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Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Vienne

Poitiers - Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Vienne

Former capital of Poitou, the city of Poitiers possesses a rich architectural and religious heritage. Key monument of the historic centre, the Notre-Dame-la-Grande church of the 11th and 12th centuries constitutes a remarkable example of Romanesque art, with its magnificent carved facade dating from the 12th century. Every evening in the summer and during the Christmas holidays, a magnificent light show named Polychromies, restores the bright colours that used to decorate the sculptures on the facade of the church. A magic moment not to be missed...

The visit of Poitiers continues with the imposing Saint-Pierre cathedral, a Gothic building of the 12th and 13th centuries; the Saint-Jean baptistery, one of the most ancient Christian buildings in France; the Palais de Justice (law courts), former palace of the counts of Poitou and the dukes of Aquitaine.

Besides its prestigious monuments, Poitiers abounds with charming narrow streets and lively squares where it is lovely to wander around and pause at one of the numerous cafe and restaurant terraces. Along the stroll, walkers can also admire numerous old houses and mansions, such as the Fumé mansion, the Jehan de Beaucé mansion and the Pélisson mansion.

There is also a good choice of interesting museums, including Sainte-Croix museum with its archaeology and fine art collections, the Rupert de Chièvres museum, which houses 15th- to 18th-century paintings and objets d'art, and the Espace Pierre Mendès France, which puts on science-related exhibitions and special events.

Additional information

Poitiers is the capital of the department of Vienne, former "capital" of the region Poitou-Charentes before its integration in New Aquitaine.

In the heart of west-central France, 220 km north of Bordeaux, Poitiers has just over 90,300 inhabitants (nearly 130,000 with its conurbation).

On a military and commercial passage between the Paris Basin and the Aquitaine Basin, west of the Massif Central, Poitiers and its surroundings are known to have been the setting for three major battles: in 507 between Clovis and the Visigoths, 732 between Charles Martel and the Arabs, then in 1356 between John II the Good and the English, masters of the city for twenty years in the fourteenth century.

A stronghold of Christendom since the early Middle Ages, which gave it the nickname of "city with a hundred steeples", while surrounded by fortified walls, Poitiers develops under the dynasty of the counts of Poitou and dukes of Aquitaine, Before embellishing under the Renaissance and hosting a reputable university.

Having preserved its architectural heritage, labeled City of Art and History, Poitiers is also known for the Futuroscope, initiated in the 1980s, a tourist and technological area located however on the communes of its periphery (Jaunay-Clan and Chasseneuil- Poitou): its attractiveness benefited the city, whose heritage had not been impacted by the industrialization of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Things to see and do

As its nickname indicates, Poitiers first offers the visitor an important built heritage religious.

The chronological order will begin with the Baptistery Saint John, considered one of the oldest Christian edifices. Ancient Roman house, it was endowed from the fourth century of a vat so that the baptisms take place by immersion. Later are added a transept and an apse.

Also to see the vestiges of the abbey Sainte-Croix (VIe).

Dating from the Romanesque period, note among others the church of Sainte-Radegonde (11th) and the church Notre-Dame-la-Grande (11th) and its astonishing bell towers. Still to see the church Saint-Porchaire (XIe), where was deposited one of the oldest bells of France (XVth).

In addition, the church of Saint-Hilaire de la Celle (12th century) is now the regional center of pedagogical documentation and the church of Saint-Germain the regional conservatory.

And there is no mention of buildings with only a few traces or walls.

A must-see, however, is the Gothic-style Saint-Pierre-et-Paul Cathedral (12th, 15th) and its magnificent stained glass window depicting the Crucifixion.

The Chapel of the Cordeliers (XIIIth), other churches of the XVIIth century or the old chapel of the college of the brothers of Saint-Gabriel (1880) integrated in the hotel of region are also among the innumerable elements of the religious patrimony of Poitiers valant a deviation.

In another place, the vestiges of the wall raised by Eleanor of Aquitaine and its towers or those of the castle initiated by Philippe Auguste are to be seen.

On the residential level, Poitiers is full of old mansions and public buildings testifying to its illustrious political and commercial past.

The palace of the counts of Poitou (12th century) and its former donjon, now a palace of Justice, and its Renaissance houses, most of which are now annexed to the university, will form part of a tour of the city center. Finally, it will include the Grande Poste (Art Nouveau style, 20th century).

Obviously, this route can be carried out freely or by following the thematic routes available (information on +33 5 49 41 21 24).

In the neighborhoods, or to take a break, we will appreciate the various green spaces dotting the city. One thinks of the park of Blossac, created in the XVIIIe near the medieval ramparts. Of French style, it was attached to him at the end of XIXe an English garden. A walk also allows to admire several statues and to discover a small animal park.

Another natural "lung" is the Jardin des Plantes, near the old Hôtel Dieu.

A stop at Poitiers must finally include visiting its quality museums.

The Sainte-Croix museum, a contemporary concrete and glass building built in 1974, offers permanent collections in the form of an artistic panorama ranging from Antiquity to the present day. One can admire the major works of Camille Claudel.

In the heart of the old town, the Rupert museum in Chièvres focuses on the period from the 16th to the 18th century.

Finally, the Hypogeum of Mellebaude is an old funerary chapel dating from the High Middle Ages. There are many "Palaeo-Christian" works. This unique space - fragile and in the course of restoration - is open to the public only a few days a year. Information on +33 5 49 41 21 24.

In a completely different way, note that many hiking trails (on foot or by bicycle) crisscross the town and its surroundings, and that seven swimming pools (some discoveries in summer) are available for amateurs: join the +33 5 49 41 21 24.

Places of interest

Information points
Leisure centres
Performance halls

Events and festivities

In addition to the thematic events taking place at the Futuroscope, on intramural Poitiers, intended especially for the strong student community, many festivals mark the calendar.

This is the case in January of the Electro Weekend electro music festival.

In February, in ten days, the Filmer le Travail festival offers works of fiction or documentaries on the theme of social reality (projections in the different cinemas of the city).

Over three days, the Chamber Music Days offer concerts that sometimes take place in "unusual" places.

In March, the Voix publics festival brings together concerts, exhibitions and meetings on themes inviting debate and reflection.

In April, the A Corps festival offers contemporary choreographic performances for the general public.

In the media library, the editors offer the opportunity to meet authors and publishers.

In June, Jazz at Poitiers offers a varied programming.

Jazz again during July and August with Roaming: musicians perform in some abbeys and churches.

In October, hip-hop festival and expression festival in downtown where young talents have carte blanche.

In December, finally, the Poitiers Film Festival is the opportunity for the young talent of the school of cinema of the city to make itself known.


Notre Dame and Tourist Office (© Daniel Proux City Poitiers)
Notre Dame and Tourist Office (© Daniel Proux City Poitiers)
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Notre Dame Market (© Alain Montaufier - Tourist Office Poitiers)
Notre Dame Market (© Alain Montaufier - Tourist Office Poitiers)
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Poitiers (© Alain Montaufier - Tourist Office Poitiers)
Poitiers (© Alain Montaufier - Tourist Office Poitiers)
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Tour - Baptistery Saint-Jean (© Maud Piderit)
Tour - Baptistery Saint-Jean (© Maud Piderit)
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St. Peter's Cathedral (© JE)
St. Peter's Cathedral (© JE)
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Notre-Dame la Grande (© JE)
Notre-Dame la Grande (© JE)
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Choir of Notre-Dame la Grande (© JE)
Choir of Notre-Dame la Grande (© JE)
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Notre-Dame la Grande (© JE)
Notre-Dame la Grande (© JE)
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Palace of the Counts of Poitou (© JE)
Palace of the Counts of Poitou (© JE)
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