Limoges is located about 30 minutes away by car, and can be reached either via the A20 or on the rather scenic route taking in the Taurion and the Vienne. On the drive into the city, be sure to pass the stunning Limoges station, with its monumental clock tower. There are pretty ornamental gardens and fountains near the station. Limoges has medieval pockets scattered throughout and you can stumble upon the most amazing lopsided medieval buildings anywhere and spot the tell-tale wooden beaming everywhere. There are 13th century bridges, and river walks. There is a tourist “train” that departs from the Tourist Office from which you can take in some of the sights.
There are plenty of very good restaurants, including some by the river, and lots where you can eat al fresco. There is a good selection of informal and formal dining available, and if you would like a recommendation or for us to make a booking for you we are happy to oblige.
In the centre, there is underground parking either in the Place de Motte or the Place de Republic, as well as street parking. Much of the shopping in Limoges is pedestrianised, and runs uphill along pretty cobbled roads towards the Place de Motte, where there is also the covered market (open from 8am - 2pm) which is a lovely place to browse and try different cheeses and saucissons, as well as having a stunning selection of fish, meats, fruit and vegetables. On a Saturday, the market has a great buzz, and the traders are always happy to talk about their produce.
Limoges has a fantastic selection of chocolate shops, and you can often arrange a visit to where the chocolate is made (with tastings!!). There are also plenty of boutiques as well as two large department stores for the fashion conscious. If you wish to invest in some of the famous Limoges porcelain, there are dozens and dozens of specialist shops, some with ornate designs, and others with simpler styles. However, if you want to buy a large amount of porcelain, making a visit to some of the factory shops is worthwhile. There is an indoor shopping centre outside the main part of Limoges that has a good selection of shops. If there is something in particular you are looking for, we will try to recommend the best place to go.
There are plenty of children's’ clothes and baby shops and some really special toy shops, that even adults enjoy.
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There are plenty of “trocs” and brocante shops in and around Limoges, as well as specialist antique dealers and galleries. There is of course the monthly brocante market near the Cathedral, which also sells food, and has a great atmosphere. There are plenty of restaurants to suit every taste, and in the summer you can usually dine al fresco.
Limoges has an impressive selection of cultural activities on offer, including the Opera and Theatre in the centre of town. There are also lots of art exhibitions in local galleries
that are enjoyable for browsing. The “Arts of Fire” porcelain, glass, enamel and stained glass, are still important to the city, and the traditional methods are supported. There are museums exhibiting these arts, and many of the famous names, such as Havilland, show works and have demonstrations.
The Musée Municipal de l’Evêché (once an Episcopalian palace) near the Cathedral, has an eclectic collection, and is proud of its Renoir’s, especially since the painter was born in Limoges in 1841. There is also an excellent Egyptian archaeology collection and there are also changing exhibitions. There is also a Resistance Museum nearby.
The Evêché Gardens are spread over several hectares, on different levels, and set out on terraces, and include an Orangerie. There is a maze set out on grass (without hedges) that is fun for children, but children seem to like the segmented style of the gardens generally. Looking down from the terraces you can see the river, and the medieval Pont St Etienne, which is very pretty (and has a good restaurant right next to it of the same name).
The Cathedral is very impressive, and is thought to be built on the ruins of the Roman temple. At present, there is an excavation going on in the near vicinity of the cathedral. Its construction began in 1273, and its gothic style is marvellous. The interior has stunning frescoes (and the design of the Château’s chapel ceiling is based on one of the designs ). The stained glass is breathtaking. It is currently undergoing restoration, which is now nearly complete. The smaller church, near the Place de Motte, has lovely stained glass, and is also worth wandering into. If you are near the covered market, or the Rue Boucherie, you must look at the breathtaking Chapelle St-Aurélien there. It is tiny, but has a huge and intricate cross outside and was built in the 14 Century. It has a wonderful air of mystery, and transports you to an entirely different time.
The Musée des Distilleries Limougeaudes, will be of interest to many, and shows the making of the many local traditional spirits. It is very small, but you can taste the liquors, now made by the son of the wine merchant who took over the business many years ago. The wine vaults hold an impressive collection, but are not for public viewing, although the wine merchant’s main showroom is well worth a visit and is one of the best in south west France. They are always happy to chat about their wines, and tastings can be arranged.
The Hotel de Ville is an imposing building that speaks of the city’s wealth, and is artfully lit at night. It often hosts exhibitions, and the little garden and enamelled fountain is lovely.
As you drive or walk around Limoges, you will catch glimpses of some of the ancient parts of the city, such as the Boucherie (the butcher’s quarter, now a popular area for eating and drinking), and on the river there is the charming medieval bridge. There are lovely river walks, and several play areas for younger visitors.
For children, there is the Aquarium, and there are also several large cinemas in town. Most of the activities for children are out of the city, for instance, wildlife and activity
St Leonard de Noblat
From the Château, St Leonard is a picturesque 15 minute drive. It is a mediaeval town, with a small centre of beautiful buildings, including the old monastery and amazing gothic church with a monumental belfry, which is visible from miles around.
The town is of ancient importance, both spiritually, and for trade. St Leonard de Noblat is on the Route de Compostela (Le Chemin de St Jacques), the pilgrimage route, made by many thousands of people each year, since the Middle Ages. The route is marked with bronze scallop shells, takes in many sites of historical importance and travels through magnificent landscapes.
St Leonard is the centre of the beef trade for the famous Limousin cattle (the best beef in the world!). You’ll find the Beef Festival here in August, when you can admire the prize-winning herds (impressive red curly-haired beasts) and sample the great food! There’s a great atmosphere, and the farming community comes together and welcomes visitors to enjoy the event.
St Leonard de Noblat is a town rich is tradition, and holds lovely Summer and Christmas markets and religious processions. There is the Fête de la Saint Martial in July (another local saint) and in October the Fête de la Quintaine which has been celebrated since 1620, to comemorate the life of St Leonard, who by all accounts was pretty progressive. St Leonard is the patron saint of prisoners, and during his life he “rehabilitated” prisoners, by teaching them a trade to keep them out of trouble and bringing them into the church. This is marked by riders on horseback smashing down a wooden prison – you then keep a fragment of the prison to bring you luck.
The town is well worth a stroll around and you can do a lovely walking tour, and perhaps try some of the town’s specialities; for instance massepains (almond biscuits), pruneaux de Saint Leonard (sugared plums) or gâteau à la châtaigne (chestnut cakes), or a fantastic cake at Jean- Louis Goussiem’s patisserie. It’s a great place to pick up a picnic! There are two excellent restaurants, Le Relais St Jacques and Le Grand St Leonard. We recommend both, but for a really special occasion Le Grand is amazing!
During the Summer, on selected dates, the steam train runs excursions through the gorgeous countryside from here – if you’re interested do book in advance!
St Leonard has an excellent brand-new swimming complex with a children’s section and hammam and sauna.
Nearby there is the Moulin du Got, the paper mill and printing press (very good, and there are workshops for children and adults available). For porcelain, there are several factory shops, the most notable of which is Coquet – watch out for their destockage to get a bargain!
The Tourist Office is very helpful: