Classified as a City of Art and History, Bourges has a magnificent historical centre to explore on foot. Located 2 hours from Paris, between Châteauroux and Sancerre, Bourges can be visited in a day or over a weekend.
Famous for its Printemps de Bourges music festival, its cathedral, its old alleys with pretty half-timbered houses and the Jacques Coeur palace, this charming city invites travellers on a true journey through time, from the Gallo-Roman period to the present day.
The beautiful and cosy town of Bourges fascinates tourists with its medieval soul: the imposing Gothic cathedral with its marvellous stained-glass windows, the half-timbered houses in the picturesque alleys of the centre, the medieval palaces and the Roman walls.
In addition, Bourges is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area, which is surrounded by vineyards and forests and full of castles, abbeys and magnificent gardens.
The cathedral of Saint-Etienne de Bourges is the city’s most famous and impressive monument, welcoming more than 600,000 visitors each year. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992.
A masterpiece of French Gothic art, this immense cathedral impresses with its size: at 125 metres long and 40 metres wide, it testifies to the power of Christianity in the Middle Ages. It is one of the largest cathedrals in France, similar to Notre-Dame-de-Paris. On the west façade, it boasts five amazingly crafted portals, finely carved and chiselled, while inside it holds magnificent stained glass windows and vaults over 40 metres high.
Don’t miss the climb up more than 396 steps to the top of its tower and discover a magnificent panorama of the city, the marshes and Lake Auron. Don’t forget to visit the crypt and admire the astronomical clock.
The Jacques Coeur Palace is another monument not to be missed in Bourges. In the Middle Ages, Jacques Coeur, the great treasurer of King Charles VII, a native of Bourges, undertook the construction of this magnificent palace. It is an excellent example of Gothic architecture that prefigures Renaissance palaces.
Inside, you will discover numerous friezes and sculpted decorations, an imposing vault depicting the hull of an overturned boat, a magnificent chapel, a large ceremonial hall with a monumental fireplace, splendid stained glass windows, spiral staircases and Jacques Coeur’s famous motto: For a valiant heart, nothing is impossible.
We recommend an unhurried stroll through the beautiful centre of Bourges and discover its half-timbered houses, dating from the 15th and 16th centuries: there are more than 400 of them and they bear witness to the town’s medieval history. The heart of the centre is a maze of medieval alleyways: you can start at Rue de Linières3, continue along the delightful Place Berry4, framed by colourful half-timbered houses, discover the typical shops at Rue Mirebeau5 and Rue Coursarlon6, enjoy the view of the old buildings at Rue Joyeuse7 and Rue Bourbonnoux8. Don’t forget Place des 4 Piliers9, where there are beautiful medieval houses, a fountain and many small bars and restaurants for an aperitif or lunch in the sun.
On this little itinerary, you can admire guild buildings, old passage ways and delightful shops selling local products.
A stop at Place Gordaine10, one of the most beautiful in the city, to sip a drink or have a snack in one of the bistros and cafés that enliven it.
Market lovers should not miss the market at Halle Saint Bonnet11, a large glass and metal structure that encapsulates all the scents, colours and flavours of the region.
From July to September, at nightfall, the city of Bourges is cloaked in magic. For 15 years, the city centre has offered a free open-air show every evening: les Nuits Lumière. The façades of the city’s most beautiful monuments, such as the Palais Jacques Coeur, Hôtel Lallemant, Augustins Convent, Musée Estève light up with a sound and light show evoking the rich history of Bourges.
The route is about 2.5 km long: if you want to walk the entire route, you will have to calculate one and a half hours. Impossible to get lost: the circuit is marked by enchanting blue lanterns.
The marais, the marshes, are a natural area criss-crossed by gardens, orchards, vegetable gardens and vineyards: a magnificent bucolic setting to be admired on a walk along the left bank of the Voiselle.
The gardens cover 135 hectares and are cultivated by the inhabitants of the town of Bourges, who are responsible for animating, maintaining and passionately beautifying this unique place. They are perfect to discover on a bicycle.
In the centre of the town of Bourges, this garden with its geometric lines, designed in the 1920s by Paul Marguerita, a landscape architect from Berry, is a striking example of Art Deco style.
In fact, this garden has a special charm, with its many plant sculptures made up of pergolas, curtains of French lime trees, rectilinear lawns and rigorously trimmed yew arches, alongside a freer arrangement of flowerbeds and pools around the theatre of greenery.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
The enchanting medieval city of Bourges is wonderful to visit during the day and wonderful to experience at night, when it comes alive with a lively night scene, especially in summer.
Amidst bistros, sound and light shows and clubs with outdoor terraces, Bourges is worth a stay of at least one night. In the evening, the old alleys and half-timbered houses lend the centre an old-world atmosphere. You will have a good variety in the choice of accommodation: elegant and comfortable hotels in fine historical buildings in the heart of the city.
Bourges is located about halfway between Paris and Nantes. On a trip to the Loire Valley, Bourges is chosen to break up the itinerary by staying in a lively and welcoming environment.
Bourges is 250 km from Paris, which is easily reached in about 2 hours 40 minutes.
If you prefer to travel by train, Bourges is connected to Paris by several stations: Gare de Austerlitz, Gare de Bercy, Gare de Montparnasse. The length of the connection varies depending on the type of train you choose.
What's the weather at Bourges? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Bourges for the next few days.
Bourges is located in the department of Cher, a few kilometres from the exact centre of France, in the historical Berry region.