Limoges is a petite and pretty city in southwest-central France, packed with history. If you’re wondering “is Limoges worth visiting?”, for a weekend away or as a stop on a France road trip, the answer is certainly yes. This underrated destination has plenty to offer travellers.
Surrounded by gorgeous countryside and filled with quaint streets, pretty shops and museums, you won’t go short of things to do in Limoges. Because it’s lesser-known, you’ll find it pleasantly free from crowds too, whatever season you choose to visit. Discover our top activities in Limoges and plan your mini-break.
If you’re looking for picture-perfect French scenes and chocolate-box-pretty architecture, head straight for Quartier de la Boucherie, the former quarter of the Butchers’ Guild. Wander the cobbled streets enjoying the timber-framed buildings with their colourful window boxes. Perhaps you’ll join the locals pausing for a bite and a coffee al fresco under the shops’ awnings, pop into a tiny church for a look or drool down the windows of the fabulous books and antiques shops. This is the perfect insight into Limoges’ history and is charming at night too.
While in the historic quarter, search out the Chapel of Saint Aurelien. This pint-sized place of worship from the 1400s has played an important part in Limoges history and is very peaceful and pretty inside. It’ll only take a few minutes to see and appreciate its beauty, but it’s also the perfect contrast to the grand architecture of the city’s main cathedral.
One of the top things to do in Limoges is visit the cathedral – a flamboyant and sprawling building that seems almost too big for its little city. The epic scale of the architecture makes it impressive inside and out, as does the number of styles incorporated – Gothic, Renaissance, and Romanesque all in one build.
While at the cathedral, you’ll want to pop next door and take a tour of the cellars and underground passages formerly owned and used by the abbey. The Souterrain de la Règle tour allows you to explore the subterranean world of Limoges, including the fascinating crypt.
Also next-door to the cathedral, you’ll find the city’s exquisite fine arts museum. Inside, there's numerous exhibits from throughout the ages, showing everything from colourful stained glass to ancient sculpture and rich oil paintings. You’ll find galleries focussing on Limoges’ history, as well as ancient Egypt, rare books, scientific instruments, and even the delicate and colourful enamel work for which Limoges was once famous. It’s a diverting way to spend an afternoon and a must-stop for art lovers in the area.
Back outside now, to the sun-drenched, cobbled square in front of the cathedral. Soak up the atmosphere and then stroll to the botanical gardens attached to the side of the cathedral. These sculpted beds and lawns have a quintessential French look and are at their best in spring and summer. It also offers some of the best views in the area, looking particularly romantic in late afternoon. You may even catch an event, concert or light display in the gardens.
You may already know Limoges for its famous pottery. The city’s reputation for porcelain-making began in the 19th century and extends to today, with around 50 percent of French porcelain produced in Limoges. Set in an elegant building, the Adrien Dubouché museum is utterly unique, displaying hall-upon-hall, cabinet after cabinet of delicate porcelain models, bowls, ornate clocks and vases, intricate sculptures, right through to modern pieces. You’ll also see an exhibition on how porcelain and earthenware creations are made and painted.
The Mairie de Limoges is the prettiest town hall you’re ever likely to see, looking like a classic French chateau plucked straight from a postcard. Its pretty garden with an impressive fountain, as well as the delightful façade make it a must-stop point in Limoges, even if only for a quick photo before you wander back into the historical quarter.
Whether it’s for snacks, food shopping or just to soak up the ambience and the smells, a visit to the Halles Centrales covered market is one of the top things to do in Limoges. This 19th covered food market is filled with stalls selling local produce, meats and cheeses, and delectable tarts and pastries. Pull up a stool at one of the counter tops and enjoy sampling some of the freshest local delicacies while you people watch.
If you’ve become enchanted by pottery during your trip to Limoges, you might want to pay a visit to the Casseaux kiln museum to see an original ‘four’ used to fire the pottery and porcelain. It’s a small museum that won’t take long to explore, but still interesting and worth a visit for pottery fans. The scale of the kiln itself is rather impressive and you’ll see curated collection of fascinating pottery pieces in various stages of completion.
Twenty kilometres north of Limoges (around a 25-minute drive), you’ll find Oradour-sur-Glane, a former-village-turned-memorial. The village experienced a massacre in 1944, during the second world war, and has been left, frozen in time as a memorial ever since. It’s a surreal and slightly eerie experience, but definitely worth a day or afternoon trip, especially if you’re interested in history.
Just a twenty-minute drive from Limoges, you’ll find the Chateau de Châlucet, an atmospheric, ruined castle atop a hill in a wooded valley. You’ll enjoy exploring the ruins themselves, as well as the 7km surrounding trails, but there’s also a viewing platform set back from the castle so you can capture the perfect image of it, jutting out of the woodland. It also provides a fabulous view over the wonderful surrounding countryside.
If you’re wondering what to do in Limoges in summer, you should make a beeline for the Piscine du Lac de Saint Pardoux – especially if you’re on a family trip with children. The mini water park near Limoges (around 30 km away), has a few water slides, several outdoor pools and an indoor pool complex to keep you occupied. The outdoor pools are set right at the side of a lake, so you can enjoy the view and the sunshine or make a day of walking in the verdant surroundings before you head for the pool. You can also hire canoes, kayaks or paddle boards, try wakeboarding or water-skiing, and enjoy a tree-top adventure course or hire bikes to explore the area.