When a friend invited me to spend several days in the department (state) of Creuse, France, I had no idea what to expect. Turns out I discovered thousand-year-old churches, beautiful countryside, hundreds of ancient tapestries, and ruins of lavish castles.
This experience was wayyy off the beaten path, and I’m so glad I got a chance to visit the area!
Situated directly in the middle of the country, Creuse is not at all a touristy area. It’s a rural region defined mostly by its rolling hills, extensive farmland, and historic churches and castles. So it’s not for everybody. But visitors who want to see a lesser-known side of France can find a large number of fun and interesting things to do in Creuse.
Only about 117,000 people live in the entire state, and the population skews older, so you won’t be battling other tourists. In fact, yours might be the only vehicle on the road at times as you wind down the country roads. It’s worth the journey if you’re interested in quirky historic buildings and other points of interest.
This complete guide to Creuse, France should answer your questions and offer some ideas for activities, food, and lodging as you check out a place that most tourists overlook.
About the State of Creuse, France
Gueret is the largest commune (town) in Creuse, with a population of just 13,200. Next largest is La Souterraine at 5300, followed by Aubusson (3400), Bourganeuf (2600), and Sainte-Feyre (2500.) As you can tell, these are very small communities. You’re not in the big city anymore!
This part of France is so rural that one of the things it’s most known for is its abundance of cows. Indeed, the Limousin cattle – named after the Limousin region which includes Creuse – are considered some of the best sources of high-quality beef in the country. You’ll see these cows on the side of the road at farms throughout Creuse.
Here’s our Google map with a bunch of different attractions and points of interest. There are more things to see in Creuse, but these were the ones we spent time visiting. Use it as a guide as you travel around the state.
Map of Creuse, France Attractions:
Getting to Creuse from Paris
The easiest way to visit Creuse is to take a train from Paris to the town of La Souterraine. My train ticket via oui.scnf was roughly 46 euros, and it included a bus transfer from La Souterraine to Gueret. Ticket prices vary, depending how far in advance you book.
Creuse has a surprisingly extensive bus network, so if you were so inclined, you could bounce between the largest towns in the state without your own vehicle.
However, it’s much easier to just rent a car. Even if you’re an American who’s never driven abroad, driving in France isn’t complicated. They drive on the right side of the road, and unlike some foreign countries, drivers in France are for the most part predictable and considerate.
Fun Things To Do in Creuse, France
This list encompasses everything from museums to historic churches and castles, to outdoors and nature. Pick and choose the types of activities that you are most interested in, and plan your itinerary around those!
There’s very little nightlife in Creuse. You’ll find a couple bars in the larger cities like Gueret and Aubusson, but for the most part, this is not the place to come to party. Here, it’s all about history.
This is just a small selection of all the fascinating places to visit in Creuse. For the full list of all 282 historic monuments in the Creuse department, check this Wikipedia list.
Gueret: Wolves of the Chabrieres Forest
European gray wolves once roamed the forests of Creuse, but now they can only be seen at the Monts de Gueret animal park (admission 12 euros.) More than 50 wolves (“Les Loups de Chabrières“ – the wolves of Chabrieres forest) live in the 32-acre park, which doubles as a zoo for other types of animals as well. The best time to guarantee wolf sightings is during the afternoon feeding, typically around 4 pm.
Gueret: The Town Center
Gueret is one of the few cities in Creuse with a large enough business district that you can spend an hour walking around. Check out the pizzerias, cafes, gift shops, and flower stores. I even found an Indian restaurant and a taco shop – rarities in this part of France.
Gueret: Museum of Art and Archaeology
As of this writing, the Museum of Art and Archaeology is closed for renovations. We’re including it on the list because it’s one of the few museums in the state, so it will be a worthwhile attraction once it reopens – check its website for the latest info.
Gueret: Labyrinth Maze
Here’s a legit fun tourist activity in Gueret – a giant labyrinth maze. It takes around 60-90 minutes to find your way out of the maze, so plan accordingly.
Gueret: Lake Courtille
During the summer, Lake Courtille becomes a popular spot for walking, swimming, picnics, and family activities. It’s a good place to take advantage of nice weather and enjoy the outdoors.
Saint-Pardoux-les-Cards: Chateau de Villemonteix
Among Creuse, France destinations, Chateau de Villemonteix is one of the top sights. While many castles were destroyed by angry crowds in the late 1700s during the French Revolution, this one way out in the country was left alone. It’s stunning to see the castle from the outside. We were able to go inside and climb the tower. Caution: When we visited, the guided tour exceeded three hours – way too long!!
Aubusson: The Town Center
Like Gueret, Aubusson has an extensive “downtown” area – in fact, Aubusson’s business district may be the largest in Creuse. You’ll find a couple dozen restaurants and markets of various types. And make sure to cross the old stone bridge (Pont de la Terrade, built in 1641) and see the unique row of houses at the base of the hillside. Just stroll around here – there are lots of interesting things to do in Aubusson.
Aubusson: Medieval Clock Tower
For great views of Aubusson, head to the medieval clock tower. It’s only about a 10-minute walk up the hill from the heart of town. You may also see it referred to as Tour de L’Horloge.
Aubusson: Le Chapitre, the Chateau Ruins
Atop the city suits the ruins of Le Chapitre, a fortress built from the 11th to 13th centuries. Sadly, most of the chateau was torn down in the 1600s by order of Cardinal Richelieu, who decreed that its stones be repurposed to build Pont de la Terrade, the stone bridge that still stands.
Aubusson: International Tapestry Museum
For hundreds of years, Aubusson has been known as the home of tapestry. That legacy is honored with the Tapestry Museum, or “Cite internationale de la tapisserie.” It’s an excellent modern museum, so give yourself at least an hour to peruse the collection of centuries-old tapestries, as well as some newer pieces. There’s actually a tapestry from Picasso in the gallery! Who knew Picasso did tapestries?
Aubusson: Pierre des Fades Dolmen
Throughout Creuse, you can find several dolmen. These are ancient rock monuments with smaller rocks supporting a larger rock on top. We don’t know exactly why our predecessors created these structures, but many of them still exist in places like France and England. There’s a dolmen near Aubusson in a forest near Blessac. It’s a bit difficult to find, but there are signs.
Le Donzeil: La Pierre du Marteau – 3rd-century Roman Milestone
Nearly 2000 years ago, the Romans who ruled France set up a series of granite beams that served as mile markers on their roads. This one from the years 253 to 259 is still intact! Known as La Pierre du Marteau, it was used to mark the road between Ahun and Pontarion. It was discovered in 1880 and is tricky to find since it’s on a very distant country road. I’ll give you the exact GPS coordinates: Latitude 46.053871, longitude 2.011920.
La Soutteraine: Tour de Bridiers
The city of La Soutteraine is the place to go for a number of summer festivals. It also offers Etang Du Cheix, a lake suitable for outdoor recreation. But its most noteworthy attraction is probably the Tour (Tower) of Bridiers, a 12th-century remnant which offers some of the best views of the region. You can only climb the tower during the summer, but the garden is always open.
Toulx-Sainte-Croix: 11th-century Tower
Here’s another cool observation tower, in the small commune of Toulx-Sainte-Croux. This one was super windy when we climbed to the top and looked out upon the surrounding valley. Climbing the tower is free. During our visit, we were the only ones there.
Toulx-Sainte-Croix: Les Pierres Jaumatres Rock Formations
Just outside the town is a really cool area of stone megalith clusters. Unlike the dolmens, which were man-made, Les Pierres Jaumatres were formed naturally through glacial actions and erosion. After parking, you’ll have to walk 10 to 15 minutes to the rocks. Then you can climb and jump around on them. They reminded me of the Jumbo Rocks formations in Joshua Tree National Park.
Ahun: Old Church & Crypt
The town of Ahun has a 12th-century church built atop a 9th-century crypt. The crypt is still open – walk around to the side of the church and you’ll see the basement entrance. Walking around in a thousand-year-old crypt is freaky.
Sous-Parsat: Church With Modern Art Murals
After checking out numerous ancient churches in Creuse that looked like they hadn’t changed at all since the year 1300, it was jarring (in a fantastic way) to come across the Sous-Parsat Church. This tiny town (pop. 115) claims one of the most incredible churches in France. The interior of the church has been redecorated with frescoes painted in modern art style. The walls are bright blue, yellow, and red with murals showing Biblical scenes such as the crucifixion. It’s very impressive to witness. The images were painted by local artist Gabriel Chabrat.
Crozant: Crozant Castle Ruins
Of all the castles in Creuse, the one in Crozant was the most remarkable to me, even though very little of it remains intact. The fortress’s massive size and perfect location atop a hill surrounded by rivers would have given it a majestic and imposing stature back in its time. Seriously, it feels like it occupies an entire city block! These days, the ruins are still being excavated. For a small fee, you can enter the grounds and walk through the various structures and towers. Expect to share the space with a family of goats, who live on the nearby hillside.
Busseau sur Creuse: Viaduc de Busseau Bridge
Doesn’t this railway bridge look an awful lot like the Eiffel Tower? Some locals mistakenly believe that Viaduc de Busseau was designed by Gustave Eiffel himself. But while Eiffel did design many bridges, this one isn’t among them. Still, it’s cool to look at up close. It was built way back in 1863 and is now a historic monument.
Here’s kind of an oddball museum that tells the story of the life of a local woman, while also describing how to make liquor. Visitors learn about the history of the area and get to have a tasting of the local booze, Beneventine.
Moutier d’Ahun: Medieval Bridge
Check out this stone bridge from medieval times. It has several arches, and the road is only wide enough for one vehicle at a time.
Boussac: Chateau de Boussac
Here’s another 15th-century castle, and this one is still in excellent condition. In fact, its rooms have been updated with artifacts from previous centuries to make it appear back in that time. That includes old furniture and numerous Aubusson tapestries.
Bourganeuf: Churches, Castle, and Shops
The fourth-largest town in Creuse has a handful of sights to choose from, including two churches (12th and 15th century), the ruins of an old castle, and even an electricity museum. Bourganeuf also has a small business district, so it’s a good place to stop for coffee or lunch at a sidewalk café.
Felletin: Historic Buildings and Dolmens
Felletin is a town that has most of what we had already seen elsewhere – medieval bridges, churches, and two dolmens. I did find the buildings in Felletin to be slightly more visually appealing than those elsewhere, mainly because of the abundance of flowers in the garden near the church.
Places to Stay: Hotels in Creuse
If you’re venturing to this part of France, don’t expect to see any major hotel chains. Expect to stay in a smaller local hotel or bed and breakfast.
In Aubusson, I stayed at Hotel Le Chapitre. The rooms were fine, nothing special, but the beds were comfortable and the location was ideal.
My room at Hotel Le Chapitre was a sweet last-minute deal because I got it through booking.com. I always recommend using Booking because they do the best job of aggregating prices and availability for the hotels and bed and breakfast locations in Creuse.
Check out the Booking.com map below to check out the available Creuse hotels for your trip. The map is centered on Aubusson, but you can zoom out to view hotel prices for other nearby cities.
Airbnb is also a good option in this part of France. There aren’t a ton of listings, but the ones that are here are affordable. If you’ve never signed up for Airbnb, sign up through this link to receive $40 off your first booking (discount may vary depending on your location.)
And hey, we saw lots of businesses and houses for sale in Creuse and the Limousin region, so you have options if you enjoy the area so much that you want to move there!
FAQs about Traveling in Creuse
Do you need to speak French in Creuse?
You can get by without it. But Creuse isn’t exactly Paris. Meaning, a smaller percentage of people here speak English. Less than half. Having an ability to converse in French will be quite helpful. You can always use Google Translate if you’re completely stuck.
What’s the best time to visit Creuse?
Summer (June-September) has the best weather, with average highs in the 75 F (24 C) range. Spring and autumn are fine. Winter is generally ok to visit too, if you don’t mind chillier temperatures. Although the weather can get colder (highs around 40 F / 2 C), it doesn’t snow a whole lot in Creuse. Be prepared for a decent amount of rain at all times of the year.
Are there tourism offices in Creuse?
Yes, many small towns have tourism offices. However, they’re not always open. Creuse, France tourism is growing, but it still has a long way to go. My friend and I saw 5 tourism offices, but 4 of them were closed. In fact, this became a running joke, because every time we’d find a tourism office, it would be closed in the middle of the day with a sign on the door in French stating that it was “closed for an exceptional reason.” So you’ll need to do most of your planning ahead of time rather than relying on local tourism bureaus.
Is there any wildlife in Creuse?
Not a lot, especially if we don’t count the wolves in the Gueret sanctuary and the horses, sheep and Limousin cows on farms. We saw some interesting birds, deer, squirrels, and a vole or mouse near Les Pierres Jamautres. And of course, there were those goats in Crozant. The really interesting predators, like lynx and black bears, are only found in France in the southern end of the country, in the Pyrenees.
What foods is Creuse known for?
Stop into a bakery and pick up La Creusois, a cake made from hazelnuts and butter. That’s the famous dessert treat of the region. And of course there’s the Limousin beef, which can be found at markets or restaurants in the area. Beyond that, you’ll find typical French treats such as macarons and crepes.
Where should we eat in Creuse?
I’m not an expert on Creuse cuisine, but I will share some of the restaurants we visited.
In Gueret, we stopped in to Le Venitien for pizza. I was told I had to try French pizza. It was good, with a nice thin crust. But I was jealous of my friend’s giant heap of cheesy lasagna, which looked even better!
In Aubusson, we dined at Le Lissier since it was one of the few places still serving at 9 pm. They had a good selection of European foods, ranging from fish and chips to cheese fondue.
The most distinctly French meal we had was at a small main-street restaurant in Moutier d’Ahun called Le Marais. When we showed up for lunch, we didn’t get to choose our meal. Everyone gets the same four courses – whatever they feel like serving that day. We came on a good day. They served up a ham and cheese sauce appetizer, pork with mashed potatoes, a cheese plate, and a dessert cake. Delicious!
If you’re looking for American fast food, there is very little in Creuse. We found one McDonald’s in Gueret, and that was it. Apparently there’s another in La Souterraine.
If you want something quick and cheap while traveling through Creuse, stop into a grocery store (such as SPAR) and look for premade sandwiches or salads.
If you’ve ever visited Creuse and have more tips and suggestions to offer, please leave a comment!
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