The Limousin region is an area of unspoiled natural beauty and rich history. 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 sports enthusiasts. Opportunities abound for hiking on the scenic trails, fishing in freshwater rivers, and boating on pristine lakes. Plan your trip to this beautiful region with our list of attractions and best places to visit in Limousin.
The historic city of Aubusson has been renowned since the 15th century for its intricately patterned tapestries. The city has earned a 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.
Tourists may visit tapestry workshops throughout the city, such as L’Espace Tapisseries (32 Rue Vaveix) and the Maison du Tapissier (Rue Vieille). Aubusson also has a fabulous tapestry museum, the Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie (Rue des Arts).
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 continued to be renovated throughout the centuries. Behind the cathedral are the 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. Visitors should also stroll through the city’s historic quarters along the Rue de la Boucherie and the Rue du Temple to soak up the city’s old-world ambiance.
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. A wonderful collection of Impressionist paintings is on display at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. To learn more about the history of porcelain, tourists should head to the Pavillon de la Porcelaine – Musée Haviland, which also has a boutique that sells the refined Haviland porcelain items.
The Musée National Adrien Dubouché highlights the beauty and variety of porcelain, the art form for which Limoges is famous. The museum has an extensive collection of pottery, faïence, glassware, and Limoges porcelain.
Uzerche is known as the “Pearl of Limousin,” because of its beautiful historic buildings and spectacular setting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Vézère River. This medieval fortified town has many architectural treasures, including impressive old towers, atmospheric vaulted pathways, and elegant “hôtels particuliers” (mansions). Not to be missed is the Abbatiale Saint-Pierre, a marvelous Romanesque church built in the 11th century by Benedictine monks.
The countryside surrounding Uzerche offers ample opportunities for hiking and nature walks. A great place to take in views of the countryside is from the Esplanade de la Luna de. During the summer, outdoor markets, festivals, and music concerts draw many visitors.
4. Abbatiale Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul, Solignac
Solignac (15 kilometers away from Limoges) is home to one of the most important sights in the Limousin region, the Abbatiale Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul. This splendid Romanesque abbey, built by Benedictine monks in the 10th and 11th centuries, was a medieval pilgrimage destination on the “Way of Saint James” route to Santiago de Compostela. Typical of Romanesque churches, the exterior is decorated with rounded arches and sculpted figures. The spacious domed interior features awe-inspiring 15th-century stained-glass windows and columns adorned with details including griffins, palm leaves, and snakes.
The historic village of Solignac charms visitors with its pastel-shuttered old stone buildings and a pleasant ambiance along the Briance River. Spanning the river is the 15th-century Pont-Vieux de Solignac (Old Bridge of Solignac), a graceful arched masonry bridge.
5. Château de Val
Surrounded by dreamy pastoral scenery, the Château de Val looks like an image from the pages of a child’s storybook. The turreted castle stands on a rocky spur within the Lac de Bort Les Orgues, one of the largest lakes in Europe. This medieval fortress, with its grandiose Gothic rooms, is one of the best places to visit to discover the ambiance of another era. Unlike many French castles, the Château de Val is sumptuously furnished with period pieces, creating a good picture of what it was like to live here. The castle’s Saint-Blaise Chapel is listed as a Historical Monument.
The castle grounds include a courtyard by the lake and a tranquil garden planted with many flowers. All around the property are quiet spots that invite visitors 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. The Château de Val also offers bed-and-breakfast accommodations.
6. Musée d’Art Contemporain de la Haute-Vienne
This museum of contemporary art is housed in the majestic Château de Rochechouart overlooking the Graine and Vayres valleys. The well-restored medieval-Renaissance castle houses the museum’s collection devoted to 20th- and 21st-century art. On display are over 300 works created from the 1960s to the present day, plus an assortment of 2,000 decorative arts objects, as well as unique commissioned pieces.
Equally noteworthy are the artworks found on the walls of the château, especially the 16th-century frescoes in the Salle des Chasses (depicting hunting scenes) and the Galerie d’Hercule (illustrating the labors of Greek mythological figure Hercules).
7. Parc Naturel Régional de Millevaches en Limousin
The Parc Naturel Régional de Millevaches en Limousin is a paradise of deep green forests, gently rolling hills, sheltered valleys, grassy meadows, and peaceful lakes. The regional park, which encompasses the Plateau de Millevaches, has freshwater rivers and streams that are home to river otters. The Millevaches Regional Park is dotted with charming small hamlets and traversed by nature trails. Hikers will enjoy the diverse landscape, from heathlands and oak groves to pastures where the famous Limousin cows graze.
Besides hiking and biking, other popular activities are boating, fishing, and cycling. Overnight travelers can stay at campsites or other accommodations in the park.
This quaint medieval town has a well-preserved historic center and a UNESCO-listed Romanesque church (dating to the 11th and 12th centuries) that was a stop on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail. Wandering through the town’s cobblestone streets and narrow alleys takes visitors back in time. Much of the town has not changed since the Middle Ages.
The Quartier de Noblat riverside district is especially atmospheric with its old mills and 13th-century bridge. Tourists can arrive here by taking the Chemin du Pavé pedestrian path. This charming area is a delightful place for a stroll. Other things to do include fishing and picnicking.
Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat is also known for its gastronomy. During July, the Fête de la Saint-Martial, a traditional market of regional food products, is held at the place Saint-Martial by the Vienne River. Those with a sweet tooth should try the local specialty called “Massepain de Saint-Léonard,” a little almond cookie that is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The recipe has a Mediterranean origin and was brought to the town by pilgrims returning from Saint-Jacques de Compostela in Spain.
Collonges-la-Rouge is a picture-perfect hamlet listed as one of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” (Most Beautiful Villages of France). Most of the buildings are constructed from red sandstone and date back to the 15th and 16th centuries when many noteworthy citizens of the Viscount of Turenne had residences here. The unusual rosy-hued houses and noblemen’s mansions make this town incomparable to any other in France.
Another must-see attraction in Collonges-la-Rouge is the 11th-century Eglise Saint-Pierre, an exquisite church that was visited by medieval pilgrims on the “Way of Saint James” trail to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Listed as one of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France,“ Curemonte sits on top of a rocky mount presiding over two valleys. Three castles dominate the townscape and are visible from far in the distance. Tourists can easily imagine the formidable impression that this village must have made during the Middle Ages. Curemonte boasts a 12th-century Romanesque church, as well as two other historic churches. At the 14th-century Château Saint-Hilaire, the author Colette wrote, Journal à Rebours. The village’s perfectly preserved squares and buildings make it popular as a filming location for movie sets.
Another one of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France,” Mortemart is a charming village with lovely architecture. Several historic religious buildings dazzle visitors, including a 14th-century Carmelite convent and the Eglise Saint-Hilaire, a humble little chapel in an Augustinian convent. Equally noteworthy is a 10th-century castle, the Château des Ducs, which was home to the Dukes of Mortemart. Stately 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 yet another one of the region’s “Plus Beaux Villages de France.” The village is nestled in a spot that was favored by the Viscounts of Limoges because of its safety from invasions. History is felt at every corner of the village. Visitors will enjoy wandering the ancient narrow lanes to admire handsome half-timbered houses and turreted noblemen’s mansions. 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 stunning view of the landscape.