bourges on your next trip to France.
1. It’s Home To A Magnificent Gothic Cathedral
One of the undeniable jewels of Bourges is the spectacular Gothic Cathedral of Saint Etienne. Construction of the massive structure began at the end of the 12th century; it took some 50 years to finish. Reminiscent of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the building’s unique design showcases many flying buttresses and gorgeous stained glass windows. In 1992, the cathedral was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it continues to inspire wonder in visitors from around the world.
2. Its Old Town Is Charming
Bourges is a scenic medieval city with narrow streets, lively businesses, charming half-timbered homes, and a fascinating history. The city’s Old Town is full of art, architecture, and history that begs to be explored. Once a trade center and prosperous merchant town, Bourges boasts opulent mansions, art galleries, shops, restaurants, markets, bookstores, antique stores, and cafes.
Booking a ride on the Little Tourist Train at the start of your visit is a great way to get a quick overview of the city and decide where you want to spend more time.
3. There Are Numerous Fascinating Museums
Whether you’re interested in art, design, craftsmanship, military history, natural history, or something else, the many specialty museums in Bourges will keep you busy. The Berry Museum houses a fabulous fine art collection, and the Natural History Museum is an outstanding option for nature and science buffs.
Other museums cover unique subjects such as military materials, resistance and deportation history, and the best work of French craftsmen. These museums are small but quite dense, affording interesting perspectives and insights on a variety of subjects.
Be sure to check the museum schedules before heading out, since they’re all different.
4. It’s Got Beautiful Green Spaces
Bourges is a green city with lots of beautiful parks and gardens. It’s a treat to enjoy the outdoors in this charming town, especially during the warmer months.
Visitors can take a tranquil walk through the two parts of the gorgeous City Hall Garden by the cathedral. The tall trees and beautifully manicured flower gardens are stunning. The serene space offers an opportunity for meditation in the beauty of nature.
For something a little different, check out the art deco garden Pres Fichaux, opened in 1930 and full of sculptured plants, flower beds, and ponds. It’s a peaceful spot to reflect and unwind.
5. The Palace Of Jacques Coeur Is Splendid
An important figure in the history and growth of Bourges, the prosperous merchant Jacques Coeur became King Charles VII’s minister of finance in the 1440s. To honor himself and his prominence, he had a palace built that reflected his love for country and king. Unfortunately, he was later accused of high crimes. Although his story didn’t end well, the palace remains a spectacular example of French medieval architecture.
6. It Hosts A Variety Of Festivals Each Year
Bourges is a city that loves a good festival, no matter the season.
In the summer, the Les Nuits Lumiere festival enchants locals and visitors alike. The blue light trail connects famous buildings and features light shows and music at each stop.
The spring music festival Le Printemps de Bourges brings more than 200 artists to town to perform for more than 200,000 music fans. Associated events celebrate emerging artists, and many of the restaurants and bars in town offer musical performances for guests to enjoy with their meals.
Fall in Bourges brings celebrations of wine and gastronomy (and a chocolate salon!). To work off the delicious food and wine, visitors can enjoy a walk on the pedestrian-only green routes in the area.
In December and January, the Natural History Museum exhibits photos from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
7. It’s A Place To Eat, Drink, And Be Merry!
The Loire Valley offers numerous opportunities to try outstanding food and drink. Specialties include the green Berry lentils loved by locals and the Berrichon, a meat pie of ground pork and veal topped with hard-boiled eggs all baked in a flaky crust. It’s hard to resist some of the wonderful local cheeses and wines.
La Courcilliere and Cremerie Gordaine offer some tasty local bites. It's easy to explore delicious local wines at Selections & Millesimes, with their large selection and personal knowledge of the terroir. For an afternoon espresso and sweet snack stop (or perhaps a freshly made brunch), stop by the Delichou Tarterie Espresso Bar. It can get busy on the weekends, but reservations can be made online
Bourges is a lovely town with an interesting history and plenty of modern delights. In the heart of France and tucked away in the famed Loire Valley, Bourges rewards visitors with a variety of culturally rich experiences.