Bourges, located at the confluence of the river
and the Auron, became the capital
of the historic
region of Berry during the Middle Ages.
Today, due to reorganisation, it is the capital of the département of
Cher. Although not quite within the
Loire Valley it retains a strong historical connection. It is a
university town and is renowned for its spring festival of music
and dance. Depending on what your travel plans are it is probably
worth the detour to explore this hidden away French town.
It owes its economic and cultural heritage to its
former dukes but especially to Jacques Coeur, financier and foreign
minister to Charles VII. Coeur was
one of the greatest traders of the Middle Ages, a self-made man and a patron of the arts. He was also an arms dealer, a tradition the city maintains today as the centre of the French armaments industry. You can visit his impressive mansion.
main attraction, the magnificent cathedral
St-Etienne, built around 1200-1260, is the widest Gothic cathedral in France and the one most similar to Paris's Notre Dame. The west façade (55m wide) is flanked by two massive towers, has a pretty rose window, and has five sculpted portals, the central one depicting the Last Judgment.
Outside you can take a walk in its beautiful flower
Most parking in the historic centre is metered.
However, there are large free car parks just outside the centre if
you're prepared to take a five minute walk.
The historic centre is small enough to
walk around and its definitely the best way to see it.
Les Marais, the marshlands, to the north of the
town, is an area of allotment gardens divided by canals. It
would take 2-3 hours to walk all the canals but it is worth the
trouble to seek them out just to catch a glimpse of them and take in
the excellent views of the cathedral. Go at a weekend and you'll
probably see some of the gardeners punting through the canals to
Les Printemps de Bourges is an annual musical festival which
features a variety of music genres, (around a hundred
concerts in bars and restaurants)
and lasts for one week during the
French Easter holidays.
There is also the Festival Synthèse, an
electronic and acoustic music extravaganza during the first week of
June and Un Été à Bourges, late June to late September, a line-up of
free, outdoor performances of everything from jazz to organ music.
Every Sunday evening
the park next to the Cathedral, you'll find a band playing a
selection of French dance music from the 30’s and 40’s for
the locals to get together and dance the night away --quite
charming. This is one of the few things that happen here on a
The town has a good indoor and outdoor
lies almost exactly in the geographical
centre of France
but just 36
kilometres away is the village of Bruère Allichamps which claims to
be the exact centre and to prove it the local authorities
have very kindly put up a monument and a sign!
Directions and time to Bourges