Some 60km west of the Parc du Morvan, Nevers, on the confluence of the rivers Loire and Nièvre, is a strange place, where motorbikers and boy racers drawn to the Formula One racing ring at nearby Magny-Cours mingle in the streets with religious pilgrims come to pay their respects to Bernadette of Lourdes, gourmands attracted by the local nougatine sweets, and shoppers out to buy fine hand-painted pottery. Faïence, as it’s called, has been a hallmark of Nevers since the seventeenth century, and is painted in the deep colour known as bleue de Nevers; there’s a stunning new museum – the Musée de la Faïence et des Beaux Arts – celebrating the renowned earthenware, housed in the restored Abbaye de Notre Dame at 15 rue St-Genest.

Place Carnot is the hub of the centre; nearby, just above the tourist office you’ll find the fifteenth-century Palais Ducal, former home of the dukes of Nevers, which has octagonal turrets and a central tower adorned with elegantly carved hunting scenes. That aside, Nevers’ main attractions are its religious monuments, including the Cathédrale de St-Cyr and the late eleventh-century church of St-Étienne.

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