Destination Limousin: Why Not Choose… Limoges?
If you like the idea of discovering a city that offers both dynamism and simplicity, Limoges is for you! The city, which was awarded the "Ville d’art et d'histoire" ("Town of art and history") label in 2008, has so much to offer, in the heart of a fascinating region which is famous for its expertise in luxury industries (porcelain, tapestry, leather, enamel), as well as its lush countryside, perfect for idyllic walks.
Historical Centres: Two Cities to Discover
Since the Middle Ages, Limoges has been a city of two parts. The Upper City is the historical heart around the viscount's castle, and the Saint-Martial Abbey. The other part, Limoges Cité, is the old city of the Bishop, surrounding Saint-Étienne Cathedral.
Today, the Upper City offers a varied urban landscape of traditional half-timbered houses, and classical and modern buildings. Don't miss the Saint-Michel-des-Lions church, or the Place du Présidial, where you can admire Ancien Regime buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Next, head for the Cour du Temple (Temple's Court), which opens onto a beautiful collection of granite and half-timbered private mansions, with arcaded galleries and an elegant Renaissance staircase. A peaceful haven in the middle of a pedestrianised zone, perfect for unwinding on summer terraces.
Limoges is also a city of professions and expertise. Rue de la boucherie, one of the most picturesque streets in the city with its half-timbered houses, commemorates the many butchers of the Middle Ages, as well as the Traditional Butcher's House, which keeps the memory of this corporation alive.
As for the Cité neighbourhood, which developed from the 4th century around a Christian sanctuary founded by Saint-Martial, it has become the city's tourism centre. Above all, don't forget to visit Saint-Étienne Cathedral, or to take a walk in the Bishop's Palace Gardens, which cover a large part of this area.
And of course, Limoges is famous for its porcelain. Between artistic creation and industrial innovation, the city's identity is deeply marked by fired arts. As you walk through the city, make sure you look up: in Limoges, fountains and the façades of affluent homes are decorated with porcelain. Wander along Boulevard Louis Blanc, with its many boutiques selling traditional or unusual porcelain, as well as the latest enamel creations.
Top 10 Must-Sees
The Church of Saint-Michel-des-Lions: the church owes its name to the two stone lions guarding its south portal. Its Limousin style bell-tower, its vast interior space, and the relics of the main saints of the diocese make it a remarkable sanctuary. The current building was constructed over a period of more than a century.
Place du Présidial: a place of power for the Ancien Regime, with its 17th- and 18th-century buildings, this square contains the Présidial (a sort of judicial tribunal), the Hôtel de Maledent, one of the rare Renaissance ensembles in Limoges, and the Hôtel des Trésoriers de France.
Les Halles central market: built between 1885 and 1889, this central market hall is a very fine example of late 19th-century architecture. The steel-framed structure with its triangular forms (each weighing 14 metric tons) was designed by two engineers schooled in the techniques of Eiffel. Admire the stunning frieze, made up of 328 high-fired porcelain tiles, all different, evoking the products sold: poultry, fish, game, flowers…
The Conservatoire des arts et techniques de la porcelaine: this unusual and unique place exhibits porcelain from the past and present. Taken from private collections, the pieces presented tell of over two centuries of uninterrupted dialogue between creation and tradition, innovation and expertise.
The Saint-Martial Crypt: under the huge square, Place de la République, look for traces of the immense Saint-Martial Abbey which shone out across mediaeval Aquitaine. This cultural hub boasted treasures of polyphonic music, illuminations, and enamel.
Limoges-Bénédictins Railway Station: built on the land of an old Benedictine convent, the station is the pride and joy of the locals. The huge, 31m-high dome and its adjoining 61m tower, crowned with copper, have watched over the city since 1929. Step inside the great Hall and look up: as well as magnificent allegorical sculptures by Henri Varenne, you will see dazzling, art deco, stained-glass windows by Francis Chigot.
Saint-Étienne Cathedral: in the heart of the old Cité neighbourhood , this is the main church in Limoges, the seat of the bishopric and one of the most remarkable buildings in the city. It is also the only religious monument in Limousin built in a homogeneous gothic style.
The Saint-Étienne Bridge: this mediaeval bridge from the 13th century is one of the best preserved in France , and was part of the defensive system for Limoges Cité. Supported by seven unequal, pointed arches, it is 120m long and 5m wide. Located on a route towards the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, it is still used by pilgrims.
La Règle underground tunnel: dare you go down into the underground of Limoges, in search of the history of the Limousin capital and its people? Visit the old cellar of La Règle Abbey. The building, which no longer stands, was located in what is now the Bishop's Palace Gardens. A fun and unusual way of discovering Limoges' history, via a tunnel network full of stories and legends.
TheBishop's Palace Gardens: majestically overlooking the Vienne from their terraces, the Bishop's Palace Gardens are an invitation to open your eyes. First of all, look into the distance, for views over the left bank. Then look closer, at the collection of plants from the five continents.
Simple but Noble Produce for Sophisticated Dishes
"We don't have caviar in Limousin, but we do have chestnuts!" This phrase by writer Antoine Blondin is an excellent summary of Limousin's cuisine: simple but generous, with excellent products!
It uses chestnuts in all their forms: bread, sweets and liqueur, but also in cakes, or blended with dark chocolate for a sublime melting texture. Limousin's other star product is mushrooms. Simply fried with garlic and parsley, to maintain the fullness of their flavour, they go beautifully with Limousin meat. Meats in Limousin are of unrivalled quality, and take pride of place in all good restaurants.
Another well-known speciality, although few people realise that it comes from Limousin, is clafoutis: cherry, of course!
June: Vins Noirs Festival
This festival brings together lovers of good wine and crime fiction. A day devoted to meeting authors of detective novels and winegrowers, with signing and tasting sessions.
September: Toques et Porcelaine
A festival based on the sublime pairing of Limoges porcelain and Limousin gastronomy.
October: Journées Limousines d’excellence du goût
This agricultural event puts Limousin stock in the spotlight, in its homeland. A three-day event in the heart of the city for the whole livestock sector, with the best livestock farmers in the region present. There our competitions for breeding bulls and slaughter animals, as well as an auction selling this prestigious livestock.
3rd Friday in October: Frairie des Petits Ventres
Gastronomy event evoking and commemorating the memory of the butchers' corporation. For a day, the Butcher's and Market Hall neighbourhood goes back to its roots, inviting the public to come and taste Limousin meat and charcuterie specialities, in a convivial atmosphere.
November: Éclats d’Émail Jazz Festival
An unmissable and keenly anticipated cultural event, which has already earned its place on the international music calendar.
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