I just read a Facebook post from France with Véro in which she wrote about Bourges, France. It looks lovely. I had not heard of it before, and there isn't much mention of Bourges on this platform, either. Yet, it is under 2 hours by TGV from Paris. It has a lovely-looking cathedral and hundreds of half-timber houses. I'm wondering how it compares to Strasbourg and Colmar. If you are familiar with Bourges, is it worth spending a couple of nights or a day trip?
We stopped in Bourges for an afternoon when driving from Burgundy to the Loire. We enjoyed walking around the town and going to the cathedral. I would think it would be a good day trip or an overnight on the way to another place.
This is what we call "la France profonde," or deep in the heart of France. Vero mentioned Jacques Coeur in her post, and his house is open for visiting. The cathedral is magnificent. Cuisine is delicious.
I've been in the region a few times but Bourges only once.
Wow, I had to look Jacques Coeur up, and his story is fascinating. I'm still musing over places to visit in France this coming fall, and Bourges looks like another possible.
Bets, would you enjoy staying there more than a couple of days? I've found that almost any place is worth at least two nights, and usually more. But then, we're interested in almost everything!
I would. This is old-fashion France, régional cuisine, villages, mushroom hunting. My father-in-law was from a hamlet in the area. The old name for the region was the Berry.
I'm enjoying the comments which are piquing my interest even more. It sounds as though Bourges is less of a tourist destination than Strasbourg/Colmar (?) and, therefore more ?authentic? Do those three have similar appearances? Different atmospheres?
The problem with Bourges is that it isn't near anywhere. Great town, but probably only enough of interest for one day. It's a really interesting town on an island in the middle of a huge plain of wheat fields.
The TGV doesn't go to Bourges, and there's only a couple of direct trains a day - at really useless times for tourists. Usually you have to change in Orleans or Vierzon. I think that's why most people bypass it
There's a direct train from Lyon... 3 and a half hours, at doable times of the day. Hmmmm.....
And two hours by train direct to Paris... This might be a plan. 3 or 4 days in Lyon, followed by a couple of days in Bourges, then on to Paris to get a train to the Netherlands, for Stan's part of the trip. I like it!
So, I could fly into Paris, spend a few days; take a train to Lyon for a few days to see the traboules and tour that city which I've never seen; take a train to Bourges and stay a few days and then take the train back to Paris to fly back home. I like it.
I think two nights, which gives you 1.5 days, is about right. Yes, it's less touristy, quite authentic.
Vero just added in a response to a woman who spent her childhood there that the people in her tour groups love it. Of course, they have an excellent tour guide.
Simon, I remember a lot of small fields with traditional hedgerows, small farms. I don't remember the large wheat fields as we find further north, nor many vineyards.
Bets - We drive (or train) through occasionally, crossing through Châteauroux and Issoudun, and it's all flat. Out the other side towards Charité sur Loire is pretty monotonous as well. The world's biggest airbase in WW1 was just outside Issoudun, and one of Frances largest military airbases is just south-east of Bourges (Avord).
I assume you came down the Yevre valley from Vierzon? It's more attractive coming that way, and that's the way the train comes. Bourges comes across as a French Ely though, a big church on an island in the middle of a marsh.
Last June on the way home to the Netherlands I stayed one night in Bourges, but had no time exploring it. Nevertheless overall impression is that it is a pleasant and being a university city a vibrant place. It has something authentic what certainly has to do with it’s remote location. There are half timbered houses but don’t think there are hundreds of them.
I drove from Châteauroux and Issoudun to Bourges and saw a whole lot of wheat fields.
The monumentum.fr website lists 115 historic buildings and sites when you search for Bourges, but two of the entries just have Bourges in the name and they are nowhere near the city of Bourges. You can zoom in on the map to find the location of each entry and usually, farther down on that page, there's a photo.
On our first visit the town was bustling on a Sunday morning, but at noon everything closed except the cathedral. We walked around the marais de Bourges, an area of small canals with little houses and gardens.
A visit to the museum at Issoudun would be well worth your time. It has two special attractions, an intact apothecary from the middle ages and two sculptures called the Tree of Jesse. That was one of our favorite stops on our last trip. You might need a car to get there.
The Rick Steves Paris & HOF tour stops in Bourges. We thought it to be very nice, and worth an overnight. The cathedral I thought was more impressive than Notre Dame in Paris, and they did light shows on it at night. I think day trip would be enough if you're close enough, or just passing through. Some places you just want to relax and take it easy, not "see and do" everything you can..
I'm enjoying all of your responses, reflections and suggestions. We like to go off the beaten path. Bourges sounds like one of those sites. If we were to take a train from Lyon to Bourges and then a train back to Paris, what sorts of scenery might we see? TIA.
I had forgotten that the Heart of France tour stopped in Bourges. I remember the local guide talking about the wonderful stained glass in the cathedral; I'll dig out my notes or trip report to see what else I noted at the time. Thanks for the reminder, stan.
Edit to add: I just called up the trip report; it looks like we were only there long enough to tour the cathedral and have dinner, then visit the market the next morning to gather picnic supplies. It was a huge market, I do remember that.
We stayed in Bourges after visiting Guédelon. Another stop on the tour with too little time!
We drove from Burgundy each time in the Berry.
We used to live pretty close to Bourges and would go there occasionally for dining and shopping. It's worth a stop, but unless you like things very quiet and uneventful, probably not worth more than an overnight. Bourgogne (Burgundy) has lots (lots!) of towns with very old structures and there's a whole network of quite old Romanesque churches. If you don't mind driving around (mass transit is not very practicable, in my opinion), you could see many, many sights very few tourists encounter.
Don't expect much, if any, English speaking capability outside of tourist destinations and some hotels. As Bets mentioned, this area is pretty deep France.