Grand Poitiers is home to centuries of medieval history, wild forests and outstanding gastronomy. In this article, we explore the top ten reasons to visit Grand Poitiers from beautiful golf courses to tasty cheesecake.
1. Eleanor of Aquitaine (and Richard the Lionheart)
This year, we celebrate 900 years since Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France and then of England, was born. Events have been organised all summer around this anniversary but the imprint of their royal passage in Poitiers is visible all year round – notably at the Palais des Comtes de Poitou where the Dukes of Aquitaine resided and the Saint-Pierre Cathedral.
2. Activities for the whole family
Vélorail in Chauvigny, boat rides on the Clain, a falconry show in the ruins of the Château des Evêques in Chauvigny, escape games in Poitiers, there’s plenty for the whole family to enjoy whether you’re looking for a slow start to the day or a more energetic excursion.
Terra Aventura is a free app, available in English, that offers visitors treasure hunts based on local specificities so you can explore the area while having fun, whether you are with family, friends, or alone.
3. A very present medieval past
In Poitiers, you’ll find half-timbered houses, remarkable monuments, paved pedestrian streets, and more.
The nearby town of Chauvigny also holds many historical treasures. Its five castles are all grouped on the same rocky outcrop, making it a unique visit. Each year, it holds a medieval fair at the end of August with events all weekend – watch a medieval ball or get hands-on by learning one of the many medieval games on offer.
4. Local gastronomic specialities
The goat’s cheese is famous, especially Chabichou. Visit the Maras Farm in Chauvigny (local producer) or the famous Chosson fromagerie in Poitiers to discover more.
You may not have heard of Grand Poitiers’ cheesecake but it’s delicious. Known as Tourteau Fromagé, it’s a sweet cake made from fresh cheese (often goat’s cheese). It’s very airy and melts in the mouth with a burnt crust on top. It’s simply unique.
There are plenty of other local specialities to taste. Broyé du Poitou is a cross between shortbread and cake that uses the rich butter from the area to create its crumbly texture. What makes it different is that it is usually cut with a fist! Montmorillon macarons are another sweet speciality to enjoy. They are completely different from “Parisian” macarons with a high almond content.
If you’re looking for something savoury, try the Poitevin stuffing: vegetable-based terrines (including chard, spinach, cabbage and sorrel).
5. Land of legends
Many legends remain in all Great Poitiers. The most famous of them? The fairy Mélusine in Lusignan. There is also the Grand Goule, a creature resembling a dragon that devoured the nuns of the City until Sainte-Radegonde made it disappear.
You can discover many other legends thanks to Visit Poitiers, the free guided tours app available in English.
6. Exceptional religious heritage
Poitiers is known as the “City of 100 Bell Towers” for good reason. Some of the must-see bell towers include:
- Saint Peter’s Cathedral where Aliénor (Eleanor) and Henri (Henry) were married.
- The Romanesque Notre-Dame-la-Grande Church with its world-renowned sculpted façade.
- Sainte-Radegonde Church, built on top of a Merovingian queen’s grave.
- Saint-Hilaire Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Santiago de Compostela.
- Baptistère Saint-Jean, built in the 5th century, is one of the oldest Christian monuments in the West.
7. Nature in all its forms
Nature is everywhere in Grand Poitiers. In the heart of Poitiers, a 9-hectare park offers a great breath of fresh air with both English and French-style gardens, a café-restaurant to sit and rest your legs, bicycle rental, and more.
At the edge of the Clain, at the Guinguette Pictave (Tison island), you will find a unique atmosphere, typical of the French tradition of guinguettes (open-air cafés) on the water’s edge. Play some old games, eat some ice cream or get some snacks from the food trucks and a drink from one of the bars before sitting down to relax at one of the large picnic tables where everyone comes together to share a moment of relaxation.
You have plenty of woods and forests all around Poitiers to choose from to recharge your batteries but if you want a calmer setting, head to Saint-Benoît: the garden city at the gates of Poitiers.
The Golf du Haut-Poitou, a technical and hilly course, overlooks Saint-Cyr Lake. For 13 years, it was home to an International Professional Golf Open on the Alps Tour circuit and it now hosts a Pro-Am every year. Once you’ve finished a few rounds (or skip the golf, if you prefer to watch rather than participate), you can rest in its restaurant and take in the breathtaking panoramic view!
Alternatively, south-east of Poitiers, the Golf de Mignaloux offers a bucolic and wooded setting for you to play.
9. French Art de Vivre
Grand Poitiers has many restaurants, bars and terraces welcoming you all year round! Whatever you fancy, you will inevitably find your definition of happiness: traditional French cuisine, local products, regional cuisine (Breton, Corsican, etc.), world cuisine, crustaceans, bistronomics, etc.
In Poitiers, life is organised around two main squares (Place Charles de Gaulle with the church of Notre-Dame-la-Grande and Place Leclerc with the town hall). Connected by a set of pedestrian streets, take the time to wander and let yourself be seduced by the French Art de Vivre!
10. A city on a human scale
The heart of Poitiers is located at the top of a hill called the “Plateau”. The streets are mostly pedestrian so the city is very walkable, perfect for strolling around.
If you want to be your own guide on your visit, we recommend downloading the guided tours app “Visit Poitiers”, which is entirely free and in English. The app allows you to choose a route according to your interests (legends, heritage, unusual, etc.) and the difficulty of the route (duration and altitude difference).
Find out more: https://visitpoitiers.fr/en/discover-grand-poitiers/
Lead photo credit : Panorama des Dunes © Coraline Prono/VisitPoitiers