What is there to see in Poitiers?

Poitiers is a city with plenty of history to look up,so if you are interested in history, then be prepared to spend a few days.

First signs of life can be seen at the 'plateau des Dunes' to the east, where there is a huge stone raised onto smaller stone pillars, known as 'le dolmen de la Pierre levée'probably a burial site constructed around 5000 years ago.

The Romans moved in about 50 BC and it was them that founded the 'civitas', the city which ran an area within the Aquitaine province. For two centuries they created a network of roads, aqueducts, temples, spas and an amphitheatre. To see relics of this era, pay a visit to the Saint-Croix museum which bear witness to Poities being an important centre for trade, inhabited by many rich lords. To find sections of the amphitheatre, take a walk down the roads Bourcani, Petit-Bonneveau and the Arenes-Romaines.

In the Square of the Palais de Justice, you can see foundations created by the Roman emire dating from the 4th Century. The wall 10m tall, 6 meters wide, continues for 2.6km. This wall may have been built to protect the city from 'les barbares', the barbarians.

But Poitiers is known more for its medieval history, the golden age for the region Poitevin and much of the architecture is medieval, with gorgeous half timbered streets, and occasionally you'll come across gothic and renaissance architecture too.

Added to that, the parks and the river which runs through the city, it’s a lovely day out - let's take a walk ...

Musée Sainte-Croix : The biggest museum in the city is in what looks like a concrete submarine base, but inside check out the archaeology department because the museum is built over the 7th-century Abbey of Sainte-Croix.

Baptistère Saint-Jean: The oldest Christian church in France, built in the 4th century and then altered in the 7th century to its present form. When it came to baptism, there’s no discreet font, but a large octagonal pool in which people were totally immersed.

Go shopping in Poitiers and you're sure to pass the discreet bell tower of the Église Saint-Porchaire.

Église Notre-Dame la Grande : This 11th-century church is an incredible piece of art sculptured into stone which was originally painted. During the summer and at the end of the year, you can revisit the original colours thanks to the workshop of artist Skertzo.

Grande Salle – Palais de Poitiers : If you haven't got time to do the whole tour, then make sure to visit 'la grande halle'. Free entry to an immense hall, known as the Salle des Pas Perdus' of 50m x 17m with three enormous fireplaces, where one would hold audience with the counts and dukes.

One of the most memorable streets in Poitiers is Rue de la Chaîne, full of timber framed medieval houses with old iron gaslights suspended over the middle of the street.

Follow it up the hill and it turns into Rue René Descartes, on which you’ll be taken aback by the majestic, curving facade of Hôtel Fumé. A flamboyant gothic mansion built in the 15th and 16th centuries by the city’s mayor - it now houses the university’s humanities department.

Place du Maréchal-Leclerc : The principal square in Poitier’s cente takes you away from the narrow medieval streets, into an open space full of benches and cafes, from which to admire the Belle Époque and art deco buildings, particularly the facade of the Société Générale which dates from 1928 and the former municipal theatre built in 1954 in an art deco revival style.

The Hotel de Ville (City Hall) is a bit older, from the mid-1800s during the Second Empire – if possible, coincide your visit with one of their occasional open weekends when you can explore the salons and grand staircase.

On an ecological note, and faced with climate change, Poitiers has promised to plant 10,000 trees and shrubs in the city, and create several urban forests.

Jardin des Plantes: A complete change from architecture, take a stroll in this soothing botanical garden. The park has 150 species of exotic plants in its greenhouse, most with medicinal properties. The park was established by the university’s faculty of medicine, all the way back in 1621, which explains the medicinal link. The rest of the garden is a typical English style park with a pond, waterfall and winding paths in woodland scattered with unusual trees like an Atlas cedar and an American bald cypress.

Parc de Blossac: In the mid 18th-century the Count of Blossac wanted to rid Poitiers of its medieval image and commissioned wide boulevards and open spaces, and one example is this Park, skirted by some of the old city walls.

From the park take the Chemin de la Cagouillere footpath down to the bank of the River Clain.

Most of the park has French-style borders, with straight avenues beside topiaries, but my favourite part is the traditional English garden with it’s perennial flowerbeds, an ornamental river, statues and a grotto.

Poitiers is about 30 minutes from Moulin de la Cueille, where tourist guide books are available to help you prepare your own visit to Poitiers.


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