In the middle of the Corrèze, Brive-La-Gaillarde is a lovely medieval town thriving as a regional commercial centre. The houses in the old town are constructed of striking pink sandstone under blue slate roofs.
There’s a lot to see in Brive, but there’s also plenty to do in the western foothills of Massif Central. You’ll have lakes, forests and challenging hills within easy reach, as well as dozens of idyllic medieval villages to choose from. Some of them are in the official list of the most beautiful in France, although their charm is never overwhelmed by tourists.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Brive-la-Gailard:
1. La Bank Hotel
Brive’s Museum of Art and History is housed in this splendid Renaissance mansion.
But before you enter, take a moment to admire the building, which is considered one of the best Renaissance buildings in the area.
It was commissioned around 1540 by Jean de Calvimont, Minister of Justice of Lower Limousin and clerk to King Francis I, who later became a visiting Brive (including Louis XIII). ), a stopover for members of the royal family, including . It’s constructed of beautiful pink sandstone and has so many details to feast your eyes on, such as the palatial arcades, mullioned windows, various sculptures and quirky chimneys that look like a Greek temple.
2. Museum of Art and History
A significant cache of 5,000 items helps tell 100,000 years of Brive’s history.
This is an attraction involving many different disciplines, such as natural history, archaeology, ethnography and numismatics.
But there are also quite a few curiosities that aren’t from Brive, but are just as compelling.
Take turn-of-the-century composer Claude Debussy’s piano or sensational tapestry collection.
Several came from the Aubusson factory, but ten were made at the Royal British factory in Mortlake.
This is the largest 17th century English tapestry on display in France.
3. Denoix Winery
At this 19th-century family winery, you can really learn about local craftsmanship.
The Denoix brand creates a range of liqueurs using oranges, grapes, walnuts, strawberries, chocolate and various vanillas, and is open Tuesday through Saturday to take you behind the scenes.
One of the many cool things about this place is that the gleaming copper stills are the same since the 1800s, which provides the opportunity for many evocative photos.
Also interesting is that the operation is seasonal, so different fruit or vegetable dips are made depending on the time of year.
A visit would not be complete without tasting a liqueur or aperitif.
4. Old Brive
While the center of Brive isn’t full of blockbuster attractions, it’s the kind of town you can explore on a shopping trip.
This intricate street is filled with stone houses from the 15th and 16th centuries, and you might find yourself taken into vaulted courtyards, or gazing at old turrets or wrought-iron balconies.
The Town Hall hides a fabulous little garden, and the Tourist Office has a small selection of historic mansions.
Highlights are the 18th century Hôtel Desbruslys and Hôtel Quinhart with corbel turrets.
5. CA Brive
Although Breve is a provincial town, its reputation extends far beyond the borders of France.
One of the reasons for this is Rugby Club, the mainstay of French rugby’s top 14 competition.
The current Brive side is filled with past and present France internationals such as Julien Le Devedec and Lucas Pointud, as well as stars imported from South Africa and Australia.
With a capacity of nearly 14,000 people, Stade Amédée-Domenech, despite its small size, is actually the largest sports arena in the entire Limousin region! Come to games on weekends from August to May, while you can always pick up CA Brive memorabilia at the team store downtown.
6. Edmund Michelet Museum
Limousin is one of the best places to learn about the history of the French Resistance, as the extent of the destruction wrought by guerrillas in the region is staggering.
The leader of the resistance movement in the region was Edmund Michelet, who survived the war and went on to pursue a long political career.
So while there are resistance museums in many towns across France, you can be sure this is not to be missed.
Michelet’s family donated his various personal effects, including the mimeograph he used to print a 1940 leaflet denouncing France’s surrender. There are also about 400 original propaganda posters printed by the German occupation forces and the Vichy government.
7. Eau de Toilette
Brive’s 19th-century water tower is quite possibly the town’s most distinctive landmark.
It was built in 1834 to draw water from Doux to the town’s fountain, but became both functional and symbolic as the uppermost floor was designed to look like a lighthouse.
Ten years ago, the town made the building more attractive to tourists, installing a tourist office on the ground floor and creating an observation deck at the top of the tower.
For just 0.50 euros, you can overlook the market and the town from a height of 22 meters.
8. Brive Market
Other factors that contributed to Brive’s fame was a 1952 song by French national treasure Georges Brassens.
Hécatombe tells the story of the Gendarmerie and the housewife of Brive (who won the battle) fighting in the market.
That’s why Brive’s covered market is called Halle Georges Brassens.
The market trades on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings and should be your first stop for fresh produce and local delicacies.
On Saturdays from November to February, a special market for foie gras and black truffles adds to the charm.
9. St. Martin’s College
This 12th-century church is located on a shallow slope in the center of the town, radiating from the church.
Although this landmark was completed in the 1100s, it is located on top of an old church built in the late 5th century.
The layers of history are stripped away in the archaeological crypt, the remains of the Merovingian church are illuminated, and you can visit ancient sarcophagi.
The current church above it has been remodeled over the years, but still retains its Romanesque features, most evident in the capital’s choir in the 13th century on the top of the columns.
10. Des Moines Canal
One of the best walks in the area is 10 km east, on the rugged banks of the Coiroux River.
The Des Moines Canal showcases the resourcefulness and industriousness of medieval monks.
In the 12th century, when the Cistercian monks of Obazine Abbey needed to irrigate their gardens and fields, they decided to dig a 1.5km aqueduct out of the cliff face.
Some 900 years later, these canals continue to irrigate the land in the valley, and you can trace the route along high ledges, enjoying far-reaching views, past huge mossy boulders and into fresh deciduous forests.
11. Lac de Causse
A breezy ride from Brive, this man-made lake is just the ticket for the summer heat.
First, on a steep hill, a 100-hectare body of water will win you over.
There are two beach supervisions in July and August, but the lake also has a sporting pedigree.
There are first-class competitive rowing facilities here, and major sailing competitions such as the 2009 Junior World Championships have also been staged here. A few races are held every year, but the rest of the time the same facilities are used for canoeing, and in summer you can rent a boat from “Base Loisirs Nautiques”.
In 15 minutes you can be in one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Turenne is small, but as you know from the castle, it is home to an influential sub-county that controls Limousin, Quercy and Périgord.
The large stone slabs of the Viscount’s fortress still soar above the village, and if you’re ready for a walk, you can climb steeply up the 12th-century Cesar Tour and the 13th-century Clockwork Tour for stunning views.
The stone mansions of the princes at the foot of the hill indicate that Turena was a gathering place for the nobility, these were from the 15th and 16th centuries.
13. Cologne La Rouge
When you enter Collonges-la-Rouge, it is love at first sight.
The name lets you know what’s coming next, as the entire village is built of strong red sandstone.
The material makes everything even more charming, and as the sun sets over the rustic walls and castle towers of the village, they begin to glow.
Cologne is not only one of the most beautiful villages in France; the entire association was founded in this superlative place.
During the Middle Ages, Colóngues was privileged by the Viscount Turenne, whose nobles, magistrates and lawyers built elaborate ancestral homes.
You could spend a full day exploring the mansions, castles and magnificent 11th century churches of Limousin’s most popular tourist attractions.
14. Les Jardins de l’Imaginaire
This garden outside the town of Terrasson-Lavilledieu can be described as a clash between gardening and fine art.
This is a modern version of the classic terraced garden, a huge art installation integrated with natural elements such as grass, trees, stones, flowers and water.
The garden, the work of landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson and architect Ian Ritchie, was laid out in 1996 and soon became the French Jardin Remarquable.
They use these 13 terraces to interrogate the role, folklore and origins of gardens in a very slanted, postmodern way!
15. Limousine specials
Denoix Winery also produces another Brive delicacy, moutard violet, a condiment made from a by-product of grape fermentation.
This gives it a deep purple hue that goes well with the local back pudding.
Local figs are part of the foie gras goose and duck diet, and oddly enough, you can get figs at the market, and the figs themselves are stuffed with foie gras.
Meanwhile, late summer is mushroom season, and the local chanterelles are out of this world.
They are best paired with one of Corrèze’s most iconic dishes, milk-fed veal.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France
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