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Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Cher

Bourges - Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Cher

While the city's name is associated with the Printemps de Bourges, a famous music festival that takes place in April every year, Bourges also has many architectural treasures. Its history, tied to that of the Kingdom of France, is marked by its sumptuous built heritage, which comprises some 110 listed or registered buildings and historic monuments. These riches have earned it the Town of Art and History certification label since 1992.

The Cathedral of St. Stephen in Bourges, a Gothic gem that's a listed Historic Monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site, towers majestically over the city. Its design, dating back to 1195, is unique due to the length of its nave, the absence of a transept and the five portals on its western façade. At 125 metres long and 40 metres wide, it is one of the largest cathedrals in France. Its exceptional stained glass windows, its crypts, its astronomical clock dating from 1424 and the carvings on its central portal are its most striking features. After climbing the 396 steps of the north tower, known as the Butter Tower, you will discover a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding area. You can admire this fine building from the flower-filled Archbishop's Gardens, at the foot of the cathedral.

The other unmissable place to visit is the Jacques Coeur Palace, a civil building in the Flamboyant Gothic style erected in the 15th century by the financier to King Charles VII. This superb building on the Gallo-Roman rampart, which is a listed Historic Monument, gives a sense of this exceptional figure's extraordinary life. You can admire the huge state room, the colourful chapel, the numerous carved decorations and the roof structure in the shape of an inverted ship's hull. The façade is lit up in summer for Bourges' sound and light show, Les Nuits Lumière.

There is also no shortage of museums, with the Museum of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, which showcases excellence in over 200 trades; the Natural History Museum and its collections of 170,000 specimens from nature; the Hôtel Lallemant, a remarkable Renaissance mansion containing art objects, paintings and furniture; and the Estève Museum, which exhibits works by the painter of the same name. The city therefore has museums on a diverse and varied range of themes, including the Train and Military Unit Museum, the Berry Museum or the Cher Museum of the Resistance and Deportation.

Bourges' historical past is also revealed in the medieval centre. You can enjoy a wander along its cobbled streets, which feature a great many timber-framed houses and mansions in the Gothic or Renaissance style. You can also take a stroll on the pedestrian streets to find some picturesque little squares, and unwind by exploring the shops, cafés or restaurants.

Lovers of unspoilt natural areas will appreciate the Bourges marshes, at the foot of the old town. This listed site is located in a wetland area, and its marsh of 135 hectares, divided into around 1,500 parcels of land, has been turned into idyllic fruit and vegetable gardens. There are some lovely walks, bike rides and boat rides for those wishing to see the natural side of Bourges!

Additional information

Bourges is the capital of Cher, in the Center-Loire Valley region.

It was the capital of the province of Berry, before the Revolution, which corresponded to the departments of Indre and Cher.

The city has a population of just over 68,000, and nearly 100,000 with its metropolitan area.

Surrounded by marshes, located south of the Loire on an axis conducive to exchanges, the city developed under the Romans and built a wall in the 4th century.

In the Middle Ages, its bishops were primates of Aquitaine, which made it an important religious center. Attached to the kingdom in 1100, its defenses are reinforced against the Plantagenet.

St. Stephen's Cathedral was built in 1195, and in the 14th century the Duchy of Berry was erected as an appanage (part of the royal domain which the monarch assigns to his younger sons or brothers). Bourges knows its golden age: Jean de France, brother of Charles V, turns out to be a patron and an esthete who builds a palace, and attracts architects and artists. It was thus that Jacques Coeur, the king's financier, established himself at Bourges and laid the foundations for his fruitful commerce.

Then, under Louis XI, a university was created.

Catastrophe in 1487: a fire ravages two-thirds of the city. However, many half-timbered houses will be rebuilt. However, Bourges is gradually losing its position as a stronghold of the kingdom. Its rise resumed in the 19th century with the construction of the Canal du Berry and the arrival of the railway. Industries are established (foundries, armament). The city still extends into the 20th century, while preserving its heritage which now makes it a culturally attractive city and a high place of tourism.

Things to see and do

Labeled City of Art and History, Bourges deserves first a visit of its main assets heritage in the heart of the city.

Starting with the Saint-Étienne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A masterpiece of Gothic art, it is characterized by the absence of a transept, a pyramidal composition and a double flight of flying buttresses to give a true verticality to the interior space. Splendid stained glass windows from the 13th century on three floors, at the level of the choir, constitute a true illustrated catechism. The lateral chapels, the crypt and its tombs, and the north tower, from which a remarkable panorama of the city is accessible, are also visited. Information on +33 2 48 23 02 60.

The route continues ideally by the palace Jacques-Cœur (mid-fifteenth), also in Gothic style, whose oriental façade is richly ornamented. As for its interior decoration, it is the illustration of the success of this rich servant of the State, who nevertheless did not inhabit the place. Price: 7,50 and 6 euros. Free on the first Sunday of the month of November to May and for the under 18 years. Information on +33 2 48 24 79 42.

After these two major buildings, a walk in the center of the city will make it possible to observe more than 400 half-timbered houses (usually with a shop on the ground floor), the ramparts (with Gallo- Romans), Place Gordaine (where the market once stood, hence decorations in the shape of fruits on the facades).

A passage through the neighborhood of the former marshes and the Saint-Pierre district (with the Jacques-Cœur house not to be confused with the palace) must be on the program as well.

Bourges also has many museums.

There is thus the museum of decorative arts in a former mansion of the sixteenth century, the astonishing museum of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France in the former palace of the archbishop, the Berry museum, the Estève museum (20th century painter) In the former hotel of the aldermen, or the museum of natural history.

The museum of the Resistance, the museum of the military equipment and the Train and the military crews are also to visit for the amateurs of history.

But Bourges is also a green city with a rich natural heritage.

We think of the 35 hectares of gardens that dot the marsh district (now drained since the creation of canals) or Lake Val d'Auron, green lung of the city, and conducive to many sporting activities (jogging, sports Ball, sailing, canoeing).

The Pélargonium conservatory (900 different species), the Jardin des Prés-Fichaux (art deco style) and the garden of the archbishop's palace (designed by a pupil of Le Nôtre in the 17th century) will be refreshing stages.

Finally, an itinerary of remarkable trees has been laid out. Time: 1 hour by bike, 1h30 by foot.

For information about thematic or guided tours of the city and museums, please call +33 2 48 23 02 60.

Places of interest

Information points
Leisure centres
Performance halls

Events and festivities

Organized for a week in mid-April, the Spring of Bourges has contributed greatly to the renown of the city to new audiences since 1977. International music festival opening the season of rock and contemporary music festivals (rap, reggae, World music...), all the stars pass or have passed, but the Spring also leaves the young talents hatch. Information on +33 2 48 27 28 29.

In May and June, the International Art Fair presents exhibitions of young local artists or renowned guests at the Château d'Eau.

From June to September, in the evening, the Light Nights showcase the remarkable buildings of Bourges (sound and light projections).

From mid-June to mid-July, the Jacques Cœur fairs bring together more than 80 fairground attractions.

From June 21 to September 21, a Summer in Bourges offers free classical music concerts in or in front of the city's major buildings.

In October, BulleBerry is a festival devoted to comics which includes exhibitions of boards in various historical sites.

In December and January, the museum of natural history welcomes part of the 80 photos selected in the "Wildlife photographer of the year" contest.

Detailed information

Bourges Spring Festival
An eclectic music festival in the springtimeFrom 23 to 28 april 2024


Cathedral of Bourges
Cathedral of Bourges
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View of the marshes of Bourges
View of the marshes of Bourges
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Saint Stephen's Cathedral of Bourges - ​​View of the marshes
Saint Stephen's Cathedral of Bourges - ​​View of the marshes
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St. Stephen's Cathedral of Bourges (© Jessica Davoust)
St. Stephen's Cathedral of Bourges (© Jessica Davoust)
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St. Stephen's Cathedral of Bourges (© N.Menanteau)
St. Stephen's Cathedral of Bourges (© N.Menanteau)
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