15 Best Activities in Bourges-sur-Brace (France)

This medieval city in eastern France is one of the capitals of the Duchy of Savoy across Europe. And in this capacity it acquired its large monument: the Royal Abbey was built in the early 1500s as a place to bury and honor the Duke and his family. Margaret of Austria is the woman behind it, and you’ll be moved by her story.

The old center of Bourg-en-Bresse is dotted with half-timbered houses, which are not the work of museums, but are used for shops and amenities, which in some way liven them up. And just head to the wider Bresse countryside, which has its own character.

Let’s discover the best things to do in Bourg-en-Bresse:

1. Royal Monastery

royal monastery

A French National Monument, this stunning monument was ordered as a dynastic burial by one of the most powerful women in Renaissance Europe.

Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy, twice ruled Habsburg Holland in the first decades of the 16th century.

There’s a lot to do with a guided tour of the monastery, which surprisingly boasts three two-storey cloisters.

Wander through the glazed tiles on the church roof, then walk in and be greeted by Conrad Meit’s extraordinary Margaret, her husband Philibert and his mother Bourbon Stunned by the marble tombstone of Margaret of Bourbon.

2. Bleu Museum

Bleu Museum

The second of the three cloisters of the abbey is the Municipal Museum of Bourg-en-Bresse.

Much of what you’ll find in these galleries is the property of one person: Thomas Riboud helped save the monastery from destruction in the 19th century and preserved it as a “national monument”, later donating his art collection to City.

Most of the space is dedicated to paintings by French and Flemish artists from the 15th to 19th centuries.

See the portraits of the founder of the monastery, Margaret of Austria, and her nephew, Emperor Charles V, Charles’ favorite painter, Bernard van Orley.

There are also pottery, furniture and religious sculptures up to the 17th century.

3. Old Town

old town

Take some time to discover the best of Bourg-en-Bresse’s historic center.

Every now and then, you’ll be surprised by a delightful building, such as the Maison Gorrevod, a large unseen 15th-century timber-framed house on the Rue du Palais.

At 5 Rue Teynière, the magnificent Hôtel Marron de Meillonnas exudes the splendor of the old regime, a mansion whose interior was commissioned in 1772 by the baron of the same name. During your excursions around town, you’ll be enticed by the fabulous little specialty shops of wine, poultry, chocolate, tortillas and blue cheese from the surrounding area.

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4. Demeure Hugon

Demer Huegon

Demeure Hugon, also known as Maison de Bois (The Wooden House), is a gorgeous cottage at 16 Rue Gambetta.

The house dates back to 1496 and is located on a shopping street, the ground floor is occupied by a high street chain, but there is a small plaque at the entrance indicating the age of the building and its status as an official historic monument.

The lower floors still have the same openings as they did 500 years ago, with three levels of timber framing above, each extending over the floors below and held in place by corbels.

5. Apothicairerie de l’Hôtel-Dieu

Apothicairerie De L'Hôtel-Dieu

The old hospital of Bourg-en-Bresse is located a few streets southeast of the city center.

It dates back to 1782 and one of the notable things is that the pharmacy inside has barely changed in over 200 years.

Run by nuns before it closed in 1963, it has reopened as a museum, offering a rare snapshot of medicine from a bygone era.

There are two rooms full of shelves and a working lab.

Ornate wooden cabinets with antique books and jars and small packaging are a cross between Louis XV and Louis XVI styles.

While you may be shocked by some of the ingredients, many of these containers still contain their original drug!

6. Église Notre-Dame

Église Notre-Dame

The church was built in bright white stone in the 1500s, when the ornate Gothic style was being replaced by new Renaissance buildings.

So the two designs merged, as the apse and nave were both Gothic, while the west façade and domed tower, which were completed later, were clearly from the Renaissance.

There’s plenty to see inside, including a wooden choir booth carved from the 1530s, a 13th century Black Madonna statue, a carved pulpit from 1760, a grand organ from 1682 and stained glass dating back to 1526 window.

7. Jacobin Gate

Jacobin Gate

On the corner of Rue Jules Migonney and Rue de la République, there is a historic site that tells an interesting story.

The Porte des Jacobins is the entrance to a 15th-century monastery, and the elaborate pointed arches are all that remains after the building burned down during the Revolution.

Stop here before heading to Rue Jules Migonney, a lovely row of timber-framed houses that served as the workshops of the medieval city’s cloth dealers and weavers.

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8. Brace Country

Brace Country

Bourge-en-Bresse is a unique agricultural area with many unique characteristics, including its own food, dialect, architecture and traditions.

For example, the typical Brees farmhouse is half-timbered with ears of corn hanging from the porch.

The roof will be a “Saracen” or Moorish style chimney that looks a bit like a minaret.

It’s easy to realise as you drive past Brees, as the farmland is irrigated by the many tributaries of the Saône River and is dotted with poultry farms raising over 1,200,000 chickens a year.

It’s also a receptive area, as there are show farms and museums that showcase the heritage of Bresse.

9. Peruges

Peruges

This walled hilltop village is one of those places that makes you wonder if you’ve entered a time warp.

Pérouges is just a small neighborhood, but its winding cobblestone streets have more than 80 buildings registered as historic monuments.

Most are rustic stone or half-timbered houses with wisteria climbing up the walls.

The central square has a 200-year-old linden tree, and you can climb up to the village’s watchtower, which once belonged to a medieval castle.

There is no doubt that Peruges has been the location for many historical themed films.

Four different versions of the Three Musketeers have been filmed on these streets since 1921.

10. Grottes du Cerdon

Grottes Du Cerdon

A simple tour from Bourges, the caves have some qualities that elevate them above normal underground travel.

Yes, you can see the usual stalactites and stalagmites and watch calcium rich water drip from one nodule to the next.

But just as exciting, you’re in the homeland of late Paleolithic hunter-gatherers who used these caves 17,000 years ago, leaving behind bones, weapons and tools.

Another cool feature is the spectacular Belvedere, a prehistoric sanctuary that leads to the vineyards of the Seldon Valley.

11. Forest Farm

Ferme De La Forêt

As you travel through the romantic Bresse countryside, stop at an authentic farm just outside Courtes and get a taste of the old way of life.

The museum is housed in a 16th-century farmhouse that operated in the 1970s.

It was enough to be able to hang out around the half-timbered building, with its Moorish chimneys, ground-floor galleries and a massive four-ton wooden beam.

But the interior is also equipped with Bressan furniture, tools and kitchenware.

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Outside are stables filled with antique harnesses and a traditional kitchen garden.

12. Bresse Provincial Museum

Bresse Provincial Museum

In Saint-Cyr-sur-Menthon, there is another attraction to gain a deeper understanding of Bresse’s culture and history.

It’s also a farm, but controls a large field and has over 600 years of architecture.

Naturally, the stunning half-timbered estate has a “Saracens” chimney, but there’s an up-to-date exhibition space here that keeps no aspect of Bressan culture mysterious.

There are costumes, models depicting building techniques, musical instruments and more than 1,700 restaurant menus dating back to the 1800s to showcase ingredients and eating habits.

13. Mechanics Museum

Mechanics Museum

With a bit of a niche appeal, this museum is all about typing and adding machines.

It is the only collection of its kind in France, with more than 300 typewriters and calculators assembled, dating back 300 years.

In-depth descriptions of various advancements and inventions and the brain stories behind them.

If you like vintage items, you’ll love typewriters from the 50s and 60s, and the museum’s staff, made up of people who make a living using the equipment, can show you.

14. Parc de Loisirs de Bouvent

Parc De Loisirs De Bouvent

Summer can be stifling in this interior part of France, but luckily you don’t have to travel far to get to the beach and swim.

Near the gates of the city, Bouvent Leisure Park has 56 hectares of parkland, a lake and a golf course.

When it’s really hot, you’ll be tempted to do nothing but cool off by lounging in the pristine waters of the lake on a guarded beach.

But there’s also a large activity centre with sailing schools, kayaks and rowboat rentals.

On land there are table tennis, volleyball courts, walking trails and a nine-hole golf course with driving range.

15. Food and drink

Quinel

In the heart of an area renowned for the quality of its poultry, you better believe that the chicken in Bourges-en-Bresse is beyond imagination.

The local signature dish is Chicken Bresse Gauloise in a rich creamy sauce, paired with local dry white Bugey wines.

Another main course worth trying is the quenelle, which in this city is creamy freshwater fish poached in cream, white sauce or a sauce made from tomatoes and crayfish.

In this country, frogs also have huge legs, and the dessert Galette Bresanne is a nut pie.

Where to stay: The best hotels in Bourg-en-Breise, France
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