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.
But, wait! Where is Limoges?
You’d be easily forgiven if you’ve never heard of Limoges, much less how to pronounce the name (for reference, it’s said lee-mo-zh). However, now is the moment to visit Limoges, before this underrated city begins to be ‘discovered’.
Located in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France, Limoges can be found somewhere between the pretty port city of La Rochelle and the wine settlement of Bordeaux. And with good train links to the rest of France and its own international airport, there’s no better time to plan a trip!
Escape the Crowds of the Rest of France
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.
And so, for those who are looking for a more unique French destination, I can’t recommend Limoges enough! Situated some 400 kilometres South of Paris, 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!
The Middle Ages History of the City
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.
A truly French destination
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!
The Historic Heart of the City
If you’re seeking to enjoy beautiful medieval architecture and timber-framed houses, then you don’t need to venture to Strasbourg, Colmar, Le Marais of Paris, or Rouen. Instead, stunning centuries old architecture can be found in the historic heart of Limoges.
And, 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!
All things Porcelain!
For those who are fans of pottery, Limoges may well need no introduction. After all, it’s here during the 19th-century where production of the stuff really took off. Today, over 50 percent of French porcelain is now produced in Limoges! If you want to learn more, then there’s even a museum dedicated entirely to the history and art of porcelain (the National Museum of Porcelain), right in the centre of the city.
A World-Famous Train Station
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.
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!
How to visit Limoges
For those looking for an off the beaten path destination where fewer tourists go to, when heading to the South of France it’s best to head West rather than East. While to the East there’s the glittering Azure coastline, notably Provence, the South West is home to lots of history and small towns where fewer tourists visit.
Limoges is served by an international airport, though flights run much less frequently than more popular nearby destinations such as Bordeaux or Toulouse. While the airport may seem convenient at a first glance, I’d argue that the best way to visit Limoges is by train. After all, should you opt to visit from the airport, you’ll need to pay a taxi fare of €24 each way as no public transport runs to-and-from the site.
Where to stay in Limoges
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of modern day life, I’d always recommend a visit to the South of France. While much of Limoges can be visited over the course of a day, there’s joy to be found in taking your time to explore the city on a more local level and hanging out in the green spaces and countless cafés the city has to offer. 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.
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.