Tourism Limousin / Nouvelle Aquitaine

What to see and what to taste in Limoges ?

It is the capital of the Limousin region and the city that has brought porcelain to its highest degree of beauty. To discover Limoges is to offer yourself elegance in addition to an astonishing heritage in a city that is curious about everything, as the 18,000 students and 2,000 professors who populate it prove. And as Limoges is the capital of Limousin, we are inevitably also greedy...


Limoges what history ?

The city of Lemovices became Limoges in the Middle Ages. 

Thanks to the Romans! At least if I dare say so. In fact, they are the ones who decided to found a capital city for the Gallic tribe of the Lemovices in the 1st century. The city was called Augustoritum and it quickly became one of the most important Gallo-Roman cities. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Augustoritum gradually fell into oblivion in favor of "Limoges", a derivative of the name of the original tribe, the Lemovices, who became over time Limougeauds in Limoges, and Limousins when living in the province of Limousin of which Limoges is the capital. The city was important in the Middle Ages because it was the capital of the huge duchy of Aquitaine. Even if they live in their palace in Poitiers or in Bordeaux, it is in the cathedral of Limoges that the dukes of Aquitaine are crowned, many of whom are also kings of England since the duchy passed into the hands of the kings of England with the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II of England in 1154.

L'étonnant Blason de la ville de Limoges

The amazing coat of arms of Limoges: Gules, on a chief of Saint Martial of carnation, ornamented in the antique style of gold, shaded sable, between two golden gothic letters S and M; on a chief of azure, charged with three golden fleurs-de-lis (wikipedia).

The city of the Dukes of Aquitaine was a city of knowledge in the Middle Ages.

The Middle Ages were the great era of the Saint Martial Abbey, located in the heart of the city. A place of art, knowledge and even science. Renowned far beyond Limoges, it gave its name to a school of Gregorian chant, "the school of Saint Martial". Declining from the 16th century, the abbey died out definitively with the French Revolution. Limoges is a city of artists since, even if they do not make Gregorian songs, at the time of the Saint Martial abbey, it is the city which launches the most troubadours, these artists who went from castles to castles to delight the public with their talent. The 100 years war, the religious wars, make Limoges an eventful place at several moments of history.

For a long time, the city of Limoges and the castle of Limoges were united by the Revolution, which made Limoges a single municipality by adding a few villages such as La Brugère, Saint Christophe or Sainte Claire Soubrevas. 

Limoges en 1765 / Par Cornuau

Limoges in 1765 / By Cornuau

A city gifted with its hands since the beginning.  

Limoges is the capital of the Limousin and therefore an important place for meat very early. But it was also a city of "manufacture" very early on, since fabrics were created there in the Middle Ages, the limogiatures. It is also famous for the quality of its enamels. The discovery of an important deposit of kaolin in 1768, at the same time as the discovery of the secret of porcelain manufacture by a French cleric in China, made Limoges a manufacturing city. It became the capital of porcelain in France. The quality of its production, especially for tableware, conquered Europe and allowed it to make a fortune since the 18th and 19th centuries were passionate about porcelain and France, in particular, was ruined to buy it from the Chinese or the Saxons and could therefore manage on its own thanks to the Limoges workers. 


City of workers and know-how 

Limoges is a very important working class city since the 18th century with the first porcelain factories and since the 19th century we see the birth of textile, leather and hat factories, which make Limoges a city of young workers who will do everything to defend their rights and make the city "the red city", even "the Rome of Socialism".

Porcelaine de Limoges Photo par Ondacaracola/ShutterstockPorcelaine de Limoges Photo par Ondacaracola/Shutterstock


What to see in Limoges ? 

With 17 historical monuments, Limoges is rightly labelled "City of Art and History". The river Vienne flows through the city, and it is near it that you can still find a porcelain factory. The butchers' district, with its typical "rue de la Boucherie", is worth a visit, as are the market halls in a city which is the capital of one of the most gourmet regions of France: the Limousin. The Saint Etienne cathedral remembers having seen the Dukes of Aquitaine of the Middle Ages, Henri IV and many others... The train station of Limoges is one of the most beautiful in France. 


Top 5 of what you should see : 

1 The Limoges-Benedictine Station: 
While the train has been passing through Limoges since 1856, the current station dates from 1929. It replaces the first station. It is magnificent with its "bell tower" which gives the time far away. It is made up of several styles which harmonize well, a little bit of classical, a little bit of Art Nouveau, a touch of Art Deco and even a little bit of regionalist style. It is the symbol of Limoges.

Gare de Limoges Photo par Adri1/ShutterstockGare de Limoges Photo par Adri1/Shutterstock

2 The Saint Etienne Cathedral 

Started in 1273 it was finally finished in ... 1888. We know how to take our time to do things right in Limoges. In the heart of the city, near the gardens of the bishop's palace, the monument can be seen from afar thanks to the bell tower, built at several times, original by the octagonal shape of some floors, and which rose to 80 meters high. It is the fire of the storm that removed the spire that crowned the building. Viollet le Duc, the famous 19th century architect proposed to give it back its spire but the project was not followed. It returns regularly. 

Cathedrale de Limoges Photo par BearFotos/ShutterstockCathedrale de Limoges Photo par BearFotos/Shutterstock


3 The district of the Butchery and the market

The Rue de la Boucherie displays beautiful half-timbered houses. It is the heart of the historical district of Limoges. We are not far from the market which deserves a real detour if you like good products or if you want to enjoy cooking during your stay in Limoges. The Limousin is the stronghold of the Limousin breed of beef, a meat both tender and tasty, renowned for its finesse and its "grain". 

Maisons de Limoges Photo par ilolab/ShutterstockOld Houses in Limoges Photo par ilolab/Shutterstock

4 Parks and gardens 

In addition to being in the heart of a naturally green region, the Limousin, the city of Limoges has 52 m2 of greenery per inhabitant. You can see it in the beautiful gardens of the bishop's palace, near the cathedral, in the Victor Thuillat park or the Aurence park but also along the Vienne river, which passes through Limoges. 

All around Limoges, you can discover nature destinations such as the famous "Plateau de Miles-Vaches". The Monts de Blonds are not far away. 

A Limoges il faut aussi parcourir les jardins / Image par Nikolett Emmert de Pixabay  

In Limoges you can also visit the gardens / Image by Nikolett Emmert from Pixabay  

5 Porcelain 

Limoges continues to make the porcelain it is named after shine and is probably the most beautiful in the world. You can store in the "Champs Elysées" of porcelain by going to boulevard Louis Blanc. There are also factory stores. You can also see the Bernardeau foundation (which continues to manufacture in Limoges). It proposes thematic exhibitions (you have to pay 8 euros for a visit and think of booking). 

Why porcelain in Limoges? 

Porcelaine de Limoges Photo par Andrei Antipov/ShutterstockPorcelaine de Limoges Photo par Andrei Antipov/Shutterstock

Porcelain from China: the ruinous passion of Europe during the Age of Enlightenment.

We've been waiting for centuries for this! The secret of porcelain. In the great houses, up to Versailles, people ruined themselves to acquire what was considered the ultimate luxury. Luxury that came from the dream of China. It was imagined as some people of our time imagine Mars or extraterrestrials. Traces of this madness for China can be found in Chantilly, or in the Château d'Haroué in these magnificent Chinese salons which are studded with fantasized Chinese, with their tunics and pointed hats. In short, porcelain made Europe crazy and made the fortune not only of the Chinese, but also of the shipowners who brought the Chinese splendors to our ports, from Bordeaux, Nantes, the Orient or Saint-Malo... We have always tried to discover the secret but we don't see how to do it. No one could figure it out. Until a man from Limoges finally reveals the great secret.

Porcelaine de Chine

Chinese porcelain / Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay 


A Limousin priest "hacks" the secret of porcelain.

We are tempted to imagine him as a James Bond, with gadgets up his sleeves, succeeding in stealing the Chinese secret by going through entire armies, but no.. It was a priest who discovered the secret. François-Xavier d'Entrecolles, born in Limoges in 1664. Jesuit missionary, he tries to evangelize China. He is nice. People like him. They let him see. And here he is, telling what he sees. And what he sees is nothing less than the art of making porcelain that the whole of Europe is trying to discover. His two-page letter arrived in 1712. Saxony immediately put it to good use. In France, one is slower and for reason, one does not know where to find kaolin.

Lettre du père d'Entrecolles de 1712, qui raconte comment on fait la porcelaine en Chine publiée par Du Halde en 1735

Letter of the father of Entrecolles in 1712 which tells how porcelain is made in China. Published by du Halde in 1735

Chance of history: it is in Limoges that the kaolin deposit is found.

Until 1767. That year, an impressive deposit of kaolin was found near ... of ? And what if I told you that history is sometimes full of coincidences ? Well, that's it! from Limoges. The two are now completely linked. The finest porcelain in the world, the second largest city in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, numerous students and always this working know-how that made the reputation of Limoges, what an amazing city!


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The amazing story of the word "silhouette" born in Limoges... 

Like the one that bore the name "Silhouette d'ailleurs.

1766. Castle of Bry sur Marne near Paris. An extremely elegant facade as only the Age of Enlightenment could offer. In a living room, some of these new and magnificent Limoges porcelains that the great houses have been snatching up for a few months. Since a deposit of kaolin was found near Limoges. Near the fireplace, a woman is sitting. In front of her a large canvas. Behind her a candlestick. We see her shadow projected on the canvas. It is new and it fascinates the time. It is called a Chinese shadow. In front of the canvas, brandishing a coal mine, a man traces the shadow of the beautiful woman projected on the canvas. Standing back a little, Mr. de Silhouette admires his work.

Ombres chinoises Photo par Jordi Mora/ShutterstockOmbres chinoises Photo par Jordi Mora/Shutterstock

A jack-of-all-trades, this Silhouette

Silhouette... It sounds like a pseudonym, doesn't it?

And yet there is no one more serious than this man! Etienne de Silhouette, born on July 5, 1709 in Limoges, very rich, passionate about knowledge as is his century, he translated Alexander Pope and left a very interesting book called Dissertations on the Union of Religion, Morality, and Politics. He is above all a former comptroller general of finances of king Louis XV. It is true that despite the friendship of Madame de Pompadour, he was only there for a few months. It must be said that he was crazy, frankly. To introduce a tax for the privileged. These privileged people, of which he was a part, were the nobles and the clergy. They did not pay taxes. And to restore the kingdom's calamitous finances, Silhouette wanted to tax them.

Château de Brie sur Marne où Monsieur de Silhouette faisait ses ombres chinoises et écrivait ses livres.

Castle of Brie sur Marne where Monsieur de Silhouette made his shadow puppets and wrote his books.


Silhouette: a family name that became a common name.

In front of the uproar. Louis XV backed down and sent Silhouette back to his finance minister. There will be a few more attempts after him without more success. It was more than 50 years after Monsieur de Silhouette that the French Revolution imposed taxes on everyone. At the time, everyone forgot about Silhouette. Well yes and no. His mania for drawing without details and one of the shortest passages in a ministry will make him go down in history. But as a common name. Silhouette now means in our language the projected shadow of someone. Something unfinished. Like the ministry, like the works of Silhouette, which accompanies the beautiful woman into the blue room.

L'horloge de l'hôtel de ville de Limoges / Image par Annabel_P de Pixabay 
The clock of the city hall of Limoges / Image by Annabel_P from Pixabay 

Limoges is populated by 135,000 Limoges residents. It is located in the New Aquitaine region, in the Haute-Vienne department. 


Road and train

It is located 393 kms from Paris, which is 4 hours by road or between 3 and 4 hours by train from Paris Austerlitz or Paris Montparnasse stations. It is also located 221 kms from Bordeaux (about 2H40 by train or car), 300 kms from Toulouse by the A20 and 410 kms from Lyon -4H by car).


Other Monsieur de France destinations in New Aquitaine / Limousin here

Other Monsieur de France destinations in France are here. 

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Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.