Places to visit in Poitiers

Poitiers Airport is otherwise known as the Poitiers-Biard Airport, due to its location in the small town of Biard, and is just 2.4km from the city of Poitiers. Poitiers is a commune of the Vienne department of France that is well known for its wide variety of attractions, and the city itself welcomes its visitors with many wonderful places to explore. Amidst its charming city atmosphere, Poitiers attractions range from interesting museums and religious buildings to beautiful parks and gardens. It is a surprisingly rich historical territory as well, and some fabulous buildings await almost around every corner. A modern attraction ideal for the whole family, and just a few kilometres from the city, is the Futuroscope theme park, featuring cutting-edge audio-visual technology and an amazing array of exhibits, shows and other attractions.

The city of Poitiers lies in west central France, and boasts a population of over 90,000 people. It is located in the Poitou-Charentes region of the country, and on the Seuil du Poitou, a shallow gap between the Armorican and the Central Massif. Through the city runs the Clain river, which makes for a lovely setting, and its centre can be described as picturesque, featuring a significant number historical remains. The majority of the city’s historic architectural features are from the Romanesque period. Poitiers was founded by the Celtic Pictones, and used to be called Pictavium. For this reason, many of the people who live in the city call themselves Pictaviens (male) or as Pictaviennes (female). Poitiers was also nearby the locations of two major military battles. One was the Battle of Poitiers, or otherwise known as the Battle of Tours, led by Charles Martel.

The city of Poitiers is similar to many other French cities, in that it has a great variety of vibrant bars and restaurants, and many cafés which are enjoyed by the local people. The city also has quite a ‘young’ population, as one in three residents are under the age of thirty, and one in four people are students. Poitiers is one of the largest student cities in the country. Many shopping opportunities are available as well. Perhaps the largest attraction of Poitiers is the large theme park known as Futuroscope. It is located approximately ten kilometres, or six miles north of the city and offers a huge variety of exhibits, amazing and entertaining shows and an uncountable number of other attractions. The park has over thirty experiences which are designed to bring fun and thrills to the whole family, and the whole Parc du Futuroscope is based on cutting-edge audio-visual technology. It is often considered as quite unique to the usual theme park experience. A number of animal parks are found in this region of France as well, including the Valley of the Monkeys, The Giant of the Sky in the medieval city of Chauvigny, the Planet of the crocodiles and Snake Island.

In Poitiers there are a couple of lovely parks and gardens which make the ideal places for a picnic, or simply for some time out from a busy schedule. One of the largest and most popular is the Blossac Park, covering an area of almost ten hectares, and consists of French-style gardens, English gardens, pathways, a vast area for sporting events and festivities and a small zoo, with birds, miniature goats, fish etc. In general, this park is a lovely outing for families. The Rose Garden is a an elegant 3.5 hectare flower garden created in 1973, with four hundred varieties of roses, and the La Petite Villette Garden is at the Clain river, and is therefore the ideal spot to take advantage of the riverside. Poitiers has a botanical garden as well, which was founded in the fifteenth century, and features a large quantity of medicinal, aromatic and alimentary plants that are all classified and labelled. It also has a greenhouse with species of cacti and orchids.

Religious buildings of note in Poitiers include the Poitiers Cathedral, or the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Poitiers, the Church of Saint-Jean-de-Montierneuf, the Church of Notre-Dame-la-Grande, the Church of Saint-Germain, the Church of Saint-Hilaire, the Church of Saint-Porchaire and the Church of Sainte-Radegonde. The Poitiers Cathedral is the city’s largest medieval monument, and is built in the Romanesque and early Gothic styles. It features three naves which are of similar height and width, and a central vaulted roof 89 feet in height. The church began its construction in 1162, and was quite well completed by the end of the twelfth century. From the thirteenth century, the church has unfinished side-towers. The Poitiers Cathedral also boasts some of the oldest choir stalls in France. Other buildings of note in Poitiers, which may be considered as historical attractions, include the town hall, or the L’Hôtel de Ville, the town houses and fine homes that are privately owned found in various sections of the city, for example, down the Chemins de Notre-Dame paths, and the Palace, which is the present day site of the Law Courts. It was built as a residence for the Counts of Poitou-Dukes of Aquitaine around the year 1080.

Historical parts of the city to explore include the Episcopal Quarter, with the blue path as an ideal first discovery of Poitiers’ past. It passes many of the splendid historical and religious buildings mentioned, for example, the Notre-Dame-la-Grande. The Montierneuf Quarter with the yellow path along the rue de la Chaîne passes through an old neighbourhood which was the first protected historical sector in Poitiers. The Saint-Hilaire Quarter with the red path explores the top of the plateau, following pedestrian streets, and then leaves the city centre. Two museums of interest in Poitiers are the Musee Rupert de Chievres and the Musee Saint Croix. The second-mentioned was built in 1974, and displays a collection of art and archaeology, and the first is located in the heart of the city, and focuses on the history of Poitiers.

Additional Poitiers attractions of note are the Espace Mendes France, a centre of scientific, technical and industrial space and a truly unique planetarium, and the Caves of the Nore, found just a few miles from Poitiers. The caves are the only natural cavities of the department which are open to the public, and have been a classified site since 1934.

Poitiers attractions in further detail are available from the information desks in Poitiers Airport.