Poitiers is a true crossroads of history and culture. It is located in the Vienne department in the New Aquitaine region. Set between two green valleys, Poitiers has always been coveted for its strategic location and is a true melting pot of cultures, the former residence of the Counts-Dukes of Aquitaine.
At the gateway to Poitou, the capital of the Vienne is the ideal place to discover Romanesque art through its monuments: nicknamed the city of a hundred bell towers, Poitiers is one of the French cities with the richest historical and artistic heritage.
The most spectacular religious monument is undoubtedly the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame la Grande, a Romanesque masterpiece dating back to the 10th century and boasting an entirely sculpted façade.
Poitiers is also a dynamic and bubbly city and its lively atmosphere can be felt in the medieval streets: the café terraces gradually fill up, punctuated by the comings and goings of passers-by.
A walk through the city centre of Poitiers is always a moment full of surprises: you can admire architectural curiosities, pretty half-timbered houses, hotels particulier and beautiful residences. Do not hesitate to stop in front of the beautiful Hotel Fumé or the Hotel Berthelot.
It is very easy to visit Poitiers and its historic centre on foot. The heart of the city of Poitiers is essentially pedestrianised and by walking unhurriedly, you can discover a city of art and history and admire the richness of a heritage that seems to have defied all epochs.
Anchored in the heart of the city of Poitiers, this Romanesque church is a jewel of Romanesque art. Its finely sculpted façade reads like a picture book and tells the story of the Bible, the apostles, the bishops and finally the life of Christ. In addition, some of the sculptures represent ordinary motifs of Romanesque art: foliage, bestiaries, medallions composed of grimacing characters and fantastic animals.
The interior is also very interesting: remains of Romanesque paintings can be contemplated at the level of the choir vault and crypt, painted in oil on plaster. Above the choir, an authentically Romanesque fresco depicts the Apocalypse. Most of the wall decoration inside the building dates back to 1850. The columns and vaults have been repainted with Roman-Byzantine motifs and the stalls at the nave level are partly from the Renaissance period.
Every summer evening, the Polychromies de Notre-Dame (light projections) by Ateliers Skertzo illuminate its various sculptures, highlighting all the details and taking spectators back in time.
With the great hall and the Maubergeon tower, the palace of the Counts of Poitou-Dukes of Aquitaine is today one of the most remarkable architectural complexes of the Middle Ages in France.
The name Maubergeon, which still qualifies the medieval keep today, derives from the mall-berg, the ancient Merovingian court. Shortly after the year 1000, a new palace was built, leaning against the ancient ramparts and completed around 1100 by a first tower, the remains of which can be seen in Joan of Arc Square. Surrounded by moats, it became the residence of the Counts of Poitou-Dukes of Aquitaine.
The great reception hall was rebuilt by the Plantagenets just before 1200: known as the Salle des Pas Perdus, with its vast dimensions and Angevin-style décor (blind arcades, capitals), it is the most important room in the Palace.
From the 13th century, the palace took on administrative functions. It underwent new developments around 1380, at the instigation of Jean de Berry: the Maubergeon tower was rebuilt, private connections were added to the east, a new gable wall encloses the great hall, pierced by large windows above monumental sculpted chimneys.
After the French Revolution, the former count’s palace was permanently converted into a court until 2019. Today, the Salle des pas perdus of the Palais and some of its interior parts are accessible every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., free of charge, while the Maubergeon Tower can be visited free of charge on Wednesday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and at weekends from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Built on the initiative of Aliénor d’Aquitaine and Henri II Plantagenêt from 1160 onwards, the Saint-Pierre Cathedral, exceptional for its size, its church-like shape and its flat apse, is by far the most impressive monument in Poitiers.
It is in the Angevin Gothic style, with the exception of the façade: with its rose window and three sculpted portals, it follows the influence of the Gothic of the Île de France. Don’t miss the large Romanesque stained-glass windows, including the 12th-century Crucifixion window (exceptional for its size and composition), the oldest Gothic stalls in Europe (mid-13th century) and the large Clicquot organ that has retained its original mechanism.
In addition, some ancient wall paintings were recently discovered in the south transept of the building. They are a treasure trove of Gothic art of a quality and size that is unique in France: scenes from the Bible, saints, angels, the coronation of the Virgin, floral decorations, animals, all painted according to the codes of the time, with bright colours, reds, blues, greens obtained from often precious pigments.
In this museum, regional archaeology is represented from prehistoric times, with beautiful Palaeolithic engravings from the Grotte de la Marche.Gallo-Roman antiquity introduces the visitor to the city of Pictons, while sculpted sarcophagi bear witness to Late Antiquity and the High Middle Ages.
A beautiful series of sculptures recalls the extraordinary splendour of the Romanesque workshops in Poitou. In the Fine Arts Department, the tour revolves around painted and sculpted works from the 14th to the mid-20th century.
The great artistic currents of the 19th century, Neoclassicism, Orientalism, Ingrism, Symbolism invite the visitor to the works of Camille Claudel. The beginning of the 20th century is brilliantly illustrated by modern art with great artists such as Bonnard, Vuillard, Sisley, Marquet.
The Saint-Jean baptistery is the oldest Christian monument in Europe preserved to this day. The last Merovingian vestige in Poitiers, the architectural ensemble frames a baptismal pool and houses Romanesque paintings and sculpted sarcophagi.
Indeed, inside, you can admire an ancient octagonal-shaped baptismal pool, later used for immersion baptism until the 8th century. This monument, which became a parish church in the 11th-12th and 13th centuries, was adorned with a fine set of Romanesque and Gothic wall paintings. A remarkable collection of Merovingian sarcophagi is also on display.
The Renaissance-inspired building is characterised by a U-shaped ground plan and a façade flanked by side pavilions. The centre is visually accentuated by the presence of the main door, surmounted by a loggia, a clock and the bell tower.
Inside, the vestibule opens onto a monumental staircase, reminiscent of that of the Opéra Garnier: it stages the visitor’s ascent to the loggia. The two large canvases by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes from 1874 form the centrepiece of an abundant sculpted and painted decoration. They are dedicated to two episodes in the history of Poitevin: the battle of Charles Martel and Sainte Fortunat reading poetry to Sainte Radegonde in Sainte Croix Abbey.
In the salon d’honneur (former ballroom), the decorated stained-glass window depicts Eleanor of Aquitaine confirming the statute of the commune in 1199. The ceremonial halls (wedding hall, town hall and former council chamber) are also decorated with numerous large paintings.
To understand why Poitiers is nicknamed the city of 100 steeples, head to Notre-Dame-des-Dunes for a breathtaking view of the city centre.
Overlooking the bed of the Clain, the site allows the visitor to appreciate at a glance a large urban expanse, structured by the main monuments of Poitiers, punctuated by grey slate or red tile roofs.
Accessible by city bus, the panorama is also served by a staircase that starts near the Joubert bridge.
Since the summer of 2018, the old sawmill on the island of Tison has offered a new place for relaxation, walking and fun on the banks of the Clain, connected by a floating footbridge.
It was one of the last industrial lands, degraded and desolate, and the municipality realised its desire to make it a paradise for walks and picnics on the water. The floating walkway is almost invisible, giving walkers the feeling of walking on water. The benches installed around the perimeter act as belvederes in the middle of the waterway. The footbridge also serves as a pier and connects the 3 Cités and Mérigotte districts to the city centre.
Opposite Île Jouteau, the sawmill, abandoned more than 30 years ago, lives again thanks to activities and cultural events throughout the year.
Part of the great urban planning and beautification works carried out from 1750 onwards in Poitiers, this French-style park was created on the initiative of the Count of Blossac, intendant of Poitou.
The Parc de Blossac, created at the end of the 17th century, consists of a magnificent 9-hectare terrace located above the Clain de Poitiers valley.
It consists of several gardens that create great perspectives. The French-style garden, very geometric, influenced by the style of the great gardeners of the reign of Louis XIV, was embellished with an orchestra box, a fountain and two sculptures by Antoine Etex.
The English garden, with its abundant foliage, creates plays of volume and colour. Water is a strong element with grottoes, fountains and an artificial river.
The garden of shade and light is surmounted by a large pergola of flowers and foliage, chosen for their dark colours contrasting with one of bright, light colours.
Le Grand Pré is a verdant theatre overlooking a vast sunlit meadow: it hosts the fireworks display on 14 July and the big summer concerts, while the rock garden, at the base of the Blossac ramparts, has been enhanced by the presence of plants mingling with the rock. Finally, the zoo is home to many animals: chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, parakeets and many other specimens.
The famous Futuroscope park, located north of the city of Poitiers, opens its doors to its 40 attractions , which are constantly evolving, and its night show.
Since its opening in 1987, the Parc du Futuroscope has never stopped innovating and pushing the limits of the extraordinary: a completely crazy bet, imagined to revive a rural department with an incredible success of more than 50 million visitors.
It is a unique theme park, both entertaining and educational and scientific with attractions and activities involving space, the human body, new technologies and futuristic concepts. With attractions in a variety of styles, from the most sensational to the most accessible and entertaining, and with its shows, films and discovery areas, it is a true voyage of discovery into wonderful worlds. It combines technology, innovation, travel and discovery.
Between pleasure and strong sensations, Futuroscope offers adrenalin-fuelled thrills, dazzling shows, interactive and sensory adventures for all ages.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
With almost 90,000 inhabitants, Poitiers, also nicknamed ‘The City of a Hundred Belfries’ or ‘The City of a Hundred Churches’, is the most populated city in the Vienne region.
With its historical monuments and half-timbered houses, Poitiers has many surprises in store: it is a dynamic and pleasant city.
Finding a hotel in the historic centre of Poitiers guarantees that you will be able to visit the many architectural gems and cultural activities. This district is also animated daily by the Notre-Dame market and one can find many shops and cafés. It is here that Poitiers’ nightlife and the city’s best restaurants are concentrated.
Between the old town and the Clain river, this district is full of memories of ancient and medieval times. It is also home to the University of Poitiers, which livens up a rather quiet neighbourhood and brings its own dynamic touch.
With more than 27,000 students, Poitiers is the second largest university centre in the region after Bordeaux, its capital. Those in search of nightlife will not miss the two discotheques in the area, The Room Club and La Luna.
If you want to stay somewhere picturesque and quiet, the bishop’s quarter is the ideal place to sleep in Poitiers. The old Grand’Rue will lead you through the typical streets of Poitiers to the city’s major buildings, such as the majestic Saint-Pierre Cathedral or the Saint-Jean Baptistery, one of the oldest Christian monuments.
From this district, you can also reach the Belvédère des Dunes, accessible by the staircase from the Joubert Bridge.
Located south of the city centre, the Saint-Hilaire district is the perfect place to look at Poitiers with new eyes: all eras and styles are represented in one place, with the futuristic-looking theatre-auditorium or the Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand church, a monument of Romanesque art classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For a green break, make a diversion to the Parc de Blossac: its 10 hectares await young and old for a breath of fresh, rejuvenating air.
This district is the largest in Poitiers and is ideal for those planning to visit the Futuroscope. In fact, the Quartier Ouest, which includes the Bel-Air, Les Rocs and République districts, is less than ten kilometres from the station and about fifteen kilometres from the amusement park.
Its proximity to the ring road and the Poitiers-Biard airport makes it a dynamic district for those who wish to move around frequently during their stay.
This district is famous for its emblematic Sunday market. Perfect for those looking for local produce and good food, Les Couronneries is the cosmopolitan district of Poitiers but also the smallest in the city.
The lively city of Poitiers is 330 km from Paris, 220 km from Bordeaux, 130 km from La Rochelle, and 100 km from Tours. After hiring your car directly at Nantes Airport, you can reach Poitiers in just over 2 hours. Alternatively, you can land at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport or Paris Orly Airport, which are 4 hours and 3 hours and 30 minutes away respectively.
Located 1 hour 15 minutes from Paris, 55 minutes from Bordeaux, 3 hours 50 minutes from Lyon and 3 hours from Lille, Poitiers is served by the TGV Atlantique and LGV, with one station in the city centre and another at the Parc du Futuroscope. In addition, a TER line connects Poitiers to Futuroscope Park in less than 10 minutes.
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Poitiers is located in the New Aquitaine region just 330 km from Paris and 220 from Nantes.