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Situated on the Clain River, the small city of Poitiers in central France is rich in history having provided the staging ground for two pivotal battles and as the home of the country’s second oldest university.

Located 120km inland from the Atlantic coast and 350km south of Paris, the easiest way to reach Poitiers is by high-speed rail. Poitiers lies on the TGV Atlantique line running from Paris to Bordeaux also stopping in the cities of Angoulême, Limoges and La Rochelle.  The journey from Paris is 1 hour and 40 minutes on the TGV. A regular regional train service is also available. The city’s airport is 1.5 miles from the town’s centre and services domestic routes as well as flights from some UK cities.

Poitiers, Saint-Jean Baptistery, France oldest church

Once in Poitiers, local bus services are available, with the main bus station also located within the train station to the west of the city. The town itself if undergoing urban renewal to make it more pedestrian and commuter friendly, so as a result there is restricted access by vehicle is some sections of the city.

The Celtic Pictones tribe established the city which later fell to Roman control, Christianizing the area and installing the first Bishop of Poitiers in 350AD. Ruins of Roman buildings have been uncovered as recently as a decade ago. In 732 the Christians led by Charles Martel successfully defeated the advancing Muslim (Moor) invasion in the Battle of Tours which occurred close to Poitiers. This battle was significant in that it ended Muslim attempts to conquer France. In 1356 the Battle of Poitiers was an important victory for the English during the Hundred Years’ War. The University of Poitiers was founded in 1431. Poitiers suffered damage as a result of enemy bombing raids during WWII. The US military had logistics and communications facilities in Poitiers which they held until the 1960s. Industrial decentralistion during the 1970s benefited Poitiers through the installation of major factories in the town, most notably those of Micehlin and Compagnie des compteurs Schlumberger. In the late 1980s the Futuroscope was built as a tourist theme park and technology research zone.

Poitiers, Notre Dame la Grande

When in Poitiers catch a glimpse of the future by visiting Parc du Futuroscope located 6.2 miles north of the city. Alternatively, an array of historical sites are on show including:

  • The 4th century Baptistère Saint-Jean is the second oldest church in France and features a baptismal pool inside.
  • The 12th century Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, where you can catch an organ performance.
  • The underground chapel Hypogée des Dunes.
  • The 11th century Église Notre-Dame-la-Grande is the oldest Romanesque- style church in Europe.
  • The town’s largest museum, Musée Sainte-Croix with exhibits from pre-history to the contemporary era.

The city centre is great place to relax with a variety of cafes and restaurants which are bustling during weekends and throughout the summer.