Bourges, a ‘“City of Art and History” is a beautiful medieval town’ according to its own tourism website. However because of its size, this small city is so often overlooked by its bigger sisters: Nantes, Paris and Lyon. For some, it is probably a place that you have never even heard of but for us, the fact that the Cathedral alone gained UNESCO World Heritage status for its unique architecture; it is a place we were curious to visit.
It is a city steeped in history – once the capital of the province during the Roman Empire, and considered to be the capital of the Kingdom during the reign of Charles VII; it is easy to understand why Bourges is proud of its glorious past, a past they are holding onto with both hands.
Unlike other cities that have strived to reinvent themselves as contemporary and modern, Bourges has retained its older buildings, with their timber frames and their quirky features in a bid to remind people that this is a city with a past.
Therefore, when we visited this notable city, we wanted to experience history first hand for ourselves, hence why we opted to stay at the Hôtel de Bourbon, a converted 17th Century Abbey.
Was it a Memorable Stay at the Hôtel de Bourbon by Mercure?
Situated just five minutes from the main streets of Bourges, this hotel is in the perfect location for both sightseeing and relaxing.
One thing that was instantly notable was the fact that, unlike many other hotels within the city, the Hôtel de Bourbon has not one, but two car parking areas waiting to accommodate its guests. Now, whilst this may not sound like a big thing, for those of us that road-trip around Europe, it is somewhat of consideration wherever we go.
It was dark when we finally arrived, but I think that this perhaps added to our first impressions. As soon as we turned into the driveway we were faced with the imposing yet beautifully lit stained-glass window which is the main feature of the now, quite well-known French restaurant, Les Petits Plats du Bourbon. This restaurant is situated in the heart of the old Abbey of Saint Ambroix, with is high-vaulted ceilings helping it to retain its character, making its diners feel like that are in actual fact sitting down for dinner in the coveted Church Chapel. Yet this bistro is far from old-fashioned. With is modern decor and food being delivered on large black slates this is definitely more fashionably chic than solemnly majestic.
Inside the hotel itself, you are greeted with smaller, welcoming reception rooms. This doesn’t mean compact, in fact, there is ample space for large sofas and winged back armchairs where you can relax and have afternoon tea should you so wish. Or should an early evening aperitif be more appealing than the cozy bar, lit in warm orange tones, maybe the perfect place to unwind after a day meandering around the city streets?
The nature of this hotel was not to reinvent the space by knocking its history down and starting again, it has been designed to complement what was already in place. Therefore, the corridors are smaller, the doors are framed with decorative archways rather than drab white wooden frames and the communal areas on each of the upper floors have been opened up so that all guests get to be wowed by that impressive stained-glass window of the Abbey each and every time they walkthrough.
The Rooms at the Hôtel de Bourbon, Bourges
As with everything, I suppose there is only so much character you can infuse within a property of this size and if anything it ends at the bedroom door.
Now that’s not to say they are not impressive but new wings have been added and rather than trying to replicate the historical nature of the Abbey the architects have instead mirrored the city – adding contemporary spaces to enhance the older features that surround it.
Inside, the rooms are far more spacious than I expected with a brightly lit Contemporary Art piece featuring on the wall behind our bed, a wall of windows and a full-length mirror, something that is often missed in many hotel rooms today.
For all gadget lovers out there, you will be pleased to hear that there are more than enough power sockets to keep even tech geeks happy (as Paul will attest) which is often a failing of hotels who still believe that two power sockets will be enough for any modern-day traveller and possibly the largest TV screen we have ever seen in a hotel room.
For me, however, whilst the bed was extremely comfortable and the overly large rain shower extremely powerful, the one thing that stood out for me was the fact that they had added in an extra soundproofing door. This meant that no matter what time of day or night, we couldn’t hear a thing from the corridor. What a genius idea and something that other hotels really need to take note of.
At first glance, when scouring the internet for a hotel packed with character you would be forgiven for believing that the Hôtel de Bourbon is like any other hotel in the area, but once you start to look at the detail it is easy to see why it is rated as one of the top hotels in Bourges.
Don’t Forget to Explore the City and the Area Surrounding Bourges
As previously mentioned, one of the main reasons for stopping in Bourges was to visit the Gothic Saint Etienne Cathedral. It is believed that this avant-garde UNESCO site has been standing since the 12th Century and is impressive both day and night when it is lit up for all to enjoy. Make sure when visiting before going inside that you head towards the striking main doors of the West side. Stand across the small square for the best view, and take in the scenes of the Last Judgement expertly carved out in stone around the formidable entrance.
Afterwards stroll around the narrow streets and walkways where you will discover many renaissance mansions, the Jacques Coeur Palace (once home to one of the most famous men in French history who paid for the armies that supported Joan of Arc’s campaign) and more than 500 attractive half-timbered houses that have been lovingly preserved and are in remarkable condition for their age considering they were built some time during the Middle Ages.
Finally, remember that Bourges is at the end of the Loire Valley, so this is also a great location to use as a base for exploring some of the most handsome Chateaux in the whole of France.
If you enjoy history and exploring beautiful buildings than this really is the place for you. Even if you are only planning to spend a night or two in the area, Hôtel de Bourbon and Bourges is the perfect stop-off.
For us, Bourges was certainly a city with a charming past worth exploring.
Have you visited Bourges? If so, we would love to hear your thoughts on this delightful little medieval city on the edge of the Loire Valley.
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We would like to thank Accor Hotels and in particular all the staff at the Hotel de Bourbon in Bourges for making our stay truly enjoyable. We did receive a complimentary stay, however, as always all views and opinions are our own.