Limoges is a city in the Haute Vienne department of France. Situated on the banks of the River Vienne, it was established by the Romans in 10 BC and Limoges became famous, firstly for enamels on copper in the Renaissance (Pope Innocent 3rd declared in 1215 there should be at least one piece of Limoges enamel in every church in Europe) then porcelain in the 19th century when kaolin was found nearby. Today Limoges porcelain is famous worldwide and you can still see small factories and workshops within the city. Nowadays Limoges is a recognised transport hub with a University a growing tourism industry and home to the famous Limousin cattle in the surrounding countryside.
Getting to Limoges
Limoges Bellegarde is a regional airport situated 6km north west of the city. Flights from the UK are operated by Ryanair and flights within France are operated by Chalair. There is a limited bus service into Limoges (although there is a shuttle bus from June to September), so taxis are the most popular way to travel (20–25€).
If arriving by European trains, the main station is Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins (4 Place Maison Dieu). There are Intercity services to Paris (3.5hrs), Bordeaux (2.5hrs), Toulouse (4 hrs) and Lyon (7 hrs) as well as more local (TER) services from the station.
Driving to Limoges could not be easier as the A20 autoroute passes right beside the city. Paris (360 km) is 4 hours away and Eurotunnel (670 km) is a 6.5 hour journey.
I was staying near the village of St Germain Les Belles and went to the small village station to catch the TER train from Brive la Gaillard for the 30-minute journey into Limoges. The Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins is one of the most impressive in France. It is built above the tracks with a large copper dome and a 67 metre clock tower. The hall has sculptures and Art Deco stained glass windows. Just outside the station is Champ de Juillet (Place Maison Dieu). A quiet park with fountains and gently rising pathway leading up into the town.
I was meeting a friend at (15 Place de la République) for coffee. The centre of Limoges is quite easy to walk around and it was pleasant to catch up and sit in the sunshine. She pointed me in the right direction for the Tourist Information and I set off on a 5 minute walk to the Tourist Office (12 Boulevard de Fleurus) and made my way over to the Town Hall.
The Mairie de Limoges (9 Place Léon Betoulle) is another striking building. Built in 1883 it is like a large château in style. At the front is a hand painted porcelain fountain in a small park and inside there are wall paintings and statues.
Crossing the road, I could see the cathedral in the distance. However, the Fine Arts Museum (1 Place de l’Évêche), was on the way. The museum extends to 3 floors and has an extensive collection of over 500 enamel exhibits on display. There is an Egyptology section and a history of Limoges up to 1914.
This whole area of the town is a wonderful if you have an interest in history, the next stop some 3 minutes away is Cathédrale St Étienne (42 Rue Porte Panet). The Gothic cathedral was built in granite over 6 centuries and is a city landmark. The Jardin Botanique de l’Évêche is just at the rear of the cathedral, alongside the River Vienne. A peaceful place for lunch or a picnic.
Time for a drink at Au Bout du Monde (1 Rue Haute Cité), just 150 metres along the road. The bar is in a vaulted cave, but I sat outside with a cold glass of Hoegaarden admiring the half timbered houses in the small square.
As there would be some socialising later, I booked a room in a budget hotel next to the station. The B & B hotel (24 Allée de Seto) looked a bit like an office block but was clean and a good price. I usually stay at Ibis Limoges Nord (26 Rue Fréderic Bastiat) when driving north as it is right next to the autoroute, but it was too far from the city centre today.
Moving on to L’Irlandais (2 Rue Haute Cité) next door for a late lunch. Another Irish bar! Just having something light as we were having dinner later. Prawns in a Thai sauce with rice (12€) and a glass of Licorne Blond beer (4€). Delicious!
We were meeting up at Les Artistes (4 Rue Fitz James) probably my favourite bar in Limoges. It is quite relaxing sitting on bar stools outside watching people come and go from the Conservatoire opposite and Place Stalingrad over the road. Inside there is a traditional bar and a restaurant on the mezzanine. A pleasant place to spend two or thee hours.
However, a table had been booked at a restaurant in the Quartier de la Boucherie. This historic quarter of the city is like stepping back in time with cobbled streets and half timbered houses, very atmospheric under the street lights. Les Petits Ventres (20 Rue de la Boucherie) was built into an old house The prices are quite high, but the food is good, and you are in a historic part of the city.
It was getting late but there was one more place I had to visit apparently, and it was on the way back to the hotel. Mister Hyde (16 Rue Charles Michels) did not look particularly special from the outside. We were there early as it opens at 9pm but go downstairs and it is a mix of an old style bar and cocktail bar. Some good music and quite quiet but it probably livened up later.
I enjoyed my time in Limoges. What used to be just a stop off the autoroute is, in fact, a remarkably interesting historical city. If you take a car, the surrounding countryside is well worth a detour and the parking is not too bad away from the city centre.