11 must-see things to do in the Cher department

Visiter à Bourges : Sancerre

That’s it: your stay in the Cher is booked and you’re at the stage where you decide on your sightseeing program. Make life easier for yourself and discover the top 11 things to do in the Cher!

Less than 250 kilometers south of Paris, you can visit the Cher, a department with well-kept secrets. From exceptional culinary traditions to unparalleled architecture, the curious will be rewarded for their boldness and will find a thousand things to do in the Cher.

From Bourges to the roads of Sancerre, you’ll be spoilt for choice with medieval and Renaissance castles, nature excursions and the discovery of traditional Berrichonne crafts. And let’s not forget the region’s fine gastronomy, which will awaken the taste buds of all gourmets!

Discover our list of the 11 best things to do and see in the Cher.

1. Bourges

Saint-Etienne Cathedral

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Bourges

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Felix Lipov

Bourges is THE city to visit in the Cher region. Its most famous monument is without doubt the Cathedral of Saint-Étienne. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this majestic Gothic cathedral dominates the entire city. Standing since 1195, it reaches a height of 65 metres in the historic heart of the town.

From the outside, contemplate the five beautifully crafted portals, corresponding to the five bays you’ll find inside. Then climb its 396 steps to enjoy a panoramic view of the city of Bourges from the cathedral’s highest tower, admire its incredible collection of stained glass windows and astronomical clock, and finish with a visit to its crypt.

Jardin de l’Archevêché

Jardin de l'Archevêché, Bourges

Photo credit: Shutterstock – ilolab

At the foot of the cathedral, this formal garden is the work of a pupil of Le Nôtre. A pretty little bandstand is planted in its center, giving it a special charm. With its many flowers and trees, it’s an ideal place to relax after a visit to the cathedral.

On your way out, take the opportunity to explore Bourges and its medieval timber-framed houses. Lose yourself in the narrow cobbled streets to get a real feel for the atmosphere in Bourges (yes, that’s how we say it!). Visiting the narrow streets of Bourges is one of the top things to do in the Cher region.

Palais Jacques Cœur

Visiter à Bourges : Palais Jacques Cœur

Photo credit: Facebook – Bourges Berry Tourisme

Right in the center of Bourges, the Palais Jacques Cœur is one of the highlights of your stay in the Cher region. The palace bears the name of the famous merchant and adventurer, treasurer to King Charles VII in the 15th century. The mansion he had built to honor his rank is today the city’s second most emblematic monument, although the man never had the opportunity to reside here.

2. Cher castles

If you’re looking for something to do in the Cher region, your stay wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one or two castles.

Indeed, the department is so full of fortified castles and Renaissance châteaux that it would be difficult to draw up an exhaustive list. Here is a selection of four châteaux to visit in the Cher.

Culan Castle

Château de Culan

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Richard Semik

In the extreme south of the département, in the village of the same name, this fortified castle with its high, rounded towers overlooks the surrounding valley. A true medieval fortress, it’s a delightful opportunity to immerse yourself in its history, which dates back to the 10th century.

Château d’Ainay-le-Vieil

Château d'Ainay-le-Vieil

Photo credit: Flickr – Esther Westerveld

Built in the 14th century, this majestic monument with its round towers is remarkably well preserved. Discover its history, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution and Empire, thanks to the guides who will be delighted to bring its walls to life.

Continue with a visit to its superb park, where century-old trees live amidst beautiful aquatic pools.

Meillant Castle

Château de Meillant

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Richard Semik

The Gothic château of Meillant is a must-see in the Cher region. Dating from the 13th century, it has undergone several waves of development throughout its history. Its lovely grounds are open to the public and can be freely explored.

Then choose between a classic guided tour or a themed tour of the château, where you’ll learn more about its walls and the secrets of medieval architecture. The choice is yours!

Stuarts Castle

Château des Stuarts

Photo credit: Shutterstock – RYSAN

In the commune of Aubigny-sur-Nère, this château, which once belonged to the Stuart family and is now the town hall, is a treasure trove of Renaissance architecture to visit in the Cher region. Built in the 16th century, its unparalleled elegance is underlined by its corbelled turrets.

Magnificent Renaissance tapestries are on display inside the château. On the first floor, take a fun, interactive tour of the linked destinies of Aubigny-sur-Nère andScotland.

3. La Borne contemporary ceramics center

Centre céramique contemporaine La Borne

Photo credit: Facebook – Centre céramique contemporaine

A change of atmosphere at this contemporary ceramics gallery in the Cher region of France. In the village of Henrichemont, contemplate original, high-quality creations directly from France’s pottery heritage. The center’s team will explain the techniques and know-how involved in making the ceramic pieces.

The center also hosts regular international artistic events.

4. Pôle des Étoiles

Pôle des étoiles

Photo taken at the radio telescope – Photo credit: Facebook – Pôle des étoiles : planétarium en Berry Sologne

In the middle of the forest, in the commune of Nançay, stands this curious building with its futuristic architecture. A research facility and museum, its mission is to make astronomy and its secrets accessible to all. Let us take you on a journey into the mysteries of the Universe! A guided tour of the center is available, as is observation of the planetarium. Temporary exhibitions with fun themes also take place. A must-see visit to the Cher, for adults and children alike!

5. Chèvrerie des Gallands

Chèvrerie des Gallands

Photo credit: Facebook – Chèvrerie des Gallands

In Crézancy-en-Sancerre, visit the Gallands goat farm and your belly will thank you! If you’re visiting the Sancerrois region, you won’t want to miss the famous crottin de Chavignol. This tasty raw-milk cheese has a Protected Designation of Origin. From March to December, this family-run farm welcomes you to discover its traditional breeding and cheese-making processes based on ancestral recipes.

Of course, your visit ends with a trip to the farm store to stock up on these fresh, fragrant delights!

6. Culan viaduct

Viaduc de Culan

Photo credit: Flickr – Daniel Jolivet

At Culan, in the south of the département, stands a majestic viaduct, the highest arch of which measures 55 meters. This 19th-century structure houses the former Montluçon-Châteauroux railroad line. Opposite Château de Culan, you can try your hand at bungee jumping.

Take the plunge in a remarkable natural setting high above the river. An original way to visit the Cher!

7. Noirlac Abbey

Abbaye de Noirlac

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Richard Semik

Located 40 kilometers south of Bourges, this 12th-century abbey is a historical treasure to behold in the Cher region. Once a porcelain factory in 1822, it became a public property in 1909. Following restoration work in the last century, its state of preservation is to be commended. The sober yet majestic abbey church is a thing of beauty. All period furniture and objects have been removed, allowing light to penetrate and magnify the architecture.

On leaving the abbey, you can take a lovely walk through the greenery, or enjoy a picnic.

8. Sancerre and its vineyards

Sancerre et ses vignobles

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Gregory Guivarch

Overlooking vineyards and the Loire River, Sancerre is a must-see medieval town in the Cher region. In addition to its picturesque, narrow streets, its castle and belfry offer an exceptional historical heritage. In the vicinity of the village of Sancerre, make your own Wine Route!

In this part of the Centre-Val de Loire region, the most common grape varieties are Sauvignon Blanc for white wines and Pinot Noir for reds. Across more than 2,800 hectares, meet some of the region’s finest winemakers. They’ll be delighted to let you in on the secrets of winemaking and let you taste their finest vintages.

9. Hiking

Chavignol

View of Chavignol, from the namesake hike – Photo credit: Instagram – peperejeanvins

Hiking fans can smile, as there are two circuits to discover in the heart of the department.

Chavignol loop

In the Grand Sancerrois region, this hike is one of the most popular in the Cher département. Departing from the commune of Verdigny, the 11-kilometre walk takes you through the villages of Chavignol and Amigny in a succession of small valleys surrounded by vineyards. Don’t hesitate to take a gourmet break: red wine and crottin de chavignol from the Berrichon region will give you strength for what’s to come!

Please note: this hike, lasting around 3 hours, is rather difficult and should therefore be undertaken by experienced hikers.

Circuit des Hirtaignes

This is a fairly easy hike from Chaon, which you can do in the company of children. Over a distance of just under 9 kilometers, you’ll pass through the villages of Les Hirtaignes and Les Fontaines. This is an opportunity to admire historic buildings such as the Château des Hirtaignes and the old mill, as you pass by paths lined with majestic trees and numerous ponds.

In early autumn, shimmering colors are the order of the day. Allow around 2.5 hours to complete this hike.

10. Lake Sidiailles

Lac de Sidiailles

Photo credit: Facebook – Lac de Sidiailles

Lac de Sidiailles is a must-see in the Cher region if you love green spaces and what they have to offer. Just an hour’s drive from Bourges, come and relax with your feet in the water with family or friends. The landscaped banks are just waiting for you and your beach towel for a little sunbathing. Hiking trails criss-cross the surrounding forest for a breath of fresh air.

Around the lake, you’ll find a multitude of activities. Accrobranche, pedal-boating, swimming, pétanque or climbing: choose the one that suits you best!

11. Museum of the Banal Furnaces

Musée des Fours Banaux

Photo credit: Facebook – Berry-Sologne Tourisme

We end this list of 11 things to see in the Cher region with a small museum in the commune of Vierzon. Set around two 15th-century banal kilns, it showcases the rich heritage of the Centre-Val de Loire region.

In medieval times, the communal oven belonged to the lord, and the inhabitants came to bake their bread there, paying an entrance fee. Self-guided tours are free, and guided tours are available for a small fee. Immerse yourself in the traditions and daily life of the Middle Ages!

How do I get to the Cher?

There are several options for reaching the Cher.

By plane

To get to the Cher by plane, we recommend you use a Skyscanner-type flight comparison service. There are no airports with scheduled flights within the département. However, within a radius of 150 kilometers are the two air terminals at Tours and Orléans.

Paris-Orly and Clermont-Ferrand airports are around 2 hours’ drive from the capital of the Berry region. Use your simulations to find the best route!

By train

Another way to visit the Cher is by train. Bourges station has regular services to Paris, Tours, Orléans, Montluçon and Nevers.

By car

The A71 freeway takes you to Bourges and its suburbs, wherever you’re coming from. The presence of several national roads also facilitates mobility in the département. And while the car may not be the most comfortable means of transport, it’s almost compulsory if you’re planning to leave Bourges. For sustainable travel, don’t hesitate to carpool.

By bus

Several bus companies operate to and from Bourges. On site, a vast network covers the whole department. Most places of interest are therefore accessible by public transport at modest cost.

Where to stay in Cher?

The Cher is an ideal destination for medieval tourism enthusiasts, with a wide range of tourist accommodations. Use a hotel comparator to select the one that best suits your needs. Whether you’d like to stop off at a B&B in Bourges, spend the night in a traditional gîte between visits to two châteaux, or enjoy a duo getaway at a grand domaine in the Sancerrois region, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Numerous Airbnb are also available, for those who want to experience the stay like the locals.

The Cher is now waiting for you. Enjoy your trip!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Centre-Val de Loire