Poitiers in the Poitou - Charentes

Poitiers is a lovely city in Poitou-charentes. It is the capital of the Vienne department. Poitiers has a very pretty center with beautiful churches, atmospheric streets, cozy terraces and an interesting history. The historic center of Poitiers has loads of old half-timbered houses in picturesque streets, making the rich history and special character of the city clearly visible.

History of Poitiers

Poitiers has a rich history with many wars and conquests. In the past, Celts, Romans and Franks lived there. In Roman times and the Middle Ages, impressive buildings were erected. The time of Eleanor of Aquitaine during the twelfth century is very well-known. She was one of the most influential women in Europe at the time. During this period Poitiers city wall was built. Poitiers plays an important role in the region in economic, administrative and religious matters. It is also a well-known stop on the route to Santiago de Compostela. Poitiers is best known for the battle of Poitiers which took place in 732 when Charles Martel defeated the Mohammedans who wanted to advance north. The Battle of Poitiers is considered one of the fifteen most decisive battles in world history.

City Hall Hotel de Ville

Poitiers Town Hall is a striking building on a large square. Built between 1869 and 1875, the Hotel de Ville is easy to see from the many terraces around the square and shows something of the grandeur of Poitiers. Part of the town hall is open to visitors. The Salon d'Honneur, the former ballroom, is very beautiful and imposing.

Notre-Dame la Grande

One of the most important sights in the city is notre-dame la grande. This church is one of the most beautiful Romanesque buildings in France. The church is decorated with beautiful statues and has a colorful interior with murals and decorations. During summer evenings the church is illuminated with multiple colors known as the "Polychromies".

Notre Dame des Clefs

The statue behind the main altar, "Notre Dame des Clefs", was made to honor the rescue of the city in 1202. The English besieged Poitiers. They bribed a high official to steal the mayors keys to the city. When he sneaked into the room at night to steal the keys, they were no longer there. A little later, the mayor also discovered that the keys had disappeared. He feared that treason was involved and decided to pray for a miracle in church. There he found the keys to the statue of Mary. The English understood that by divine intervention they had no chance of conquering the city and lifted the siege. This history is told in the stained glass windows and on a table dating back to the seventeenth century.

Saint-Hilaire le Grand

The church "Saint-Hilaire le Grand" was built in the eleventh century for the many pilgrims who were on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Originally it consisted of 3 "naves" with wooden ceilings but this was destroyed by a fire in the twelfth century. During the restoration the people had decided they wanted to place stone vaults in the church and the naves to be narrower. This resulted in a church with seven naves. The pillars are covered in beautiful sculptures and carvings. One of carvings shows the deathbed of Hilarius of Poitiers who brought the region into contact with Christianity.


The church Saint-Porchaire is a building from the eleventh century. The western part of this building still stands and is decorated with Romanesque capitals. All sorts of biblical scenes are depicted on the capitals such as Daniel being rescued from the lion's den.

Palais des Comtes de Poitou

The dukes of the Aquitiane used to live in this palace and it has also been used as a courthouse. The different rooms are open to visitors. The special ceremonial hall is a must see.

Baptistery of Saint John

The Baptistery of Saint John was built around 360 and is the oldest Christian structure in France. These days the baptistery is a museum which exhibits unique Merovingian sarcophagi from the 5th  to the 7th century, octagonal baptismal fonts which are used for baptism by immersion, and various murals from the 12th century.

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The prettiest markets of Poitiers

The Marché de Notre-Dame market hall is located right next to Notre-Dame la Grande Church. This covered market hall is open from Tuesday to Saturday. There are many different stalls selling local produce. You can also have something to eat there. Outside, on the square in front of Notre-Dame la Grande, there is also often a market. Vegetables, fruit and souvenirs are sold there.

Another nice market is on the "Square de la République". Every Friday there is a market and products are sold from the local farmers.

Food & Drink in Poitiers

The cuisine in Poitou-Charente is varied. The lamb of Poitou, the goat cheese Chabichou and the wine from the Haut-Poitou, the wine region northwest of Poitiers, are very well-known produces from the area. Poitiers has many restaurants where you can enjoy French cuisine.

Shopping in Poitiers

You can go shopping in Poitiers. There are several indoor shopping centers in the suburbs. The Grand'Rue and the streets that surround it is where you will find most of the shops. The buildings in the Grand'Rue date back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Parks and gardens in Poitiers

Poitiers has several parks and gardens that are worth visiting. The Parc de Blossac is located in the center of the city and was built in the 18th century. The park is a collection of French and English gardens. There are thousands of flower species in the Rose Garden. The Jardin des Plantes is also located near the city centre. This garden has centuries-old trees and a tropical greenhouse, perfect for a nice walk. The Jardin des Sens on the banks of the Clain is also worth a visit.

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