Poitiers lies on the Clain River in West Central France. Founded by the Gaulish Pictones tribe before the arrival of the Romans, the town of Poitiers has an interesting past. In 732, Charles Martel led a Christian army to victory over the Muslim leader Abd ar-Rahmarn here, permanently thwarting attempts to convert France to Islam. Poitiers was also the site of a major battle of the Hundred Years War: the Battle of Poitiers was fought in the area in 1356.

Today, it might seem difficult to believe that Poitiers has such a glorious past. The somewhat drab modern buildings are unlikely to capture the imagination of the first time visitor. Poitiers does, however, have its charms: bijoux open-air cafés, a pleasant park and the numerous historic churches and chapels of the old city present a stark contrast with the modern town. However, unless you have a predilection for medieval churches, Poitiers might be a more appropriate destination for a short visit than a longer holiday.


The most impressive building in Poitiers is probably the Église Notre Dame la Grande in the old town. The church was constructed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, during the reign of Eleanor. The outward facing walls, and particularly the west-facing wall, are lavishly decorated and ornate religious scenes have been carved into the doors. The 19th Century interior of the Church is less visually impressive. The church was renovated in 1996 to improve its defences against erosion caused by the salt which had begun to seep into the church grounds from the nearby salt merchant.

The Cathédrale St-Pierre boasts 12th Century stained glass windows depicting religious scenes including the Passion of Christ. The Cathedral is also home to an immense 18th Century organ, which is often used for concerts in the summer months. If your appetite for ancient churches has still not been satiated, visit the 4th Century Baptistiére St-Jean, which is thought to be the oldest Christian building in the country. Ancient murals adorn the walls, including an image of the Emperor Constantine.

If old churches do not interest you, try one of the myriad of open-air cafés, relax in the Parc de Blossac or take a walk along the River Clain towards Pont St-Cyprien. The Musée Ste-Croix, which seeks to educate its visitors about the history of Poitiers up until the end of the 19th Century, might also be of some interest. Exhibits include artefacts discovered in the area over the years, including pottery, sculptures and (perhaps somewhat less interestingly!) a variety of farming implements.

Alternatively, the cinema theme park Futuroscope, can be found in Jaunay-Clan, approximately 10 km north of Poitiers. Attractions include the Space Station Experience, which uses IMAX 3D technology to simulate the sensation of space walking outside the International Space Station. Fireworks and laser shows are often staged in the evenings.


Shopping opportunities are confined to what one would expect from a town of Poitiers' size. The large market on Place de Charles-de-Gaulle sells clothes and food between 7am and 6pm from Monday to Saturday and between 7.30am and 1pm on Sunday. A modern shopping centre has also been opened behind the Place du Maréchal Leclerc and there are a number of shops near the square in the town centre.

Nightlife and eating out

The areas around the Place du Maréchal Leclerc, and the Grand Rue are the best place to find bars and pubs. Nightlife in Poitiers is largely dominated by businesses trying to cater for the 24,000 students who attend the University of Poitiers. Cheap bars (mostly along the rue Carnot and Place de la liberté) and entertainment are therefore reasonably easy to come by in Poitiers. Concerts and similar events are well publicised by the student community, but the Youth Information Centre on rue Gambetta will also be able to offer advice on upcoming events.

The presence of so many students on a tight budget means that cheap meal deals and snacks are also common in the town. If your palate is accustomed to more sophisticated cuisine, you should not be disappointed: Poitiers has a number of high-class restaurants, serving both French and international food.

Tourist Information

The Tourist Office 45 Place de Charles-de-GaulleTel: +33 (0)5 49 41 21 24e-mail: accueil@ot-poitiers.frwww.tourisme.fr/tourist-office/poitiers.htm

Youth Information Centre 64 Rue GambettaTel: +33 (0)5 49 60 68 78


Poitiers has a small airport, which lies 2 miles west of the town.There is also a train station a few minutes walk away from the old town, with links to other French towns and cities, including Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Tours.

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