The department of the Cher is one of the largest in France. It lies in the heart of the country in the Centre Val-de-Loire region, positioned half-way between Paris and the Massif Central. This department combines the best of France, encompassing history and architecture, natural beauty and fine food and wine.
Sancerre, famous for its wines, sits on a rocky limestone outcrop and forms a dramatic and really picturesque townscape. It is in the north of the department surrounded by its prestigious vineyards. It is not the only wine region in the Cher department, in the south the wines produced are mainly rosés, but also some refreshing whites and reds. Sancerre also produces a speciality goats cheese called Crotin de Chavignol, an AOC cheese. Green lentils are grown locally and a delicious pear dessert called Poirat is made here.
Why you should visit Cher for your next holiday in France
The Cher is a department steeped in history, culture and tradition all set in a beautiful and varied landscape and has been inspiration to artists and writes for several centuries
The capital city of Cher is Bourges, a medium-sized city close to the Loire Valley, about 250km south of Paris. Bourges is dominated by the imposing silhouette of the cathedral of St Etienne. The Cathedral was built between the late 12th and early 13th centuries, is one of the great masterpieces of Gothic art and is admired for its proportions and the unity of its design.
The tympanum, sculptures and stained-glass windows are particularly striking. If you climb the north tower you will be rewarded with terrific views over the restored medieval quarter with its half timbered houses and beyond to the marshy gardens where vegetables are grown and transported in flat bottomed boats.
What to see and do in Cher
A famous person from Cher is Jacques Coeur (1400-1456) who, from the age of 32, sailed many times to the Orient, making his fortune in setting up a trading Network all along the Mediterranean which enabled him to finance the last campaigns of the Hundred Years War. Sadly for him this made him some serious enemies - the Royal Court - that eventually led to his demise in exile. You can today follow a tourist trail that is named after him and is the best way to take in the many chateaux and museums through the department.
Aubigny-sur-Nère is a small town of medieval houses with a Renaissance chateau. It has a surprising connection with Scotland - in 1423 it was given to Jean Stuart, captain of the Scottish guard of Charles VII. To mark the connection is holds an annual Fete called Franco-Ecossaises, and a Musée d'Auld Alliance in the chateau.
There are plenty of beautiful châteaux and historic monuments in Cher, such as Château Meillant and Dun-sur-Auron. In addition, there is the 12th century priory near Châtelet and the aromatic plant garden at the Manzay Priory in Limieux. It is impossible to mention all the wonderful places to visit in Cher, suffice to say you will not be disappointed with this glorious area.
Places to visit
Leave Bourges in any direction and the unspoilt countryside will soon reveal a town or village imbued with the region's cultural history.
- Vierzon's silk thread museum - to the northwest is Le Pays de Vierzon, a largely industrial area bordering Champagne and the Sologne. Visit Vierzon's silk thread museum or the photography museum in nearby Graçay for a taste of the past, or simply take in the pure air and peace along one of the six hiking routes around the town.
- Sancerre - heading east of Bourges, through the vineyards of the Sancerrois countryside, the first view is of Sancerre perched upon a hill, with vine filled fields stretching as far as the eye can see on the horizon, is nothing short of breathtaking.
- Cheese production in Chavignol - in the foothills of Sancerre lies the village of Chavignol, an unassuming backwater where the goat is king, and where the expert production of Crottin de Chavignol dominates proceedings. Taken with white wine or red, the cheese's creamy bitterness is unrivalled, and visitors are advised to cram as much as they can into their suitcases before heading home.
- La Cité de l'Or museum - passing through the verdant countryside of Pays Berry Saint-Amandois, you should stop at Saint-Amand-Montrond. In addition to being one of the biggest printing centres in France, the town has one more glittering boast. Jewellery, specifically 'hollow' gold jewellery, has been manufactured by artisans here for decades. The town today produces an astonishing four tons a year, and visitors can learn everything they need to know about the history of gold mining (both in France and around the world) and jewellery making at the impressive glass pyramid-housed La Cité de l'Or museum.
How to get to Cher
Flights vary according to departure and destination airports, here are few route suggestions from London:
Tours is the nearest Airpport to the Cher department
- London Heathrow/Tours
- London City/Tours
- London Stanstead/Tours
Eurostar has made the journey easy from London, St Pancras International to Paris, Gare du Nord is just 2 hours 15 minutes.
From Paris take the SNCF service from Gare d'Austerlitz to Bourges.
Travelling from Paris, take the A71 past Vierzon to Bourges. From Tours, take the N76 to Bourges.
The following routes are suitable for travelling to Cher by car.
Dover - Dunkirk, Calais
Folkestone - Calais
Newhaven - Dieppe
Portsmouth - Le Harve, Caen, Cherbourg, St Malo
Poole - Cherbourg
Plymouth - Roscoff