It’s hard to resist the charms of the city of Jacques Coeur. A rich heritage of architecture and culture with a UNESCO awarded grand cathedral, a historic city-centre as endearing as it is lively with charming wood-timber houses, and a marshland seemingly made for summer-evening-strolling, Bourges invites relaxation and much more besides.
The rhythm of the city is defined by the seasons and its calendar of festivals. Spring is both a season for wildflower walks and an eclectic music festival that has championed up-and-coming artists since the mid-seventies. Summer offers up gravity-fed thrills of La Descente Infernale soap-box race and the Medieval Festival’s celebration of historic characters. Autumn’s arrival brings with it the Marsh Festival, where locals and visitors pay homage to the area’s natural beauty. And winter is not to be ignored with its historic La Rando Bourges-Sancerre - a midnight hike from cathedral to cellar punctuated with local flavours.
Whatever gets you moving, whether the hikes and history or the music and the marshes, the rhythm of Bourges is one where you can find your groove.
Transports in Bourges
By car allow a 1-hour drive from Orleans, 2.5 hours from Paris or 4 from Lyon via the A71. If you choose to arrive by bus or train, there are direct routes to Bourges from Paris, Tours, Angers, Nantes, Le Croisic, Montluçon, Nevers, Moulins, Lyon and Roanne.
Getting around Bourges city is easy with the free city-centre shuttle service or on one of the fairly extensive bus routes. And for an even more relaxed Bourges experience, go self-powered, rent a Berrycyclette and get out into the countryside. Our hoteliers are always happy to help you plan a route and help make sure you don’t miss the bus.
When to go to Bourges
Bourges’ temperate climate promises mild weather throughout the year. With summers that are ‘not too hot’ (sunscreen though is not unheard of) and winters that are ‘not too cold’ (although it is still very much sweater season) Bourges weather is perfect for outside exploration. Off-season is regularly-watered by showers, and locals and regular visitors to Printemps de Bourges will tell you to keep an umbrella close to hand. Our hoteliers recommend visiting between April and October where the climate is festival perfect.
Between visits to the city’s famous monuments, our hoteliers recommend taking the pulse of the city by strolling its streets and alleys, such as lively and charming Rue Bourdonnoux, and the Place Gordaine. This convergence of pedestrian streets is one of the most picturesque corners of the city and encourages relaxed café lounging and bistro menu perusing. For visitors looking for a unique experience, Nuits Lumière transports you after dusk with a light show that evokes the rich history of Berruyère.
THE SAINT-ETIENNE CATHEDRAL
Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, the Saint-Etienne cathedral impresses with its grandeur as well as its beauty. Its peculiarities lie mainly in its absence of transept (the cross-shape that gives many similar churches their more usual footprint) and its incredible west facade with 5 carved portals. The crypt, the astronomical clock (the oldest preserved in France dating back to 1424) and the superb stained glass windows are all worth a look, but the highlight of the visit is at the top of the Tour de Beurre (literally the Butter Tower), where the view of Bourges is as breath-taking as the monument you’re standing on.
THE JACQUES COEUR PALACE
Welcome to the home of one of the most important figures of the 15th century. Merchant, banker and financier of King Charles VII, Jacques Coeur built this "big" house "to establish his power and his fortune”. This architectural jewel is considered one of the finest examples of civil Gothic architecture in France. Too bad that he who proclaimed: "A valiant heart, nothing impossible" did not have the opportunity to take advantage of this grand home. Fallen into disgrace, imprisoned and banished, he died in Greece on an expedition against the Turks.
THE OLD CITY
The old districts of the city extend from the shadow of the Saint-Etienne cathedral. Stroll on the ramparts or among the 400 half-timbered houses of the 15th century. Narrow streets, cobblestone footpaths, old signs, artisan shops ... the charm is disarming, and leisurely strolling is a must. At the Place Gordaine you can discover the town criers stone and where Calvin used to preach from.
Often missed by visitors to Bourges, the marshes located on the outskirts of the historic center should definitely be on your to-visit list. Lush and green and covering ancient swamps, the marshes extend over 135 ha of gardens and vegetable gardens. Those who are lucky enough to have a plot (there are 1500) cultivate theirs with love and passion. Listed as Natural Heritage, these marshes are among the last market swamps in France and are explored by a choice of three foot or bike routes in various distances.
From the Museum of Natural History to the Museum of Berry (fine arts) and from the Musée Hôtel Lallemand (a fifteenth century mansion) to the very unusual Petit Musée Rigolo (with its collection of darkly humorous exhibits), the Berruyère cultural offer is a varied one and meets (almost) all your discovery-desires.
Berry cuisine (the region, not just the oft-foraged fruit) is distinguished by its simplicity and quality of local produce. Food lovers with ‘salty beaks’ will love the "couilles d’âne" (the direct translation of ‘donkey balls’ doesn’t do justice to these appetising poached eggs in red wine), potato pancakes, green lentils or goat cheeses. And for those with a sweet tooth, a Forestines (a local specialty 100% made in Bourges) can be savoured in any season. Do not forget the Sancerre, Reuilly, Menetou-Salon, Chateaumeillant ... just some of the wines that have made the reputation of the region. Follow the advice of our hoteliers: go to the Marché de la Halle au blé and taste and smell your way around the region.
Le Jardin Gourmand
A large bourgeois house surrounded by a refined garden is home to one of the best restaurants in the heart of Bourges. The décor is warm and authentic, and the hosts Colette and Christian invite you to discover their gastronomic menu highlighting the products of the region.
This contemporary bistro has no shortage of style and offers a pleasant concept of gourmet boards. Chefs (and brothers) David and Stéphane perfectly blend tradition and modernity in the flavours and in the plating.
Expect nothing less than Michelin starred inventive gastronomy at this restaurant near the Saint-Etienne cathedral. Christophe and Pascal, the chiefs, have made their creed this quotation from Brillat-Savarin: "To convince someone is to take care of his happiness all the time he is under your roof.”
Don’t let the name fool you, you don’t need to be a scholar to get a table at this bistro-nomic establishment located in the historic center of Bourges. An intimate and cozy atmosphere celebrates creative cuisine that evolves over the seasons and takes inspiration from a globally travelled chef and the best of what’s local.
At 44, rue Bourdonnoux, this Berruyère institution highlights delicious traditional cuisine with fresh local products at their heart. Don’t miss the iced-nougat for dessert, the specialty of the house!
Located at the edge of the Voiselle River, this pleasant restaurant with blue-gray tones and vegetal-inspired sketches (that are a subtle reminder of the neighboring marshes) enjoys an excellent reputation with locals in the know and the Michelin Guide.