Bourges in the Loire Valley is an enchanting city full of history and beautiful architecture, especially the gothic masterpiece of the Cathedrale St Étienne.
Although the city has roots dating back to Roman times, much of the historic architecture in Bourges is from the medieval era and it has one of the best preserved medieval quarters in France. The streets are lined with over 450 half-timber houses rebuilt after the Great Fire of the Madeleine in 1487, which tore through the city.
Rebuilt with a slightly different design that means that there is less overhang by the upper storeys over the street and therefore slowing the spread of fire, these wonderful houses can be found all along the streets winding down from the cathedral to the market square.
The breathtaking cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 12th and 13th centuries with incredible early 13th century stained glass and some impressive gargoyles and statues. It also has a wonderful sculpted garden in the classical French style, known as the Archbishop's garden.
The beautiful Art Deco Prés-Fichaux gardens, situated on former marshland, are also a great place for a peaceful stroll with a rose garden, fountains and sculptures. Just 10 minutes out of the city are the Bourges marshlands where a labyrinth of 1000 gardens and meandering streams make for a charming and tranquil experience.
Another unmissable Bourges monument is the Palace of Jacques Coeur - built in 1450 it is an unusual mix of traditional rural styles and the urban mansion style of early Renaissance architecture. Home to the famous French merchant, Jacques Coeur, it is an exceptional but also functional work of civil architecture.
There are several museums in Bourges that are worth a look including a Decorative Arts museum, a Palace of Art, a Natural History museum, a museum of the best artisans in France housed inside the Archbishop's Palace and a museum dedicated to the history of the Berry region (the archaic province that encompasses Bourges) containing Gallo-Roman artefacts and works of traditional Berry folk art.
Why not explore the fantastic architecture of these museums and the rest of the city by following the Les Nuits Lumières, a blue halo of lanterns thats you through the city whilst music plays? Occasionally there are theme nights at the Les Nuits Lumières with fancy dress or wine nights.
Bourges is a city that enjoys its festivals with a series of summer concerts from June to September at the Un Été à Bourges summer Festival, the centuries-old harvest celebrations of the Marais Festival and the Printemps de Bourges contemporary music festival in April. There is also a colourful gardening festival, the Feast of St Fiacre, at the marshlands in September.
An art lovers paradise, Bourges is full of art galleries, antiques sellers and handicraft shops as well as some great bookshops. It also has some excellent markets across the town with some of the best being the daily covered market in Place St Bonnet, and the outdoor markets at Place Marronniers, under the shadow of the cathedral, and La Chancellerie, a cosmopolitan market with produce from a melting pot of different cultures.
Local specialities not to miss are the Forestine, a sweet of hard spun sugar with a soft praline heart for those with a sweet tooth, green lentils that have a mild taste with a hint of chestnut and Crottin de Chavignol, a, delicate white goat's cheese that is best savoured with a glass of fantastic local wine.
Holidays in France
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