Between the town’s varied heritage, shady squares, and pedestrian and shopping streets, a whole programme awaits!
Of course, a stop in front of the Arch of Germanicus will impress any visitor. But to fully immerse yourself in Saintes, Town of Art and History, begin with a peaceful tour of the town centre.
Saintes and its 2,000 years of history
Navigate through different eras as you wander along streets and past white stones. Two millennia will pass before your eyes: the amphitheatre, Saint-Eutrope Basilica, Saint-Pierre Cathedral, the Arch of Germanicus, the Abbaye aux Dames and more. It’s impossible not to succumb to the charms of the town’s architectural heritage!
Your tour begins on Place Saint-Pierre. The square is a bustling hive of activity at the Saint-Pierre Market each Wednesday and Saturday morning. You will want to linger at the appetizing stalls, surrounded by a truly joyful atmosphere. That’s only normal, because this is a must-see event for Epicureans and fans of local products!
At the base of Saint-Pierre Cathedral, your first surprise comes as you stand before the imposing monument: raise your eyes to the sky for a glimpse of its massive unfinished bell tower covered with zinc and then admire the impressive, delicately sculpted portal.
You could say that Saint-Pierre Cathedral has had multiple lives… Erected on the site of a Christian edifice dating from the High Middle Ages, it was rebuilt in the 13th and 15th centuries, ransacked by the Protestants in 1568 before it was even completed, and then later refurbished. Nonetheless, it still has the look and the remnants of a gorgeous Flamboyant Gothic church, making it a real landmark in town!
From Place Saint-Pierre, you can traipse all over the old town centre on foot. Here, you will find quiet residential streets and shopping streets, pink tiles, small squares and more. “Doesn’t it feel like the South of France?”
Now, head for Rue Alsace-Lorraine, the main pedestrian street, moving toward the Musée de l’Echevinage, the old town hall that still features a 16th century belfry adjoining an 18th century façade. The beautiful building is now home to a fine arts museum.
On the next street over, the old Jacobin convent has also entered a new stage in its life… as a media library! As you pass under the entrance porch, you will be greeted by a delightful little garden, the perfect spot to rest up for a moment.
At this point, head on up to Place du Capitole for a lovely view of the rooftops and the surrounding countryside.
“Can we have some ice cream now?” Follow Ruelle de l’Hospice and try to sneak a peek at the gardens of beautiful 17th and 18th century homes, hidden away behind stone walls.
Continue on your way to Quai de Verdun, passing in front of sumptuous private manors and their unbeatable views of the Charente River. Inside one of these is the Musée Dupuy Mestreau, a veritable cabinet of curiosities!
Come on, now it’s time to visit a few shops and identify a sidewalk café where you can take a break. On Cours National, another gem awaits you amidst all the shops: Le Gallia Théâtre, with its façade of Italian columns and its copper cladding turned green with oxidation.
“But what about my ice cream?” Just wait a little longer. Rue Saint-Michel, the bric-à-brac street, is right nearby. You can’t help but find some great deals there!