Last Updated on 1st March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
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.
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.
- Introducing Limoges, a beautiful city in South West France
- Where is Limoges?
- A history of Limoges
- What is Limoges known for?
- Why visit Limoges?
- Best things to do in Limoges France
- #1 Wander around the Quartier de la Boucherie
- #2 See the Mairie de Limoges (Town Hall)
- #3 Visit Limoges Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Étienne)
- #4 Follow the Richard the Lionheart Route
- #5 Visit the Limoges Fine Art Museum (Musée des Beaux-Arts)
- #6 Enjoy the Jardin Botanique de l’Evêché
- #7 Visit the Adrien Dubouché National Museum
- #8 Arrive at the Benedictine Station Limoges
- #9 Shop at the Central Covered Market Limoges
- #10 Visit the Church of St-Michel-des-Lions
- #11 Be amazed by the Chapelle Saint-Aurélien of Limoges
- #12 Discover the Hidden gems of Limoges
- #13 Christmas Market
- #14 Day trips from Limoges
- Where to stay in Limoges
- How to visit Limoges
- Things to know before visiting Limoges for the first time
- Enjoyed reading this guide to the best things to do in Limoges? Pin it now, read it again later:
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.
Where is Limoges?
You’d be easily forgiven if you’ve never heard of Limoges, much less how to pronounce the town’s name (for reference, it’s said lee-mo-zh). However, though it may not be yet frequented by tourists, now is the moment to visit Limoges, before this underrated city begins to be ‘discovered’.
Located in the heart of what was once known as the Limousin region (which is now called ‘Nouvelle Aquitaine’), here you’ll find lower prices in the restaurants, and fewer tourists in the museums. Win, win!
And with good train links to the rest of France and its own international airport, there’s no better time to plan a trip, especially if you’re planning to take a two-week excursion in South West France!
A 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.
What is Limoges known for?
The charming city of Limoges is most famous for its porcelain, which is known simply as ‘Limoges Porcelain’. A hard-paste porcelain, the wares continue to be produced to this day in factories surrounding Limoges.
Limoges porcelain was first produced during the late 18th-century and, unlike other types of porcelain, Limoges porcelain refers to the fabrication method as opposed to a specific manufacturer. Today, Limoges is one of the biggest manufacturers of porcelain and related wares in France.
Why visit Limoges?
It was hot, sunny and I was looking for a taxi. Incidentally, if you’re not meeting friends or hiring a car, the only way to leave Limoges’ airport is by taxi! However, the rank where they’re normally to be found was empty and I soon found myself in conversation with a policeman who was around my age.
In no uncertain terms, he was incredulous as to why I would make the decision to visit Limoges as a tourist (or at all if it weren’t for business!). I believe that his words were something along the lines of ‘but Limoges isn’t beautiful at all’.
As it turns out (and fortunately for me), there is beauty and interest to be found in almost every destination, and Limoges is no exception.
Best-known for its world-famous porcelain and prominent position in the history of France during the Middle Ages, today this Southern French destination lies a little off the beaten tourist trail and is well worth a visit on any trip to the region.
Of all the reasons to visit Limoges, escaping the crowds of the rest of France may well be number one. While Toulouse or Bordeaux may offer more attractions for the traveller who is always looking for something to do, the true charm of Limoges lies in its underrated nature.
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’. The area is so-called because this area was once the district where a Gild of Butchers existed.
If you make it your mission to visit just one place in Limoges, be sure to see Le Quartier de La Boucherie, and more specifically, Rue de la Boucherie. Historically where all of the butchers of the city and their families lived, today it’s a true step back in time.
A maze of sprawling cobbled lanes and small houses, while there, be sure to check out the small chapel dedicated to St Aurelien. He’s the patron saint of butchers and within the walls of this private ecclesiastical building, you’ll find the relics of the Saint, as well as plenty of gold gilding. I promise you won’t regret a visit!
Largely pedestrianised, the district 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
Richard the Lionheart is a name which is synonymous with English history, and specifically the Old English tale of Robin Hood.
However, depending on how much you know about the history of Britain, it may or may not surprise you to know that Richard the Lionheart was kind of French and his final resting place can be found within the beautiful cathedral of Rouen in Normandy.
During the Middle Ages, Limoges too had a part to play in the role of Richard the Lionheart. Today it’s possible to follow the Richard the Lionheart Route, a 180 km 19 sites trail which 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
For those who are fans of pottery, Limoges may well need no introduction. After all, it’s here during the 19th-century where the production of the stuff really took off. Today, over 50 percent of French porcelain is now produced in Limoges!
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.
If you want to learn more, then there’s even a museum dedicated entirely to the history and art of porcelain right in the centre of the city.
Set against the backdrop of a 19th-century beautiful building, the cultural space boasts some 12,000 pieces of Limoges pieces within its collections. Purchase your Musee National Adrien Dubouche Tickets in advance here.
#8 Arrive at the Benedictine Station Limoges
In French, a train station is known as the ‘gare’ and rather unusually, the Gare de Limoges-Bénedictins is not famous for its stunning architecture, but rather because it recently featured in a Chanel advert starring French actress Audrey Tautou.
Named for a Benedictine Monastery which was once located close to where the station now stands, the station itself is Art Nouveau in style and features a series of beautiful carvings and glass windows.
Other highlights of the station include an incredible clock tower and art nouveau stained glass windows. It’s also worth noting that the city’s central station is also just a fifteen-minute walk from the centre of town should you opt to visit Limoges via train- bonus!
#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 Christmas Market
Though Christmas Markets are not as much of a ‘thing’ in Western France as in Eastern France, many of the larger towns, cities, and even villages host their own annual festive events. In Limoges, the Christmas Market typically takes place in several spots across town. There’s also illuminations to enjoy, as well as an ice skating rink.
#14 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, 14 Rue d’Aguesseau, Limoges, Nouvelle-Aquitaine 87000
This beautiful hotel can be found in the historic heart of town and is incredibly well-reviewed. Amenities of this Limoges accommodation include a bar, spa and wellness area, free WiFi, and a 24-hour front desk. Check prices and availability here.
Best Western Plus Hôtel Richelieu, 40 Avenue Baudin, 87000 Limoges
This three-star hotel has free WiFi, a fitness room, and is located on the outskirts of the historic centre of Limoges, meaning that many of the city’s main attractions aren’t too far away! 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
While you’ll find many people who speak English in Limoges (nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find pretty much anywhere in France where no one speaks English!), French language culture remains at its best here in Limoges.
After all, if you want to brush up on your French skills, it’s worth noting that you might struggle to buy any tickets or purchase any restaurant meals if you speak absolutely none of the language! All in all, a great chance to practice French and an incentive to do so!
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 the French city 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!
Enjoyed reading this guide to the best things to do in Limoges? Pin it now, read it again later:
Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.