With a Grand Gothic cathedral, plenty of cobbled lanes, and a train station that’s often said to be one of the most beautiful in all of France, there’s no better time to visit the beautiful city of Limoges than right now, while the city remains largely undiscovered by tourists. Located in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, here’s your complete guide to the best things to do in Limoges, France; including what to visit, where to stay, and how to reach Limoges.
Introducing Limoges, a beautiful city in South West France
Around 400 km South of Paris, in what was once the Limousin region of France, Limoges is best-known for its porcelain production and Limousin cattle, which can be spied in the rolling green hills surrounding the city. The city itself is home to around 250,000 residents and various local festivals take place throughout the year.
Underrated and overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours (such as La Rochelle and Poitiers), if you’re looking to experience France off the beaten path, then I highly recommend a visit to Limoges. Easy to reach, some of the best reasons to visit include the medieval history of Limoges (the city was of the utmost prominence during the Middle Ages) and the stunning historic heart of the city.
A quick history of Limoges
Although evidence of earlier settlements has been found in other parts of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, what is now Limoges was founded by the Romans in 10 BCE. Named Augustoritum (‘rito’ being the Gaulish word for ‘ford’), the Roman city included one of the largest Roman Amphitheatres in Gaul, as well as a theatre, baths, a forum, and all the usual amenities you would expect from a Roman city.
By 250 CE, many of the residents of Limoges had been converted to Christianity by the arrival of Saint Martial. From then on, the city lost its prominence until the rise of the Abbey of St. Martial during the 11th-century. During the Middle Ages, the city soon became a hive of action, with impressive fortifications. In more recent times, the city has been home to a thriving porcelain industry. In 1968, the University of Limoges was founded.
Best things to do in Limoges France
#1 Wander around the Quartier de la Boucherie
Truth be told, the very best thing to do in Limoges is to wander around the ever-so-pretty Quartier de la Boucherie, which centres along a main high street named ‘Rue de la Boucherie’. So-called because this area was once the district where a Gild of Butchers existed, the quarter dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, with some of the houses dating back to the 14th-century. Today, there are still plenty of timber-framed houses, independent boutiques, and cobbled lanes to explore.
#2 See the Mairie de Limoges (Town Hall)
Grand and imposing, the Mairie (town hall and also known as the ‘Hôtel de Ville’ in French) is situated on the fringes of the historic old town. Constructed between 1876 and 1883, and modelled on the Hotel de Ville in Paris, the square outside the front of the town hall is filled with flowers and makes for a lovely spot to sit and people watch during the summer months.
#3 Visit Limoges Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Étienne)
One of the best cathedrals in France, Limoges Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church with roots dating back to the 13th-century. Seat to the Bishop of Limoges, the ecclesiastical building incorporates elements of Gothic, Renaissance, and Romanesque architectural styles. Of particular note is the Renaissance era rood screen.
#4 Follow the Richard the Lionheart Route
Stretching some 180 km long and covering 19 sites, the Richard the Lionheart (who is now buried in Rouen Cathedral in Normandy) route highlights plenty of previously prominent châteaux and cathedrals, including that of Limoges. Marked by a symbol of a crowned lion with its heart pierced by an arrow, highlights of the route include Eglise des Salles at Lavauguyon (housing 12th-century frescoes) and the impossibly beautiful castle of Montbrun.
#5 Visit the Limoges Fine Art Museum (Musée des Beaux-Arts)
Close to the cathedral and behind a plateau which overlooks the rest of the city, the Limoges Museum of Fine Arts was opened to the public in 1912 and is housed in the 18th-century built former Bishop’s Palace. Today, the cultural space is filled with stunning artworks and archaeological finds.
#6 Enjoy the Jardin Botanique de l’Evêché
Free to visit and filled with the scent of a thousand rose bushes during the summer months, the Jardin Botanique de l’Evêché is also known as the Botanical Garden of the Bishopric in English. Covering an area of some 2 hectares, the garden was founded in the 18th-century. Today, wander into the gardens, which were extensively renovated during the mid-20th-century and you can expect to find over 1200 species of plants!
#7 Visit the Adrien Dubouché National Museum
Of course, Limoges is not only associated with medieval history, but also with porcelain. Mainly manufactured throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th-centuries, ‘Limoges’ has since been used as the name to describe a hard paste type of porcelain that is exclusively made in the city.
Now, if you want to learn more about the history of the city and its porcelain, you can visit the Adrien Dubouché National Museum. The well-reviewed cultural space is open from Wednesday through to Monday and is easily one of the best things to do in Limoges. Purchase your tickets here in advance.
#8 Arrive at the Benedictine Station Limoges
Named for a Benedictine Monastery which was once located close to where the station now stands, you may well recognise Limoges’ central station thanks to a perfume advert for Chanel and featuring Audrey Tautou a few years ago. The station itself is Art Nouveau in style and features a series of beautiful carvings and glass windows.
#9 Shop at the Central Covered Market Limoges
When it comes to spending time in Southern France, you can expect plenty of incredible and fresh produce to be found in abundance. And Limoges is no exception. Much like the beautiful city of Narbonne, Limoges too, has a central covered market. Housed in a permanent building, which was built in the 19th-century, today you can wander in and expect to find all kinds of locally produced and sourced foodstuffs and drinks.
#10 Visit the Church of St-Michel-des-Lions
Home to the relics of Saint Martial, the history of the Church of St-Michel-des-Lions dates back to the 14th-century. Named for the two great granite lions guarding its main doorway, the church is also where you’ll find stained glass windows dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
#11 Be amazed by the Chapelle Saint-Aurélien of Limoges
Located along Rue de la Bucherie, in the heart of all the action, the quirky chapel of Saint Aurelien was constructed between the 14th and 17th centuries. Home to the relics of St Aurelien, the second bishop of Limoges, the ecclesiastical building also contains Baroque works of art and beautiful medieval carvings.
#12 Discover the Hidden gems of Limoges
Of course, if you truly want to get a feel for the city on a more local level, then you’ll want to discover some of the city’s secret spots and hidden gems. For example, Limoges is home to the remains of a Gallo-Roman amphitheatre which was once one of the largest theatres in Gaul. Elsewhere in the city, the Crypt of Saint Martial was rediscovered during the 1960s and dates back to the 10th-century.
#13 Day trips from Limoges
While the city itself is fairly easy to reach, you’ll likely want a car if you’re planning to take day excursions from the city. In this part of France, the bus system can be hard to navigate and connections between smaller towns and villages are often at awkward times.
One of the best day trips from Limoges includes the 17th-century, Château de La Borie, which is now a house for contemporary art. Elsewhere in the region, many of the smaller villages and towns are simply charming, including the French settlements of Magnac-Bourg and Bourganeuf.
Where to stay in Limoges
If you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, then you could easily spend an overnight in Limoges en route to somewhere else. From this French city, it’s easy to visit the pretty village of Aixe Sur Vienne and the picturesque Château de Bonneval. Here are some of the best places to stay in Limoges (based on web reviews and location):
Devine un Rêve: This beautiful hotel can be found in the historic heart of town and is incredibly well-reviewed. Check prices and availability here.
Best Western Plus Hôtel Richelieu: This three-star hotel has free WiFi, a fitness room, and is located on the outskirts of the historic centre of Limoges. Check prices and availability here.
How to visit Limoges
If you’re planning to visit Limoges, then be sure to at least arrive or depart via train. After all, the stunning Art Nouveau Gare de Limoges-Bénedictins is one of the best in Europe. Not only does Limoges have easy train links to the rest of France, but it also has its own international airport.
If you’re booking a flight to Limoges and you’re planning to take public transport, then you should know that in the off-season (i.e. any time that’s not May-August), then there are no public buses between the airport and the city centre. Instead, you’ll need to book a taxi fare of €24 each way.
Once in Limoges, it’s easy to get around many of the main attractions on foot. Although the central station is around a twenty-minute walk from the historic city centre, many of the main attractions the city have to offer can all be found in close proximity to one another. For example, the Bishop’s Gardens, Fine Art Museum, and Limoges Cathedral are all situated next to one another.
Things to know before visiting Limoges for the first time
As the city is a little off the beaten tourist track (though still with its own international airport), you’ll soon discover that English is much less widely spoken than bigger cities such as Bordeaux, Nice, or Paris. As such, you’ll likely want to bring a simple French phrasebook like this one with you.
Next, if you’re travelling to Limoges from the UK, North America, and plenty of other destinations from across the world, then you’ll likely need to bring a travel adapter with you. For example, this all in one adapter can be used in plenty of different locations around the world, including in France!