Poitiers France - French Destinations


Poitiers used to be the capital of Poitou, the region with the most sunflower-fields-per-capita in France. From a distance it does not look all that inviting, towers and office blocks jutting out of the flat plains, but the pedestrianized shopping precinct and snaking streets in the town make for appealing sightseeing. Poitiers sits on a hilltop with two rivers, the Clain and the Boivre, running around it.

Map of Poitiers

The town has a rich history: it was the seat of the Ducs d'Aquitaine and in 732AD the French defeated Cordoban forces and their attempt to conquer France in a field near the town. Today this is evident in the tapestry of different architectural fashions and there are some lovely gardens to boot. Just out of town is the cinema theme park Futuroscope, which has 21 innovative attractions based on cinema and 3-D technology, not plot or artistic filmmaking.

The main square in Poitiers is place du Maréchal Leclerc, full of cafés and lined with trees, and then there are higgledy-piggledy streets with half-timbered houses leading north to the market square of place Charles-de-Gaulle. Nearby is the Église Notre-Dame-la-Grande, one of Poitiers' fine examples of ecclesiastical architecture. Work started on it during Eleanor of Aquitaine's reign in the 12th century and the Romanesque church is one of France's finest, so if churches aren't your thing, you should at least see this one. The western façade is particularly elaborately decorated and retains its beauty in contrast to the overdone 19th-century frescoes inside.

There are numerous hotels in Poitiers on the boulevard du Grand Cerf near the station, but the area is not great. Better accommodation and surroundings can be found up the hill towards the old town. There is the Hôtel du Plat d'Étain at 7 rue du Plat d'Étain (05 49 41 04 80) near the main shopping area with rooms from €55-70. Alternatively the Hôtel du Chapon Fin at 11 rue Lesbasdes (05 49 88 02 97) has a great location and rooms with showers from €40-55.

All sorts of cuisine is on offer in Poitiers and many of the restaurants come recommended, no matter what sort of food you prefer. The rue Carnot leading south from place du Maréchal Leclerc has several good establishments, including Le St Nicholas at number 7 (05 49 41 44 48) with traditional menus from €13-18, or the Allain Boutin at number 65 (05 49 88 25 53) with regional dishes on menus from €14. The rue Carnot is also the place to head for live music and nightlife, as this is where the students tend to hang out.

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