The French city of Poitiers is the capital of the Poitou-Charentes region and head of the department of the Vienne. Having only 130000 inhabitants it is often called “the smallest of the big towns”. However Poitiers is only an hour from Paris by TGV and it benefits from an enviable economic and geographical environment.
Poitiers has lent its name to three great battles. The least well-known is the first battle of Poitiers in AD 507, a battled initiated by Clovis I against Alaric II, king of the Visigoths. The second battle was in 732, resulting in the victory of the Francs lead by Charles Martel over the Moors and their allies. The third battle of Poitiers was in 1356, when the English, commanded by the Black Prince, defeated the French and King John the Good.
The city of Poitiers is an incredible encounter with and ancient university city. The University of Poitiers was founded in 1431 and has welcomed a large number of renowned thinkers. In fact Poitiers is one of the cities with the most students in France, with the students making up around 14% of the total population. The university possesses faculties of science, geography, history, languages and engineering.
In the summer months, the main tourist season, Poitiers is also home to a multitude of theatrical spectacles. Many of these spectacles are free and take place in the many public areas, including the numerous gardens and squares. But there isn’t just theatre – besides the many street theatre performances there are also a whole variety of artistic events and also balls and public debates held in cafes, often under the concept of “philo-cafe” or “philosophical caf”. As you can see, the summertime sees a real flourishing of entertainment of all types!
With regard to museums, the classified museums and art centers are a delight to all enthusiasts. The Saint John Baptistry also invites you to see a major collection of tombs and sculptures from the Merovingian and Carolingian periods of the city. Also in the city there are numerous galleries with exhibitions on a whole range of subjects.
Dance also plays a major part in the cultural life of the city of Poitiers. Dance in all its forms and guises takes place throughout the year in a range of interesting and exciting spectacles, including various festivals of Dance. But this is not limited to classical dance – contemporary dance is also well represented, resulting in a full programme which generates much interest with citizens, students and tourists alike.
As for theatre, Poitiers and the theatre are a real love story, whether your interest is amateur or professional. With more than twenty theatre companies, a rich and diverse programming, festivals, meetings between the public, artists actors and directors, theatrical creations in Poitiers always play a major role in the life of the city. And for all this artistic activity, a large and appreciative audience is always guaranteed.
To visit Poitiers and not visit the internationally renowned Futuroscope Park, would be a great error, since Futuroscope is one of the major attraction of France as a whole. It is certainly an ideal venue for short-duration holidays if you have children in-tow. Not only is this European Park of the Image fascinating as an entertainment spectacle, but also from an educational perspective, with much of the latest imaging technology making its first appearance at the park before being deployed elsewhere in the world.
Justly known as the “city of a hundred bells”, Poitiers is home to 78 protected monuments in its center alone. From imposing monuments, Romanesque churches, pretty medieval streets, wood-clad houses, Haussmann-style boulevards, and contemporary architecture, each poque has left its mark. So in Poitiers you will find a veritable treasury of architecture from throughout the centuries.
And finally, for all French “foodies”, it probably won’t come as a surprise that Poitiers isn’t short either in the gastronomy department, and its many restaurants combine the best of sophisticated modern French cuisine with traditional country fare. But best be aware that being a typical French city, traditional Poitiers cuisine often incorporates many typically French ingredients such as snails, frogs and eels!
I hoped you have enjoyed this little tour of the historic city of Poitiers. The city is an ideal venue for a short break or as a base for touring central France and the Atlantic coast. However it is a city of culture second to none, and for those inclined towards history or the theatrical arts, Poitiers is a city not to be missed.