Bourges has been a place of importance for more than 2,000 years, but not until the end of the 14th century did it take on a wider than regional role, under Jean de Berry. He it was who made Bourges a centre of the arts, one that would rival Dijon and Avignon.
Things to do in Bourges
When you visit Bourges the thing you must do is explore the beautiful cathedral. Saint-Étienne cathedral, which offers guided tours from April to September, was constructed between the end of the 12th and the end of the 13th centuries.
It is the seat of the diocese of Bourges (Départements of Cher and Indre). It is a masterpiece of the French Gothic style, and is renowned for its stained-glass windows.
The city is a delight to explore, with many meandering ways that will draw you in, beckoning like an impatient child. One of the most beautiful and best preserved medieval districts in France can be found at the foot of the Cathedral of Bourges.
Almost all of the city’s timber-framed houses date back to the 15th Century, rebuilt after the Great Fire of the Madeleine in 1487. More than 450 line the streets winding down from the cathedral to the market square, making this area of Bourges a photographer’s delight.
Son et Lumière tour
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at nightfall in May, June and September, and every evening at sundown in July and August. A blue light, like Ariane’s thread, leads the visitor through scenes and music around the town.
Guided by the blue halo of lanterns, stroll at your own pace, lingering at will over the small details and sculptural surprises which reveal all the architectural wealth of the ancient city.
The sound-and-light stroll is entirely free of charge, and lasts about an hour and a half. In addition, the tourist office offers a selection of discovery tours, notably of the medieval quarter.
Saint-Étienne Cathedral in Bourges
If you love to explore cathedrals and religious buildings for their beautiful architecture, there are not many that are quite as breathtaking as the Saint Etienne cathedral in Bourges.
Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, the Saint Etienne cathedral has been standing since 1195. Although construction was not complete until some forty years later.
The cathedral is currently the seat of the Bishop of Bourges and was built as a dedication to St Stephen. What’s interesting is that this cathedral and the well known one in Chartres, were built at almost exactly the same time.
The architectural style is largely gothic with some elaborate and intricate features that make the perfect photo opportunity for social media. Or simply for your own memories.
Inside, this is one of the largest cathedrals in France and the intricacy of the architecture continues as you move through. The portals are adorned with ornate sculptures and the stained glass windows date back to as early as the 13th century. This makes them one of the primary attractions of the cathedral.
For those looking for a spiritual experience, the cathedral has a lot of information about the power of Christianity back in the Mediaeval times. There is an amazing sculpture of the Last Judgement which, even if you aren’t a spiritual person, is incredibly thought provoking.
One of the other interesting facts about the Saint Etienne cathedral in Bourges is that unlike many other similar buildings, it has remained largely untouched over the years. There is such a respect for this building that people have left it as it is; a site of great historical importance that we can still appreciate today.
The Mediaeval District of Bourges
Situated on the River Yevre, the city of Bourges has a rich and diverse history that dates all the way back to Mediaeval times. It is no wonder then, that much of the city has retained its historical buildings and architecture as well as an air that allows you to feel as though you have just stepped back in time.
Of course, there are more modern parts of the city today so if you want to truly experience history then you’ll head to the Mediaeval District.
As we’ve already mentioned one of the main attractions here is the Saint Etienne cathedral. A dominating gothic building with some mind blowing architecture and sculptures. The cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in the district dating back as far as the late 1100s.
There is the Tithe Barn which can be dated back to the 13th century and this is located north of the cathedral.
Unfortunately, you cannot go inside the sacred building which was once used to receive royalties for religious leaders. However, admiring it from the outside is just as pleasing, especially on a sunny day when the light captures the intricacies of the architecture.
When visiting the Mediaeval District in Bourges, one cannot miss out on the Rampart Walk. This short path is lined with structures that date back as far as 2000 years and is made up of towers and the old curtain wall.
If it’s nature that appeals to you then you’ll love the gardens of the archbishop near the cathedral.
These are perfectly manicured and open to the public, designed in a traditional French style, these beautiful gardens have been in place since the 17th century. There is a children’s playground and a century old bandstand; the perfect place to relax and take in the nostalgia.