To be fair, Limoges has always been excellent with its hands: first with its ornate enamel painting in the Middle Ages, and later one of the world’s centres of porcelain.
The Museum of Fine Arts and Adrien Dubouché will bring you face to face with this remarkable heritage. The Quartier du Château in Limoges has a lot of fascinating history, such as the Rue de la Boucherie where the old butchers’ guild is located and the beautiful Renaissance courtyard Cour du Temple.
Spend a day in Bishop’s City, lingering in the botanical gardens overlooking the Vienne River, perusing the Museum of Fine Arts, and tiptoeing through the silent cathedral.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Limoges:
1. National Museum Adrien Dubouché
Limoges is one of the world’s porcelain capitals and home to the French National Museum.
This attraction is a lover’s paradise, with some 300,000 ceramic objects, many of which are incredibly beautiful.
The newly renovated gallery depicts the history of ceramics with examples of all the main stages of its development.
So you can see Yuan Dynasty plates from China and Renaissance pottery bowls made in Italy in the 1500s.
The first works made in the kilns of Limoges date back to the 1770s, with exhibitions of local porcelain all the way up to the avant-garde pieces made by the 21st designer.
2. Limoges Cathedral
Limoges has the kind of gorgeous gothic cathedral you usually only get to north of the Loire.
Although it was started in the 1200s and completed another six centuries later, the building still has a satisfying consistency.
The most valuable decorations in the interior come from the Renaissance.
The first is the altar screen, an ornament that separates the altar from the nave and dates back to the 1500s.
It is sculpted from images from the Book of Revelation, commissioned by Bishop Jean de Langeke, whose carved tomb is another precious work of art in the cathedral.
3. Jardin Botanique de l’Evêché
After leaving the cathedral, you can stroll through the 5-hectare park on the steep terraces on the right bank of the Vienne.
The views from the patio walls are stunning and you will spend an hour or two exploring the various gardens.
The botanical garden features over 1,000 plants, arranged thematically, so you’ll see plants used for food coloring, medicinal plants, vegetable gardens, and plants used in traditional industries such as tanning and dyeing.
There is also a French parterre with carefully manicured symmetrical lawns, fountains, boxwoods, a sculpture garden at the Museum of Fine Arts and many places to sit and contemplate for a few minutes.
4. Kurdu Temple
Connecting Rue de Temple and Rue du Consulat is a fabulous 17th century public courtyard, which you must enter via a dimly lit passage.
This soon opens up to a lovely cobblestone space surrounded by a four-story timber-framed mansion.
On the ground floor there is an arcade with engraved capital letters that connects each building and is now full of shops.
Then on the first floor, on the Rue du Consulat side, is a fine Renaissance stone gallery with a public staircase.
5. Museum of Fine Arts
Every French city has a fine arts museum, but few are as indispensable as Limoges.
First of all, the setting is pleasant, in the former bishop’s palace next to the cathedral.
The gallery has also just been updated with a layout that will captivate and keep you captivated for hours.
You will see one of the richest collections of enamel in the world, a Limoges speciality from the 1100s.
Then there are paintings by Matisse, Renoir and Fernand Leger, the three most famous artists.
For ancient history, you have 4,000-year-old funerary artifacts from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, donated by local industrialists, and all major finds from the Roman city of Augustorim (later Limoges).
6. Rue de la Boucherie
A medieval street is Rue de la Boucherie (The Butcher’s Street) in the Quartier du Château.
You don’t need to tell where the Butcher’s Guild used to be, but you might be interested to know that the entire guild comes from just six families.
Maison de la Boucherie will show you how they work, including a slaughterhouse, livestock enclosures, knife and saw cabinets and large cutting boards.
Go upstairs to see where the owners and their families will live, then climb up to the attic to marinate the meat.
7. The Resistance Museum
Limousin was a hotbed of resistance during World War II, and the massacres in nearby Thule and Oradour-sur-Grané were a sad price to pay for this spirit of rebellion.
So it is only right that there should be a museum in Limoges dedicated to the memory of the Maquis du Limoges, one of the largest groups of French resistance fighters.
There’s a lot of info on the invasion and the Vichy government to give you some context, then the various artifacts associated with Marchis: the Underwood typewriter, makeshift torture devices, Weirod guns used by British SOEs, and deportation uniforms worn by Photo by Thérèse Menot, the captured “resistor”.
8. St. Aurelian Chapel
When this chapel in the Butcher’s Quarter was sold as state property after the Revolution, it was bought by a member of the former Butchers’ Guild (dissolved during the Revolution) and has remained in their hands.
The chapel was built in the 1400s, and despite its small size, you can easily miss it, but it contains some precious liturgical decorations.
There is a 15th-century statue of St. Catherine, as well as contemporaneous composite sculptures of St. Anne and the Virgin and Child.
9. Gare des Bénédictins
OK, so train stations don’t usually feature prominently in your sightseeing itinerary, but Benedictine station is one of the most beautiful in Europe and has some special qualities.
One is that the entire structure is built on a huge 90 x 70 meter platform suspended on top of ten railway lines.
Completed in 1929, the hall and its tower have Art Deco and Neoclassical features and were designed by Roger Gonthier, who gave Limoges some other Art Deco buildings in the 1920s.
Inside, see the stained glass skylight of the copper dome restored after the 1928 fire.
10. Église Saint-Pierre-du-Queyroix
Quartier du Château This modest-looking church was built between the 1200s and 1500s and has many interesting features to see.
The form of the spire was replicated on Limousin, with a square base and an octagonal top.
You must then stop by the stained glass window, made in the 1500s by Léonard Pénicaud, one of the masters of Limoges Renaissance enamel.
Inside are gilded wooden statues in the Baroque style of the 1600s and 1700s.
11. Historic Bridges
Pont Saint-Martial, which crosses the Vienne to the south of the city, was built in 1215. But it is not the first bridge in this place, as it was built on the basis of a Gallo-Roman cross.
The building was preserved until the 1100s, when it was destroyed by King Henry II of England to punish the city for betraying him.
A few hundred meters upstream is the Pont Saint-Étienne, on the pilgrimage route “The Way of Saint James”, completed in 1203. It has seven Gothic arches and, like Pont Saint-Martial, is considered one of the best preserved medieval bridges in France.
12. Chateau de Chalouse
Once the largest fort in Limousin, Château de Chalucet was designed purely for warfare, and it is testament to the centuries of fighting that have plagued this part of France.
Dating back to the 1200s, it rises high on a wooded spur at the confluence of the Ligoure and Briance rivers, all in the middle of a 40-hectare forest park.
The castle, Tour Jeannette has been restored and you can reach the top of the battlements via metal stairs.
From there you can see the ruins of Lower Castrum, where the remains of a church and a small village have been excavated.
13. Reno Park Zoo
The zoo houses some 600 animals in a 19th-century castle belonging to the Haviland Porcelain Dynasty.
Giraffes, antelopes, lions, tapirs, cheetahs, panthers and snow leopards are housed in spacious enclosures, and certain species can mix as they would in the wild.
Visitors’ trails wind their way through scenic parks and woodlands for more than 5 kilometers.
At the mini farm, kids can make friends with ponies, rabbits, goats, and miniature donkeys, and see local farm breeds such as the black “black-ass” pig, named for the large black patch on the rear end .
14. San Leonard Nobra
Drive to this village east of Limoges to visit the Collegiate Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Saint-Léonard church is a masterpiece of Romanesque, built in the 11th and 12th centuries and has remained unchanged since.
Its bell tower is a perfect example of the minaret of Limousin that can also be seen at Saint-Pierre-du-Queyroix, with four square floors topped by two octagonal floors.
Inside you can find St Leonard’s tomb, under his symbolic prison chains.
Leonard was a 6th-century Frankish nobleman who converted to Christianity on a mission to free prisoners deemed worthy of freedom, and became the patron saint of prisoners after being beatified.
Northwest of Limoges is a ghost village that was frozen after a massacre on June 10, 1944, when 642 civilians were killed by the German SS. After the war, de Gaulle ordered the village to be preserved as a memorial, so now the buildings of Oradour-sur-Glane and many of the objects left by the inhabitants are slowly decaying.
There’s a 10-minute presentation in the theater that introduces you to the background of the massacre, allegedly in retaliation for the resistance and the kidnapping of the SS Major.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Limoges, France
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