Visit time : 1 day.
The realization of the Bourges Cathedral was intended to express the power of the king and the archbishop of the city, especially over the south of France and of the Aquitaine region, which had passed into the hands of the English. The result is amazing. Its exceptional size, the bold and innovative architectural pyramid construction, the speed of its completion, its ornate decorations, sculptures and stained-glass windows … everything that characterizes this cathedral makes it one of the greatest masterpieces of Gothic architecture. Its unparalleled beauty would mark history and influence other European cathedrals for many years to come.
The Bourges Cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The most remarkable feature of the structure is its overall design : unlike other major churches of the time, it was designed and built in a single phase, and not in many different phrases over several centuries. This architectural work of art holds great importance for French heritage.
The Saint Etienne cathedral of Bourges has been listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco under criteria (i) and (iv) since 1992.
Criteria for selection
Criterion (i): The Bourges Cathedral was of great importance in the development of Gothic architecture and as a symbol of the power of the Christian religion in France during the Middle Ages. However, its most important aspect remains its striking beauty, the result of a masterly management of space with harmonious proportions and very high-quality decorations.
Criterion (iv): Although the Bourges Cathedral was built on the fringes of the period of French Gothic style represented by the cathedrals of Saint Denis, Paris, Chartres and Amiens, it nevertheless replicates, and in some cases surpasses, the architectural values of the cathedrals of this style. The unity of its design, scholarly articulation of spaces and the treatment of light all represent outstanding expressions of the Gothic style applied to this building. The cathedral had an influence on other European cathedrals such as those in Le Mans, Coutances and Toledo in Spain.
Source : Unesco / ICOMOS
Before the current cathedral, several churches were built at this location, and had even been a place of Christian worship since the 3rd century. During this period, Avaricum (the Roman name of Bourges) was the first Christian community in Gaul. Very little is known about these buildings. The previous Romanesque cathedral, also dedicated to Saint Etienne, dated back to the 11th and 12th centuries. As for the present cathedral, the decision to construct was made by Henri de Sully, archbishop of Bourges in 1195. His brother, Eudes de Sully, bishop of Paris, made a donation to the chapter of canons of the cathedral. This was the starting point of its construction.
In 1199, Guillaume de Dangeon succeeded Henri de Sully. His role was crucial in defining the iconographic decorations and he was instrumental in the rapid construction of the building. By 1214, half of the cathedral had already been built (chevet, choir and ambulatory). After a decade-long hiatus, work resumed in 1225. In 1230 the structural work was completed, but the facade was still incomplete. A century later the South Tower, under threat of collapse, had to be strengthened. In order to preserve its still-fragile structure, no bells were installed in the tower, and since it bears the name "the deaf tower."
The cathedral was consecrated on May 13th, 1324 by Archbishop William de Brosse, though the North Tower was not yet completed. The next century, though work on this tower had barely been completed, it collapsed. It was then rebuilt thanks to donations from the faithful. The new construction respected the Gothic style, though a few decorative elements are more Renaissance. During the same period, the Astronomical Clock was installed.
In 1562, during the Religious Wars, the Protestants took control of the city of Bourges and seriously damaged the sculptural decoration of the cathedral.
In the 19th century, a series of renovations and structural fortifications were conducted.
21 Rue Victor Hugo, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 23 02 60.
October through March, Monday to Saturday : 9 a.m. to 6 p.m, Sunday : 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
April through September, every day: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ; Sunday : 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Accessible to those with disabilities.
Permanent exhibition on the Architecture and Heritage of Bourges. Bike rental available.
Guided tours offered by the Tourist Office
Several thematic tours are available, including a guided tour of the cathedral and the medieval district of the city. Full price/ reduced price: €8/ €5.50. Duration: 2 hours.
The Tourist Office offers a discovery booklet and offers several fun, age-appropriate tour circuits such as "Randoland", for children to discover Bourges while having fun.
The Spring of Poets (March)
For one week, poetry is presented in different parts of the city through poets, singers and writers. Program : literary cafés, readings, music and poetry soirées.
Spring in Bourges (April)
This music festival has an international reputation. Music invades the city, with concerts held in bars, in the streets and in dedicated spaces ...
Nights Lights (July to September )
In the evening, the most beautiful buildings in the city are highlighted by lights, visual projections and music. The shows take place throughout the medieval center along a circuit guided by blue lanterns. A unique way to discover the architectural treasures of the historic center of Bourges.
Marsh Festival (1st weekend in September)
Boat rides, music and many activities in and around the marshes of the city.
Christmas Village (December)
Place Etienne Dolet, at the foot of the cathedral.
Decorations, lights, Christmas carols, parades, various entertainments.
Marché de la Chancellerie : Avenue Gustave Eiffel, Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Marché Place des Maronniers, Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Marché de la halle au blé : Place de la Nation and nearby, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Marché Halle et Place Bonnet, Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Musée du Berry
Hôtel Cujas, 4 Rue des Arènes, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 70 41 92.
Admission is free.
Open every day except Tuesday : 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Not accessible for those with reduced mobility.
For children: A booklet is available for free at the ticket counter, offering a fun discovery of the collections and the museum’s history through puzzles, riddles and games.
The Hôtel Cujas is a mansion built in the early 16th century by an Italian merchant. But it bears the name of Jacques Cujas, regent of the University of Law, who acquired it a few years later. The architecture and ornamentation of this mansion are in a Gothic style, and only a few elements, such as the front door, are in a Renaissance style. The city acquired the building in 1878, and it has housed the Berry Museum since 1892.
The Berry Museum takes place in this elegant mansion with exhibits of Egyptian, archeological, and gallo-roman collections. There are also medieval works, paintings and sculptures from the 15th to the 20th century given by the Fine Arts collections (1st floor).
The archaeological collections are located on the ground floor : Etruscan bronzes, Gallo-Roman remains, tombstones, religious sculptures. Medieval religious art is located in another wing of the museum : sculptures, stained glass ... Of note in particular are the fabulous Mourners on the Tomb of Jean de Berry (early 15th century) from the Holy Chapel in Bourges, destroyed in 1757.
Hôtel des Échevins, 13 Rue Édouard Branly, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 24 75 38.
Open every day except Tuesday : 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Accessible to those with disabilities.
For children : a free booklet offers a fun discovery of the collections and the museum’s history through puzzles, riddles and games.
The Hôtel des Echevins was built in 1487, building on the Gallo-Roman wall of Bourges, to serve as City Hall. The architectural style was based on that of The Hôtel Jacques Coeur. In 1624, a new main building was built in a Renaissance style in honor of the Prince of Condé, governor of Berry. The Maurice Estève Museum has been located in the Hôtel des Echevins since 1987.
Thanks to a donation from Maurice Estève (1904 - 2001) and his wife, the museum’s establishment was made possible in this unique setting. There are paintings, drawings, watercolors, paper collages ... all by the artist.
Getting to Bourges
From the north : highway A71, exit 7, Bourges Centre.
From the southwest: take highway A20 and then route N151.
From the southeast: highway A71, exit 7, Bourges Centre.
From the east : route N151
Nearby classified sites
Saint Savin : 150 km (93 mi), time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.
Val de Loire (Orléans) : 123 km (76 mi), time : 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Vézelay: 127 km (79 mi), duration: 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Place du Général Leclerc, 18000 Bourges
Website – tel : 36 35.
The city center of Bourges is easily explored on foot. You can leave your vehicle in the immediate vicinity, at free parking lots, Cours Anatole France or Séraucourt. A parking lot is located near the cathedral, Mairie-Cathédrale, which is free for the first 30 minutes and on Sundays.
23 Rue Théophile Lamy, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 50 82 82.
The city has more than 30 kilometers of safe bicycle paths. The Tourist Office proposes bicycle rentals.
Tel: 02 48 23 02 60
Price: €7.50 / children under 12 years old: €3.50.
Duration : 45 min. Commentary in 8 languages.
Departs daily from April to October from 10:15 a.m. and then every hour after, in front of the cathedral.
Tips for Visitors
Place Séraucourt, 18000 Bourges
Runs from Monday to Saturday from 7:15 a.m. to 19:45 p.m., service every 15 minutes.
It serves the entire city center.
Sleeping / Eating
The selection of accommodation proposed below consists of establishments that offer a good quality/price value. These addresses are nearby the classified area. The prices shown are for the off season, on the basis of 2 people (d: double, tr : triple, q: quadruple).
Hôtel Le Christina ***
5 Rue de la Halle, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 70 56 50.
Price from €70.
Hôtel Les Tilleuls ***
7 Place de la Pyrotechnie, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 20 49 04
Price from : d. €65/ tr. €83/ q. €91.
Hôtel d’Angleterre ****
1 Place des 4 Piliers, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 24 68 51
Price from €135.
Hôtel de Bourbon ****
Boulevard de la République, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 70 70 00.
Price from €109.
The selection of restaurants proposed below consists of restaurants that offer a good price/quality value. These addresses are nearby the classified area. “Formule” corresponds to a lunch special with a starter and a main course, or a main course and a dessert. The “menus” usually consist of a starter, a main course and a dessert, for lunch or dinner.
La Crêperie des Remparts – french pancakes
59 Rue Bourbonnoux, 18000 Bourges
Website - Tel : 02 48 24 55 44.
Pancakes around €9.
Le Bourbonnoux – inventive cuisine
44 Rue Bourbonnoux, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 24 14 76.
"Formule" €14. "Menu" from €20.
Le Jardin Gourmand - fine cuisine
15 B Avenue Ernest Renan, 18000 Bourges
Website - Tel: 02 48 21 35 91.
Menu from €16.
Le Beauvoir – fresh local products
1 Avenue Marx Dormoy, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 65 42 44.
"Menu" (Monday to Friday) : €16. "Menu" from €29.50 on weekends.
La Prose - Homemade cuisine
7 Rue Jean Girard, 18000 Bourges
Website - tel : 02 48 70 70 30
"Menu" from €22.
Le Cercle - gourmet cuisine
44 Boulevard Lahitolle, 18000 Bourges
Website - Tel: 02 48 70 33 27.
"Lunch menu" €26. "Dinner menu" from €55.