12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Limousin
The Limousin region is an area of unspoiled natural beauty and rich history. As an off-the-beaten-track tourist destination, Limousin is the perfect place for a peaceful, relaxing holiday. This idyllic countryside of green rolling hills and lush forests surprises visitors with its magnificent medieval castles and picturesque villages, many of which are listed as "Plus Beaux Villages de France" (Most Beautiful Villages of France). The area's regional nature parks are a paradise for nature lovers and sports enthusiasts. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking on the scenic trails, fishing in freshwater rivers, and boating on pristine lakes. Limousin is also rich in culture, and throughout the year, there are art exhibitions and traditional festivals. During summertime, festive outdoor concerts are hosted at beautiful venues. The region is also renowned for its cuisine made with excellent local ingredients. Limousin beef and foie gras are specialties, and the apples and seasonal berries are wonderful.
1 Aubusson and the Creuse Valley
With its quaint narrow lanes and distinctive old bourgeois houses, the historic city of Aubusson takes visitors into a surprising world of artistic discoveries. Aubusson earned the UNESCO Cultural Heritage designation for its craft of traditional tapestry. This time-consuming and labor-intensive weaving process has produced the gorgeous tapestries that were used during the Middle Ages to decorate French castles. Aubusson has been famed for its intricate patterned carpets since the 15th century, when immigrants from Flanders brought tapestry-making techniques with them.
Tourists may visit tapestry workshops throughout the city. L'Espace Tapisseries at 32 Rue Vaveix is an atelier that restores old tapestries, and creates contemporary tapestries as well as ancient copies. On Rue Vieille (access through the tourist office) in Aubusson's historic center, the Maison du Tapissier is an old tapestry-weaving workshop in a 16th-century building decorated with exquisite tapestries and antique furniture. At this workshop, visitors can see weavers at work on the looms. Another must-see attraction in Aubusson is the Musée de la Tapisserie at 16 Avenue des Lissiers, which displays 17th-century Aubusson royal tapestries and 18th-century tapestries depicting pastoral scenes as well as contemporary works.
In the picturesque Creuse Valley, Aubusson is also a good base from which to explore the natural environment of this area. The Creuse River, flowing down from the Massif Central, carved out this beautiful valley with impressive gorges. The verdant countryside is filled with many lakes, streams, and scenic walking trails. Near the Eguzon Lake is the quaint village of Crozant with the ruins of a medieval castle. The village attracted many Impressionist painters, including Claude Monet, Armand Guillaumin, and Gaston Vuillier, who came here to paint landscape scenes in the open air. This group of Impressionist painters became known as the "Ecole de Crozant" ("School of Crozant") artists.
One of the prettiest towns of Limousin, Uzerche is known as the "Pearl of Limousin" because of its serene setting, beautiful buildings, and historic value. Many of the buildings are architectural treasures protected in a heritage zone, which was created to ensure the preservation of the city. Uzerche stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking the rushing Vézère River. In this harmonious landscape, the town viewed from afar has a magical appearance with its medieval towers keeping watch over the valleys. The town's history dates back to Gallo-Roman times, and during the Merovingian period, from the 6th-8th centuries, Uzerche became a political center. The fortified town has many old vaulted pathways and noteworthy "hôtels particuliers" (elegant private houses). There is a local saying: "He who has a house in Uzerche has a château in Limousin." The main attraction in Uzerche is the Abbatiale Saint-Pierre, a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture built in the 11th century by Benedictine monks. Other interesting attractions include the Porte Bécharie, once part of the town's ancient circuit of walls, and the Esplanade de la Lunade, which offers splendid views of the countryside.
Designated a "Ville d'Art et d'Histoire" ("City of Art and History"), the capital city of Limousin has a rich cultural heritage. The Cathédrale Saint-Etienne is the most important monument in Limoges and its only Gothic building. Begun in 1273, the cathedral's construction continued throughout the centuries and was finally completed in the second half of the 19th century. In the north transept is the Portail de Saint-Jean, with intricately carved 16th-century doors depicting the legends of Saint-Martial and Saint-Stephen. The cathedral's 62-meter-high tower is an interesting blend of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. The interior features three monuments of church dignitaries from the 14th and 16th centuries, a richly decorated rood screen in Italian Renaissance style, and exquisite stained-glass windows. Behind the cathedral are the lovely Jardins de l'Evêché (Gardens of the Bishop), and to the east is the eight-arched Pont Saint-Etienne bridge built in the 13th century.
Impressionist painter Auguste Renoir began his career as a porcelain painter in Limoges, and it's easy to see the connection between this artisan craft and the fine arts. At the Musée National Adrien Dubouché (8 Place Winston Churchill), tourists can discover more about this art form for which Limoges is famous. The museum has an extensive collection of pottery, faïence, glassware, and Limoges porcelain. Visitors should also stroll through the city's historic quarters along the Rue de la Boucherie, Rue du Temple, and Rue du Rajat to soak up the city's Old World ambience.
4 Abbatiale Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul, Solignac
One of the oldest and most important sights in the Limousin region, the Abbatiale Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul in Solignac is 15 kilometers away from Limoges. The abbey is definitely worth a detour and is a noteworthy destination in itself. The history of the site dates back to 632 when it was a monastery where monks devoted themselves to prayers as well as goldsmithing. However, the building was destroyed by the Saracens in the 8th century. Benedictine monks revived the monastery in the 10th and 11th centuries. The abbey endured damage during the War of Religions in the 16th century, but the building has retained its original splendor. The typically Romanesque exterior reflects the shape of its rounded chapels and is decorated with arches and columns. The interior's vaulted domes offer a sense of spaciousness and harmony. The sanctuary features awe-inspiring 15th-century stained-glass windows and columns with decorative details including griffins, palm leaves, and snakes.
Address: Abbatiale Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul, Solignac 87110
5 Château de Val
With its turreted towers and picturesque lakeside setting, this fairy-tale castle appears to be taken from the pages of a child's storybook. The Château de Val was built in the 15th century and has been home to many noteworthy owners throughout the centuries. The château is now open to the public and is a delightful place to discover the ambience of another era. Unlike many historic castles, the Château de Val is exquisitely furnished with period pieces, giving visitors a good sense of what it was like to live there. Visitors should also be sure to see the castle's Saint-Blaise Chapel, which is listed as a historic monument. The castle's courtyard offers a pleasant space to admire the scenery. All around the property are quiet spots that invite you to commune with nature under a shady lime tree, by a fountain, or near the old stables. During July and August, the Château de Val hosts outdoor music concerts on Wednesday evenings in the courtyard.
Address: Château de Val, Lanobre 15270
6 Château de Rochechouart
The Château de Rochechouart stands proudly on a rocky promontory in an idyllic location of the Limousin countryside. The castle, which lies in a regional nature park, overlooks the Graine and Vayres Valleys. It was built in the 12th century by the Viscounts of Rochechouart and was renovated throughout the years. The castle's defensive elements are typical of medieval architecture, while the decorative elements show a transition to Renaissance architecture. The castle has been well restored and now houses the Departmental Museum of Contemporary Art Rochechouart, which displays 16th-century mural paintings, including richly detailed deer hunting scenes.
Address: Place du Château, Rochechouart 87600
7 Plateau de Millevaches
The Parc Naturel Régional du Plateau de Millevaches is a pristine nature site that encompasses a 314,000-hectare plateau, rising to an altitude of 1,000 meters. This regional park offers an escape into a paradise of deep green forests, charming small villages, peaceful lakes, and pristine rivers. The park is also known for its otter population that thrives in the freshwater rivers and streams. The Millevaches regional park has well-groomed trails that are ideal for nature walks and hikes. Hikers will be delighted by the landscape with its wonderful variety of flora and fauna-from heathlands and oak and beech trees to pasture lands that are grazed by the famous Limousin cows.
This quaint medieval town was an important stop on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail during the Middle Ages. Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat has an impressive Romanesque church that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Through its cobblestone streets and narrow alleys, Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat takes visitors on a stroll back in time. Much of the town has not changed since the Middle Ages. From the 13th through the 15th centuries, Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat was a wealthy town thanks to its agriculture, tanneries, and paper mills. Reflecting its heritage of economic prosperity, the town has grand houses with large windows and ornate ironwork balconies. The main squares in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat are the Place de la Republique and the Place Gay-Lussac.
This spectacular village was another important medieval pilgrimage stop on the "Way of Saint James" pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Listed as one of the "Plus Beaux Villages de France" (Most Beautiful Villages of France), Collonges-la-Rouge is a striking village of red sandstone buildings. Most of the buildings date back to the 16th century, when many noteworthy citizens of the Viscount of Turenne had homes here. The unusual red-hued homes make this town incomparable to any other in France. Must-see attractions in Collonges-la-Rouge include the exquisite Eglise Saint-Pierre that dates back to the 11th century and the noblemen's mansions from the 15th and 16th centuries.
Another one of Limousin's "Plus Beaux Villages de France," the village of Curemonte sits on top of a rocky mount with three castles dominating the landscape. Overlooking the Sourdoire and Maumont valleys, Curemonte is visible from far in the distance. Visitors can easily imagine the formidable impression that this village must have made during the Middle Ages. Curemonte boasts a beautiful 12th-century Romanesque church and the 14th-century castle, Château Saint-Hilaire, where the author Colette wrote, Journal à Rebours. Curemonte is a popular filming location for movie sets, making use of the village's perfectly preserved historic squares and storefronts.
Mortemart is most well known for its historic religious buildings, including a Carthusian monastery, a Carmelite convent, and an Augustinian convent. These religious buildings surround a 10th-century castle that was home to the Dukes of Mortemart. Listed as one of the "Plus Beaux Villages de France," Mortemart is a charming village with lovely architecture. Beautiful noblemen's mansions reflect the town's wealthy heritage. In the center of the city is an old covered hall that is still a hub for weekly markets where farmers sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and other local products to villagers.
Ségur-le-Château is another one of the region's "Plus Beaux Villages de France." The village lies on a spot that was favored by the Viscounts of Limoges because of its safety from invasions. However, the village was still the site of battles during France's Hundred Years' War. The history is felt at every corner of the village. Visitors will enjoy wandering the ancient narrow lanes to admire handsome half-timbered houses. On a sunny day, it's pleasant to go for a scenic stroll along the riverside. Tourists should also be sure to visit the town's medieval château, which requires a climb up the hill, but offers the reward of a gorgeous view of the landscape.