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Saintes is a city on the Charente river in Charente-Maritime, in southwestern France. It was the capital of the historical Saintogne County, many landmarks from its glorious past have been preserved, and as such it has been classified as a Ville d'art et d'histoire ("City of art and history").



Saintes sits at a curve of the Charente River, among wet meadows and green hills, and has throughout history been a crossroads right in the heart of Charente. The city has a long tradition as a trading point with its monthly markets going on for centuries, and is still today a regional centre for businesses and services. With 25,000 inhabitants in the city and 60,000 in the urban area, it's the second largest city in the region after La Rochelle.

The oldest attractions in Saintes are from the Roman Empire, including the Arch of Germanicus and the ruins of an amphitheater and as such it has a heritage reaching back two millenia in history. The historical center on both banks of the river has been pedestrianized and it's made up of four districts: Saint-Pierre around the cathedral, Saint-Eutrope around the basilica, Saint-Vivien and Saint-Pallais around the Abbaye aux Dames and the railway station. The old town, Vieux Saintes is truly the beating heart of the city, lively and full of charm. You can walk up the narrow alleys to the Capitole hill for nice views of Saintes with surroundings.

Also the surrounding region has a lot to offer. The city sits in the middle of the "Atlantic arc" (l’arc atlantique), with the beach resorts of the Côte de Beauté (Royan, Vaux-sur-Mer, Saint-Georges-de-Didonne) just around 30 km away. Famous wine regions are close by as well, here cognac, Pineau de Charentes and Médoc and other Bordeaux wines are made. The vineyards, wheat fields and meadows of Saintogne are in themselves beautiful and have become the theme of many paintings by 19th-century artists such as Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste Corot.


The region has been inhabited since at least the third millenium BC, as per archaeological discoveries in Diconche in the south of the municipality. Around 500 BC a Celtic tribe, the Santons, settled in the area, and from them comes the region's name Saintonge. Saintes was established by the Romans, named Mediolanum Santonum and was the main city of the greater region of Aquitaine.

As the capital of the southwestern quarter of Gaul, the area from the Pyrenees to Loire, during Roman times many grand buildings were built - basilicas, a forum (likely on Capitol hill), thermal baths, arches dedicated to Tiberius and Germanicus, and aqueduct and an amphitheater seating 15,000. The city had right-angled streets, a sewer system, and was connected to the capital of Gaul, Lyon, by a major road (part of the Via Agrippa network). It also had a harbor named Portus Santonum or Novioregum somewhere near present-day Royan.

In the third century CE when the Roman Empire was about to fall apart, the region was attacked by barbarians from the north. The suburbs of the great city were abandoned, the inhabitants concentrated themselves to the inner part of the city, and some monuments were torn down and the material was used to fortify central parts of the city. The city's extent shrunk from around 100 hectares to 18 hectares, still it remained an intellectual center.

The amphitheatre in Saintes was one of the most important in Gaul

Christianity was introduced relatively early, by bishop Saint Eutrope who then became the patron saint of the city, and Saint Eustelle, both who became martyrs. Also three later medieval bishops of the city – Vivien, Trojan and Pallais - became canonized by the Catholic church. In 732, the city was burnt down by the Muslim troops commanded by general Abd-el-Rahman, and in 844 and 848 by Vikings. In the 11th century, the remains of St. Eutrope were found, and a grand basilica was built at the place (the current basilica is just a third of the size of the original) which became a destination for pilgrimage. At the same time a major convent was built on the other side of the river.

In 1152 Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine married Count of Anjou Henri Plantagenêt who became king of England two years later. Therethrough the region became an English possession, and trade with the British Isles made the region and Saintes prosper. Over the following centuries the city saw warfare between France and England several times, and it finally fell in French hands in 1404. Having been ravaged by several wars and the Black Death, the city rose again and a new grand cathedral was being constructed. This came to and end with the French Wars of Religion, and Saintes was sacked by Protestant troops in 1568. Finally, in the 17th century, when the inhabitants had revolted against the French king like many cities in the region, Cardinal Richelieu had torn down the fortified citadel. It was however spared the fate of nearby Royan which was razed to the ground.

The medieval streets and buildings of the old town

During the 18th century Saintes was an administrative city with its own court. The leaders of the city wanted to modernize the city which they considered uncomfortable and dirty, and so the fortifications were razed to make place for grand new promenades. However the French Revolution interrupted the work, and the grand plans never came into being. Saintes was the capital of the new Charente-Inférieure department for some years, but Napoleon moved the capital to La Rochelle for strategical reasons. After the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, urban development proceeded though on a smaller scale.

In 1867 the railway reached Saintes, leading to the development of a whole new railway district, and about at the same time Avenue Gambetta was finished. Saintes was occupied by Germans during WWII and the strategically important railway district was bombed by the Allies on 24 June 1944, leading to almost 300 casualties. A few months later, the Germans were driven out of the city.

During the 1960s and 1970s large housing complexes were built, giving Saintes a different character. Another remarkable event was the floods of 1982, when almost 16 km of streets were under water. Today, Saintes is one of the main cities of the department, and the economic centre of the southern Poitou-Charentes region.


Saintes has an oceanic climate, but even as the city is just 30 km inland, the climate is notably more continental than at the coast with temperature differences of up to 5 degrees (warmer in the summer, colder in the winter). Still it has a mild climate with little rain (especially in the summer) and more than 2000 hours of sunshine a year, as is visible in the vegetation. Winds are usually moderate, though the odd storm may affect the region in the winter.


The people speak French like elsewhere in France. Many locals also speak the vernacular saintongeais also known as parlanjhe. Saintogenais is little represented in the media, but the local market is a good place to hear the language, and it has its own organization, Xaintonge. It's based on the Occitan language spoken here in the Middle Ages, and some words have entered the regional dialect of French.

Tourist information[edit]

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

Autoroute A10, the motorway from Paris to southwestern France

Saintes is one of the main road traffic nodes in the region, with bypasses to the west and south of the city.

Autoroute A10 (called L'Aquitaine) passes the city on the western side connects from Niort, Poitiers, Tours and Paris in the north and Bordeaux in the south. Take exit 35, and drive along the inner ring road to get to the city. A bit north of the city, A837 comes in from Rochefort, joining the A10.

Local roads come in from nearby towns and cities; on the coastal side D728 from Marennes and île d'Oléron to the west, and N150 from Saujon and Royan to the southwest. N141 comes in from Cognac, Angoulême and Limoges to the east (connecting to the Paris-Toulouse Autoroute A20), D137 from Rochefort and Saint-Porchaire in the northwest and Pons, Mirambeau, Blaye and Bordeaux to the south. D150 from Saint-Jean-d’Angély and Niort (via D650) in the north, D237 from Saint-Georges-des-Coteaux and Nieul-lès-Saintes just west of Saintes and D114 from Cozes to the southwest.

By train[edit]

The railway station

Saintes is served by Intercité and TER trains, and there are trains from La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Royan, Niort, Angoulême, Toulouse, Nantes and Quimper. The closest TGV stations are in La Rochelle and Angoulême.

The 1 railway station is on the left bank of Charente, about 15 minutes on foot from downtown. The station building is a late 19th-century neoclassical building, which used to be the heart of a much bigger railway complex with technical and administrative buildings of the national railway company SNCF. It's accessible for mobility impaired people and has a shop and a restaurant.

By plane[edit]

There's an airfield for light aviation. The nearest airports with passenger services are in La Rochelle (60 km northwest) and Bordeaux (100 km south).

By bus[edit]

  • 2 Bus station (Gare Routière), Cours Reverseaux. The bus station is served by the Saintes bus network, departmental buses.

Transports Routiers de Voyageurs de la Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine operates buses around the department. Eurolines in turn, has services all over Europe. The long-distance bus station is at the Cours Reverseaux near the old hospital.

By foot[edit]

Two Grande Randonnée long distance walking routes go through the city: GR4 from Royan on the Atlantic coast to Grasse in southeastern France, and GR360 (Tour de Saintogne), formed like a distorted oval going around the historical Saintogne region.

Moreover Saintes is an important stop on the Via Turonensis branch of the Way of St. James since the 11th century. Already in a 12th century guide to the route, pilgrims were urged to visit the grave of martyr Saint Eutrope in the basilica.

  • 3 Refuge des Pèlerins (near the Basilique Saint-Eutrope), +33 6 73 56 94 04, . Pilgrims' refuge with six beds for modern-day pilgrims at the foot of the basilica.

Get around[edit]

By car[edit]

During rush hour, summer vacation, some festivals like the National Day, Christmas and New Year, and the monthly fairs, there can be congestion on the roads, other than that traffic is usually calm. Problem spots include highways entering and exiting the city, the Gambetta and Saintogne avenues, and surroundings of major shopping centers. Much of the historical center is pedestrianized.

There are parking areas at the outskirts of the city where you can park for free. In the central parts of the city there's free parking at some places. Parking at the shopping malls costs.

By bus[edit]

A local BUSS bus

Most of the Saintes as well as Saint-Georges-des-Coteaux is served by the local BUSS network. Other nearby towns and villages are served by Allo'Buss buses that operate on demand. There are three urban lines A, B and C, a shuttle service from the railway station to a few nearby stops, the earlier mentioned on-demand buses and Noctam’Buss services running at Friday and Saturday nights connecting nightclubs. A ticket valid for one hour costs €1.10 (€1.30 for Allo'Buss), and you can buy tickets from bus drivers or through the app. BUSS also operates school buses.

By bike[edit]

In the 2010s, dedicated bike lanes have been built around town. There's a bike borrowing service in the city, operated by Cyclocom[dead link]. It comprises seven stations with bikes: tourist office, city hall, youth hostel, the D'une Fenêtre à l'autre house, Belle Rive and Bellevue social centers, and the Au fil de l'eau camping.

Bikes can be borrowed for one day at a time, and they need to be returned to the same station by the evening. Borrowing bikes is free, you need to pay a deposit of €150 and present a valid ID at the station when borrowing (the money will be returned when returning the bike). If you plan do use the service for several days, you can "subscribe" to the service by paying the same deposit and showing your ID at the city hall. You will need to do it just once, get a document to show when you borrow and return bikes, and get the deposit back when you end the subscription.


Quartier Saint-Pierre[edit]

The largely pedestrianized Saint-Pierre district corresponds to the historical center of the city from the river to Place Capitol. The streets, alleys, squares are buildings are laid out like in medieval times, though many buildings especially along the rather commercialized main streets, Rue Victor Hugo and Rue Alsace-Lorraine, date from the 17th and 18th centuries. In this part of the city you can find the impressive Saint-Pierre cathedral, and can walk up the steps to the Capitol Hill for panoramic views of the city.

The Gothic Saint-Pierre cathedral
  • 1 Cathédrale Saint-Pierre. The large cathedral that's the namesake of the district dominates the old town. There has been at least two cathedrals here earlier, a Merovingian cathedral founded by St Pallais, and a Romanesque cathedral of which the southern cross and a dome have been incorporated in the current building. The Gothic cathedral was once much higher, up to three times higher than its current version. Traces of the ridge raising up to 39 m are still visible on the bell tower, and arcs on the outside raise up above the roof. During the 15th and 16th centuries it was built to those grand proportions, and the cathedral was almost finished when it was largely destroyed by Protestant troops in 1568 during the French Wars of Religion. There weren't funds to rebuilt it as large as it had been, and the current height is about a third of what it once was. Surrounding buildings related to the cathedral like the bishops' residence were also not rebuilt. Saintes cathedral (Q2942437) on Wikidata Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Saintes on Wikipedia
  • 2 Rue Alsace-Lorraine. An important pedestrian and shopping street, with more than half of the old town's shops. As such it's a great place to just walk around and do window shopping; or to make some side trips along the alleys. Most façades date from the 17th and 18th centuries though there are still some medieval houses left. rue Alsace-Lorraine (Q3446920) on Wikidata Rue Alsace-Lorraine (Saintes) on Wikipedia
Rue Victor Hugo
  • 3 Rue Victor-Hugo. Another major shopping street in the old town, also known as the Grand’Rue (big street). It follows the routing of an old Roman street. It's pedestrianized and lined with palms and flowers. Looking towards the Charente river along the street, you can see the Germanicus arc. There's a great variety of businesses on this street from perfume shops and hotels to crêperies and art galleries.
  • 4 Rue Saint-Michel. The most "medieval" street of the old town, at least when it comes to the houses lining it which were untouched by the 17th century building project. As there are relatively few businesses, it's much less busy than the shopping streets and even overlooked by visitors spending a short time in the city.
  • 5 Église Sainte-Colombe. In the heart of the Quartier Saint-Pierre, and first mentioned in a charter from 1340, it was one of the main churches within the city walls in the Middle Ages. The present church was built in "flamboyant Gothic" style, destroyed during the Wars of Religion and rebuilt as a smaller version in 1638. After the revolution it became disused for more than half a century until 1849, then functioning as a Carmelite convent until 1922 when it first became a grocery store and then a warehouse. In 2000 it was acquired by the Fraternity of St. Pius X, renovated, and is once again a religious building. Église Sainte-Colombe de Saintes (Q3584974) on Wikidata Église Sainte-Colombe de Saintes on Wikipedia
The old Jacobin convent and the new Centre d’interprétation de l’architecture et du patrimoine
  • 6 Couvent des Jacobins. A Dominican monastery established in 1292, it was rebuilt in the 15th century. After the revolution it became a dwelling house. In the 19th century a certain Maurice Martineau with a large collection of books lived there and as he passed away in 1928, the house and the books became the property of the city. Therethrough the municipal library came into being, and which it has been ever since. Only the Gothic choir with its grand bay and inscriptions reveal that this was once a house of worship. Ancien couvent des Jacobins de Saintes (Q3001722) on Wikidata Couvent des Jacobins de Saintes on Wikipedia
  • 7 Musée de L'Échevinage, 29 ter, rue Alsace Lorraine. An art museum in a former échevinage (a seat of municipal institutions under the Ancien Régime), classed as a historical monument. The artworks on display are mostly from the 19th century by French painters. Musée de l'Echevinage (Q3329853) on Wikidata Musée de l'Échevinage de Saintes on Wikipedia
  • 8 Musée Dupuy Mestreau, 4, rue Monconseil, +33 5 46 93 36 71. Ethnographic museum in a building constructed for Marquis Monconseil in the 18th century. There are many different kinds of historical objects on display; clothing (an extensive collection of headgear), objects of daily life from jewellery to earthenware, replicas of habitations and boats Musée Dupuy-Mestreau (Q3329132) on Wikidata Musée Dupuy-Mestreau on Wikipedia

Quartier Saint-Pallais[edit]

Saint-Pallais at the right bank of Charente is, like the former, also a protected district. It has it roots in the Roman era with some Roman constructions still standing and was for a long time the main suburb of the city (just outside the city walls).

During the middle ages, the Abbaye aux Dames and the Saint-Pallais church were built here. In 1259 when Charente formed the border between French and English possessions, present-day Saint-Pallais was a French city facing an English city across the river. Still today it retains its distinct character and the gardens along the river bank is a popular place for locals on sunny days.

  • 9 Place Bassompierre. A square built in 1843 and named after 17th century bishop Louis de Bassompierre. It's a kind of an esplanade in front of the Fernand-Chapsal gardens where the Germanicus arc was reassembled in 1851. On the square there's a statue of 16th century potter Bernard Palissy who pioneered the Palissy ware ceramics style. The square is a venue for different events and a departure place for river tour boats. place Bassompierre (Q3389715) on Wikidata Place Bassompierre on Wikipedia
The Germanicus arc, one of the symbols of the district
  • 10 Arc de Germanicus. A triumphal arch built in 18 or 19 AD by Caius Julius Rufus, to celebrate emperor Tiberius, his son Drusus, and his nephew and adoptive son Germanicus. In Roman times it marked the eastern entrance to the city and was placed in the front of the bridge across Charente. When the quai was modernized in 1843-51, the arch was disassembled and rebuilt 15 m away at its current place. Some Roman inscriptions are still visible on the arch. Arch of Germanicus (Q117210) on Wikidata Arc de Germanicus on Wikipedia
  • 11 Musée Archéologique, Esplanade André Malraux, +33 5 46 74 20 97. Housed in 19th century slaughterhouse, this museum displays items from life during the Roman times. In particular, there's a great collection of gemstones excavated when ramparts were reconstructed in the late 19th century. Musée archéologique de Saintes (Q3329450) on Wikidata Musée archéologique de Saintes on Wikipedia
  • 12 Église Saint-Pallais. Right next to the Abbaye aux Dames, of which it is an outbuilding, and for a long time the only parish church on the right bank. It was first built in the 12th century to replace Bishop Palladius' funeral basilica, and later modified into Gothic style. This led to some interesting details; columns becoming unused, the Romanesque apse being replaced by a flat bay in "flamboyant" Gothic style, and the bell tower being shortened and covered by an atypical slate roof. There used to be a small cemetery below what's now a public square next to the church. Entrée libre. Église Saint-Pallais de Saintes (Q3583458) on Wikidata Église Saint-Pallais de Saintes on Wikipedia
The Sainte-Marie church with its interesting bell tower
  • 13 Abbaye aux Dames, +33 5 46 97 48 48, . Founded by Count of Anjou Geoffroy Martel and his wife Agnes of Burgundy in 1047, it was once one of the most important female monasteries in southwestern France. It was richly endowed by the Dukes of Aquitaine and at its peak home to up to a hundred nuns from French nobility. Madame de Saintes, the abbess of this monastery, had a very powerful position. She carried a bishop's staff, for female religious leaders an almost unheard of privilege at the time, and also had the right to mint money and act as a judge. In 1320 it was placed under the protection of the French king, as the right bank became French territory, which greatly angered the Duke of Aquitaine (the English king). After the revolution, indeed already somewhat before, the monastery declined, and was converted into a jail and later a barracks. In the mid 20th century it became a religious building again, and is now also a cultural institution. The abbey also has a separate church, the Église Saint-Marie, which has an interesting bell tower which is said to look like a pine cone and a decorated portal, plus some additional buildings related to the abbey. Sainte-Marie-des-Dames (Q306128) on Wikidata Abbaye aux Dames de Saintes on Wikipedia
  • 14 National stud farm of Saintes (Haras National de Saintes), 2 Avenue Jourdan, +33 5 46 74 80 13. In a forested park of 9 hectares in size, until 2019 you could experience living 19th century heritage in the form of horse breeding. In 2019 the place was sold to an advertising entrepreneur who plans to convert the buildings into a headquarters for southwestern France, but they'll also house a restaurant, rentable space for startup businesses and apartments. As such you can just admire the buildings from a distance. free. Haras national de Saintes (Q3127289) on Wikidata Haras national de Saintes on Wikipedia

Quartier Saint-Eutrope[edit]

The first buildings here were estates (villae) built for rich patricians during the Roman times, they also had built the large amphitheater here. In the Middle Ages, in turn, a basilica was constructed to house the remains of Saint Eutrope, which became an important stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. This is a green and calm part of the city, with some ancient houses lining steep streets between the basilica and the river and the Colline du Capitole which can be considered the balcony of the city.

  • 15 Amphithéâtre gallo-Romain, 20 rue Lacurie, +33 5 46 97 73 85, . Sitting in a green valley, the Roman amphitheater was built almost 2000 years ago under the rule of Tiberius and Claudius. It could seat 15000 spectators (undoubtedly much of the city's inhabitants) and was one of the most important in Gaul. It's built to an elliptical structure and has a size of 126 x 102 m, and fits neatly into the valley. The amphitheater was used as a stone quarry during the Middle Ages, so it's by no means intact. Little remains of the cavea (seating area), the gates are somewhat better preserved. Still it's an important historical monument from the time when the city was named Mediolanum Santonum. Roman amphitheatre of Saintes (Q2844420) on Wikidata Amphithéâtre de Saintes on Wikipedia
The Saint-Eutrope basilica, listed as a component of the UNESCO World Heritage Way of St. James
  • 16 Basilique Saint-Eutrope. Founded in 1081 by Guillaume VIII, Duke of Aquitaine, it's actually two churches superimposed on each other with stairs in the nave connecting them. The basilica was built to house the relics of martyred Saint Eutrope with his sarcophagus in the upper church and his skull in the lower church. It has been an important stop on the Way of St. James route to Santiago de Compostela ever since. In 1096, not long after it was finished, pope Urban II visited to preach the First Crusade. In 1886, pope Leon XIII promoted the status of the church to basilica. Basilique Saint-Eutrope is considered an architectonical masterpiece with its Romanesque walls, Gothic choir, 11th century baptismal fonts, paintings and stained windows and one of the largest Romanesque crypts in Europe in the lower church surrounding the sarcophagus of the saint. free. Basilique Saint-Eutrope de Saintes (Q2315459) on Wikidata Basilique Saint-Eutrope de Saintes on Wikipedia
  • 17 Protestant church of Saintes (Temple protestant). The main place of worship of the Reformed church in the city. The church, finished in 1906, was built in many different styles - Neo-Romanesque, Neo-Byzantine and Art Nouveau and listed as a historical monument in 1998. Temple protestant de Saintes (Q3517701) on Wikidata Temple protestant de Saintes on Wikipedia
  • 18 Governor's house (Logis du Gouverneur). One of the last parts of a 17th-century citadel. A few decades after its completion, the region of Saintogne revolted against the king, the rebellion was struck down, and Cardinal Richelieu ordered the citadel to be torn down. In addition to the governors house, there's little left of the fortifications. Later a Carmelite convent, a hospital (later wrecked) and a chapel was built on the grounds. The older buildings have been incorporated in the new Saint-Louis residential district. Logis du gouverneur (Q3258034) on Wikidata Logis du gouverneur de Saintes on Wikipedia

Quartier Saint-Vivien[edit]

Saint-Vivien is separated from the historical center by the Cours National street, and corresponds to the ancient suburbs of Saint-Vivien and Saint-Saloine, that were founded around Christian necropolises. 18th-century bourgeois houses line the streets and there are traces from the Roman Empire here too, the ruins of thermal baths. There are few shops in this district and it's off the traditional tourist path.

The 19th-century neoclassical Saint-Vivien church
  • 19 Saint-Saloine thermal baths (Thermes de Saint-Saloine). Reduced to ruins today, the Saint-Saloine thermal baths were the most important ones in the Roman city. They were build towards the end of the 1st century and modeled on similar baths in Rome. Over the centuries, the baths were first converted into a church, then abandoned in the 16th or 17th century. From the nearby terrace there are nice views of the surroundings. Thermes Saint-Saloine de Saintes (Q3523845) on Wikidata Thermes de Saint-Saloine de Saintes on Wikipedia
  • 20 Église Saint-Vivien. Built between 1840 and 1845 by the architect Brossard, this neoclassical church is the fifth church on the place; the first was built in the 5th century. The interior is covered in frescoes, paper decorations, stained glass windows. The façade is rather monumental with its pilasters, pediments and Italian-style belltower. Église Saint-Vivien de Saintes (Q3584689) on Wikidata Église Saint-Vivien de Saintes on Wikipedia

Green spaces[edit]

In the 21st century the city government has been committed to expanding the natural areas of the city and preserving the biodiversity. There are three green areas covering a total of 220 hectares, making Saintes one of the greenest cities in the region.

In the public gardens
  • 21 Fernand-Chapsal public gardens (Jardin public Fernand-Chapsal), Place Bassompierre (Quartier Saint-Pallais). Formerly known as Parc Bassompierre, the garden on the Charente river offers great views to the old town and the cathedral. It's divided into a French and an English garden, and has a music kiosk and a playground for children. free. Parc Bassompierre (Q3162622) on Wikidata Jardin public Fernand Chapsal on Wikipedia
  • 22 Parc des Arènes, Chemin des Carrières de la Croix (Quartier Saint-Eutrope). A green walk next to the amphitheater, connected to the rest of Saint-Eutrope by a pastoral path named Vallon des Arènes. free.
  • 23 Prairie de la Palu, Avenue de Saintonge (South of Avenue de Saintonge). The region is famous for its meadows and here they reach into the city. A true conservatory for plants and birdlife, this area of 120 hectares has been listed as a protected European Natura 2000 area. It's also welcoming to visitors and has walking trails and signs presenting the ecosystems to visitors. free.


River tours[edit]

Bernard Palissy II, one of the ships cruising the Charente
  • 1 Canoe and rowing boat rental, 6, rue de Courbiac (towards the north), +33 5 46 74 01 66, . Canoes can be rented for half a day to take a relaxed trip on the Charente and admire the city and its surroundings from the river. It's very pleasant when the weather is good. A journey of 20 km will take about 7-8 hours, a journey of 12 km about 4 hours.
  • 2 La Gabare de Saintes, Esplanade André Malraux, +33 5 46 74 23 82. de mai à septembre. Wooden ferry taking passengers on 1.5 hour-long river cruises where you can enjoy the landscapes and the city views in a relaxed way.
  • 3 Les Santons, Esplanade André Malraux. during the summer months. Small electric boats carrying five persons which can be rented without prior reservation and without a skipper's license required. Departing from Place Bassompierre.
  • 4 Le Bernard Palissy II, Esplanade André Malraux. summer months. A beautiful and comfortable cruise ship with 200 places. From the sun deck there are great views of the surroundings, and the sun deck has a bar and a covered lounge. There are morning, mid-day and afternoon cruises and the whole ship can also be rented for events like meetings or weddings.


  • 5 Laser Lander, 22, rue des Fougères, +33 5 46 90 09 08, . Shooting with laser guns in dark labyrinths. For teams of at least 6 people, and players need to be at least 7 years old. A game normally lasts 20 minutes. It's a good idea to dress in black and don't forget your water bottle!
  • 6 Saintes Bowling, 19 Rue Des Rochers, +33 5 46 95 04 04, . Twelve bowling tracks, rental of bowling shoes. There are also several billiard tables and a bar.
  • 7 Full Karting, 93 rue des Coudrasses, +33 6 15 35 73 54, . Karting track with a length of 700 m and karting cars for rent. For adults and children aged 8 and over (length requirement 1.35 m).


  • New Year's cavalcade (Cavalcade de la Saint-Sylvestre). New year is celebrated on a great scale here with 30000 people attending the festivities. There are parades, light shows, concerts and many locals decorate their cars and drive around on New Years Eve before the streets are blocked to cars at four o clock in the afternoon.
  • Les Oreilles en Éventail. Street art festival focusing on music and sound. There are lots of street musicians giving free concerts.
  • Fête de la Musique. 21 June. Another music festival, but with focus on classical music. A temporary stage is built on the Place du Palais de Justice for a big concert in the evening. Fête de la musique on Wikipedia
  • National day (Fête nationale). 14 July. The national day is celebrated with a military parade through Saintes by the Air Force who have a base just outside the city as well as a popular ball at night in the Fernand-Chapsal gardens.


Local sports clubs often welcome visitors to try out some sports such as different martial arts, water sports or team sports.


  • 8 Stade Yvon Chevalier, 56, Cours du Maréchal Leclerc (to the northwest, at the outskirts of Saintes), +33 5 46 93 44 53. A huge sports stadium with facilities for a range of track and field sports, rugby fields and tennis courts.
  • 9 Golf Louis-Rouyer-Guillet, 43 route du golf, 17100 Fontcouverte (north of the city), +33 5 46 74 27 61, . Founded in 1953, it's the oldest golf course in Poitou-Charentes. It's the heart of a park 40 hectares in size, and includes an 18 hole course, a practice course, a restaurant and the ruins of a Roman aqueduct.
  • 10 Skate Park, Rue Réné Cassain. One of the biggest skateparks in the region.
  • 11 Centre aquatique Aquarelle, Allée de la Guyarderie, +33 5 46 92 35 05. Big swimming complex designed by architect Éric Lemarié and opened in 2012. Indoors there's a 25-meter-long semi-Olympic pool, a leisure pool with a hot tub, a children's pool, a hammam, a sauna and a squash area. Outdoors there's another 25-meter-long pool with artificial waves and leisure facilities. Also used for events, there are seats for 500 persons indoors (year round) and another 600 persons outdoors (in the summer).

Fitness and gyms[edit]

  • 12 Salle de Sport Edenya, 3 rue des Collines, ZAC des Côteaux (St Georges des Côteaux, west of Saintes), +33 5 46 91 27 33. Gym arena open every day, with equipment for aerobic exercise.
  • 13 Salle de Sport Origin, 9 cours Reverseaux (in the south of the city), +33 5 46 90 68 92. Gym with equipment for aerobic exercise, weightlifting and bodybuilding. There are also fitness dance classes.
  • 14 Salle Double Impact, 44 rue Charles Gide (in the east of the city), +33 5 46 95 96 63, . du lundi au samedi. A small gym with classes in different martial arts from kickboxing to krav maga.


Gallia Theatre
  • 15 Gallia Theatre (Théâtre Gallia), 67 ter, cours National, +33 5 46 92 20 67. The theatre was established in a building built by Parisian architect Bourla in 1852 and has remained the city's finest cultural institution ever since. The façade of the building with its many details remains original, the rest was thoroughly modified in 1932 and demolished and rebuilt in 2003. It has a theatre stage and a cinema for art movies.
  • 16 Atlantic Cinema (Ciné Atlantic), 17 Rue Champagne Saint-Georges (Parc Les Coteaux), +33 5 46 92 49 60. One of the largest cinemas in the Poitou-Charentes with eight auditoriums. They screen the latest releases, as well as documentaries and shows including live broadcasts of shows at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Some screenings have subtitles for the hearing impaired.


Cours National and Avenue Gambetta are the main shopping streets. The pedestrianized historical center has a lot of small specialized boutiques, especially along Rues Victor Hugo and Alsace-Lorraine.

Large supermarkets are unsurprisingly at the outskirts of the city; in the Parc Atlantique, at the Maréchal-Leclerc course, and in the Grandes Bauches, Terrefort and Fief-Mignon districts. The main shopping malls are Coteaux (around Leclerc hypermarket) and Hyper U.

Department stores[edit]

  • 1 Galeries Lafayette, 1 cours National (downtown), +33 5 46 93 47 22. The Galeries Lafayette chain has a store in Saintes. It's a good place for shopping for clothes, jewelry and cosmetics.

Supermarkets and hypermarkets[edit]

In Saintes[edit]

  • 2 Carrefour Market, Avenue Gambetta (downtown).
  • 3 Coop, Avenue du président Salvador Allende (towards Bellevue district).
  • 4 Centre Commercial des Boiffiers, Cours de l'Europe (Boiffiers district). A smaller shopping center with a supermarket and some smaller shops including a bakery, laundry shop and a book shop.
  • 5 Intermarché des Boiffiers. The Intermarche store has also a gas station and a pharmacy.
  • 6 Centre Commercial de Bellevue, Avenue de Bellevue (towards Bellevue district). Local shopping mall with a pharmacy, a library (with parcel service), a bakery and a restaurant.
  • 7 Centre E. Leclerc - Abbaye, Rue Gautier (southeastern corner of the city). The only mall at the right bank of the Charente, with the same selection as the E. Leclerc in Coteaux at the left bank. It features a gas station and a small brewery.
  • 8 Netto, Rue de la Fauvette (Rive droite, vers la gare). Discount supermarket, part of the Intermarché group.
  • 9 Lidl - Ormeau de Pied, 13 rue de l'Ormeau de Pied (near the rocade Ouest). Discount supermarket of the German chain, near the Coteaux mall.
  • 10 Lidl - Nivelles, 171 avenue de Nivelles (Proximité rocade Est). The second Lidl supermarket, in the east of the city.

Outside town[edit]

  • 11 Centre commercial des Coteaux (towards St Georges des Coteaux, west of the city). The most important mall in Saintes with surroundings, built around a E.Leclerc hypermarket. There's a cinema, many restaurants, chain shops as well as small boutiques.
  • 12 Centre commercial Hyper U (northwest of the city, towards the autoroute). Built around a Hyper U hypermarket, several small shops.


The first Monday in the month, there's a fair in town, one of the most important fairs in the region. Expect to find what you're looking for and even more. In addition there's a market in somewhere in town from the morning to early afternoon every day except Monday.

  • 13 Marché du Cours Reverseaux, Place du 11 novembre (in the west of the city, in the "high" city). Tuesday and Friday.
  • 14 Marché dès la place St Pierre, Place St Pierre (next to cathédrale St Pierre). Wednesday and Saturday.
  • 15 Marché St Palais (in the east of the city near the railway station). Thursday and Sunday.



The local cuisine benefits from the rich terroir. Traditional dishes often include meat (beef, Poitou-Charentes lamb, chicken and rabbit), fish and seafood as well as certain signature vegetables: cabbage, white beans from Pont-l’Abbé-d’Arnoult (locally called mojhettes), and the "sun vegetables" — tomatoes, zucchini and peppers.

L'éclade de moules is a Charente specialty

The grand classics of the Charente cuisine are grillons (rillettes of meat cooked in its own fat), gigourit (offal and blood stew), cagouilles (snails cooked with breadcrumbs, garlic and white wine), and rabbit of beef à la saintongeaise, i.e. made with a sauce of pineau and cognac. Like much of southwestern France, foie gras and different confits are part of the traditional cuisine.

Specialities from the nearby coast include mouclade (mussels with cream) and éclade (mussels grilled on pine needles, a specialty of île d'Oléron). Oysters from Marennes-Oléron are served as such of with some shallot vinegar, crepes or sausages, are famous beyond the borders of France.

On the dessert side, there are the merveilles (beignets), millas (corn flour cake), torteau fromager (white cheesecake) and the galette charentaise (a type of cake with butter). The chichis, a variant of the Spanish churros, are also popular.

As well, the region is famous for cognac, and wines including le pineau des Charentes.


  • 1 Akashiso, 6 rue Urbain Loyer, +33 5 16 22 17 07. Japanese cuisine, mostly sushi sets. The food is prepared on-site with fresh ingredients.
  • 2 À Croquer, 10, rue Alsace Lorraine, +33 5 46 91 09 36. Bakery and snack place with sandwiches, salads, wraps, crêpes and ice cream to eat there or take away. The establishment doesn't have an alcohol license but has a range of sodas and juice. different menus from €5.
  • 3 Burger Palace, 33, rue Alsace Lorraine, +33 5 46 93 58 17. A range of quality hamburgers, nuggets and sandwiches at low prices. There's a dining room upstairs for eating in, or you can take the food with you. menus from €6.90.
  • 4 Pasta Verdura, Rue du Rempart, +33 5 46 74 98 22. "Pasta bar" with a range of pastas and sauces, local ingredients are used as much as possible.
  • 5 Punjab, 9, rue Victor Hugo, +33 5 46 93 49 48, . Specializing in dishes from the Indian subcontinent such as chicken tandoori, seekh kebab, and lamb tikka. menus from €9.90.

In addition, global fast food chains are present.


  • 6 Crêperie Victor Hugo, 20 Rue Victor Hugo, +33 5 46 93 66 51. An old town institution, here you can enjoy sweet and savoury Brittany-style crêpes.
  • 7 Le Cargo, 4, rue Voiville (towards Royan), +33 5 46 92 08 18. Buffets of fresh seafood and fish - this restaurant is about nothing else. €15-€30.
  • 8 Le Clos des Cours, 2 Place du Théatre, +33 5 46 74 62 62. Inscribed in le Petit Futé et le Routard since its inception, it offers French cuisine in a welcoming environment. One of the few restaurants in town with a many options for vegetarians, and there's also English service. from €14.50.
  • 9 Gault Traiteur, Cours Reverseaux, +33 5 46 93 50 93. French cuisine with excellent food and service. 25 seats indoors, 35 seat outdoors. Consider making a reservation, because the place is often full. menus from €14.90.
  • 10 Le Gourmet d'Asie, 145 avenue Gambetta, +33 5 46 74 28 18. Asian buffet with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai dishes where you can eat as much yu like. weekdays €12. Friday nights: €18.
  • 11 Le Mandarin, 7 Rue Alsace Lorraine, +33 5 46 93 57 24. One of the only Chinese restaurants in Saintes, the place to go if you'd like Chinese food.
  • 12 La Romana, 89, avenue Gambetta, +33 5 46 74 18 11. Italian pizzeria in a contemporary setting, also take-away. They also have Italian groceries and wine for sale. menus €13-€26.
  • 13 Le Saintonge, Avenue de Saintonge, +33 5 46 97 00 00. Haute cuisine, a good place to go with large parties or to arrange a business meeting. The food is excellent but the ambience is a bit strict. €14.80-€28.50.


  • 14 Le Parvis, Petite rue du bois d'amour, +33 5 46 97 78 12. Gourmet restaurant in the old town. dish of the day €15, menus €30-54.
  • 15 La table du Maroc (marocain), Quai des roches, +33 5 46 74 08 04. Moroccan restaurant with a view to the Charente. You can enjoy tagines, couscous and similar dishes here. €14.90-33..
  • 16 La Taverne de Maître Kanter, 116 avenue Gambetta, +33 5 46 74 16 85. Alsatian cuisine and brewery with several types of choucroute (Sauerkraut). menus €21-33.


  • 1 Bar du théâtre, 1, Place du Théâtre. / Toute la journée. The theater bar is a nice place to have a glass direct next to the theater and justice palace.
Le pineau des Charentes, one of the famous drinks of the region, can be had in most bars
  • 2 Kraken Bar, 7 rue du Bois d'Amour, +33 6 29 34 93 68, . Nice ambiance and sometimes small concerts. They also have tapas, tartines and ice cream.
  • 3 La Musardière, 29 rue Alsace Lorraine, +33 5 46 74 34 87, . In the heart of Saintes, in an old decorated building. Here you can enjoy good Italian chocolates, coffees and other hot and cold drinks.
  • 4 Salisbury's Pub, 5, place du Synode, +33 6 71 63 33 69. A bar where young and old alike come to have a beer. They have a large selection of beers from England, Ireland, Belgium and Germany.
  • 5 Opéra Latin, 3 rue des Messageries, +33 5 46 97 26 92. A lounge bar, brew pub and night club (at weekend nights) with a young clientele. In the weekends there's a DJ, and Thursday is student's night. Specializing in rum- and cognac-based cocktails.
  • 6 Saintes Végas, Avenue de Saintonge, +33 5 46 93 50 50. The largest disco complex in the Poitou-Charentes with five dance floors and three restaurants. There are frequent themed nights. Several hotels are nearby and there's a dedicated bus service (Noctam'buss) on Friday and Saturday nights connecting the complex to central Saintes.




  • 3 Au fil de l'eau, 6, rue de Courbiac (in the north of the city), +33 546930800, . May-Sep. Campground next to the Charente in a calm place, but just a 10-minute walk from downtown. Has washing facilities and Wi-Fi. Accessible for handicapped guests. Dogs accepted. Place €5 + each adult €5, child €3, electricity €4, car parking €2.
  • 4 Camping Belle Rivière, 65, rue Aliénor d'Aquitaine (towards Chaniers), +33 5 46 91 02 20, . Mar-Nov. Next to the Charente in a small village near Saintes. They have a restaurant, Wi-Fi and baby care facilities.

Youth hostels[edit]


  • 6 Saveurs de l'Abbaye, 1, place Saint Pallais (near Abbaye aux Dames), +33 5 46 94 17 91, . Hotel and restaurant. rates from €74.
  • 7 Campanile, 1, boulevard de Recouvrance (northwestern outskirts of the city), +33 5 46 97 25 25, . Hotel and restaurant with a small garden to relax in. Rooms have provate bathrooms, tv, air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. Accessible rooms for disabled guests. rates from €59.
  • 8 Comfort Hotel, 6, rue du Docteur Laennec (towards the hospital district), +33 5 46 90 08 90, . Wi-Fi. Rooms have a/c, tv, bathroom, coffeemaker. Accessible rooms for disabled guests. rates from €68.
  • 9 Brit Hotel Au Bleu Nuit, 1, rue Pasteur (towards the north of the city), +33 5 46 93 01 72, . Hotel with elevator, secure bike garage, Internet access, baby care equipment, private garage, terrace, Wi-Fi. Accessible rooms for disabled guests. rates from €58.
  • 10 Hôtel de France, 56, rue Frédéric Mestreau (near the railway station), +33 5 46 93 01 16. Elevator, secure bike storage, baby car equipment, fax, private garage, living room, TV room, Wi-Fi. Accessible rooms for disabled guests. rates from €64.
  • 11 Hotel de l'Avenue, 114, avenue Gambetta (towards the railway station), +33 5 46 74 05 91, . Rooms with private bathroom, Wi-Fi, flatscreen tv. Accessible rooms for disabled guests. rates from €59.


  • 12 Bleynie-ruine de Rome, 7 et 9 rue de l'Evêché (near the cathedral), +33 6 07 80 85 34, . Bed and breakfast in a "house with an old heart" with four rooms. Rooms have tv and Wi-Fi. There are laundry facilities for guests and free parking. rates from €80.
  • 13 Hôtel des Messageries, Rue des Messageries (on a parallel street to Cours nationale, near Charente), +33 5 46 93 64 99, . Downtown hotel in a 17th century postal building with modern facilities. Accessible rooms for disabled guests. rates from €98.
  • 14 Aux Persiennes, 23 Chemin du Champboudeau (towards the south (right bank of the river)), +33 5 46 95 38 17, . Two rooms in a building from 1895 at the right bank of the river. Roos have tv, bathroom and Internet access. rates from €79.


Postal service[edit]

  • 2 La Poste Saintes, 6, Cours National, +33 8 99 23 24 48. The main post office of Saintes with all kinds of postal services that the French post offers available. It's in a beautiful building from 1925, characteristic for the civil architecture of the Third Republic.
  • 3 La Poste Saintes-Bellevue, 12 Avenue de Bellevue, +33 8 99 23 99 06.
  • 4 La Poste de Nivelles, 120 Avenue de Nivelles, +33 8 99 23 69 27.


There's more than a dozen radio stations, national and local. On the press side the Bordeaux newspaper Sud-Ouest has an editorial office in the city, and the monthly L'écho des Arènes presents local news stories.


There's 4G coverage by the operators Bouyges Telecom, Orange, SFR and Free Mobile.

Stay safe[edit]

  • 5 Police station (Commissariat de Police), Place du Bastion (downtown), +33 5 46 90 30 40.
  • 6 Gendarme station (Gendarmerie des Boiffiers), 19 Rue de Chermignac, +33 5 46 93 01 19.

Stay healthy[edit]

The esplanade of the Centre hospitalier de Saintonge
  • 7 Centre Hospitalier de Saintonge, 11, Boulevard Ambroise Paré BP 10326 (in the west of the city), +33 5 46 95 15 15, fax: +33 5 46 95 12 63, . The most important hospital in the department. The core of a hospital district in the west of the city, it has an emergency unit operating 24/7 together with other hospital functions. Centre hospitalier de Saintonge on Wikipedia
  • 8 Pharmacie du Théâtre, Cours National. Pharmacy opposite the Palais de Justice.
  • 9 Pharmacie Gambetta, Avenue Gambetta. Pharmacy in the eastern part of the city.
  • 10 Pharmacie de la Cathédrale, Rue Saint Pierre. Pharmacy in the old town, next to the cathedral.
  • 11 Pharmacie des Boiffiers, Cours de l'Europe. Pharmacy in the Boiffiers district in the southwest of the city.

Go next[edit]

  • 4 Le Paléosite (15 km east towards Burie). In 1979 the remains of a young Neanderthal human who lived about 35000 years ago were excavated here. This was an important discovery in the studies of the history of Neanderthal and modern humans. Afterwards an educational center about early history from the big bang to human prehistory in the region was established here.
  • 5 Roman aqueduct (5 km north of Saintes). The Roman city of Mediolanum Santonum (today's Saintes) got its water from Font-Morillon in Fontcouverte through an aqueduct. As the population grew and more water was needed, a second aqueduct was built. Aqueduct arches can be seen at the golf course in Fontcouverte, in the Tonne forest in Douhet and at the Moulin du Chemin des Lavandière in Vénérand.
La Roche-Courbon castle, about 20 km from Saintes, was called Le château de la Belle au bois dormant, "the castle of sleeping beauty" by writer Pierre Loti
  • 6 Château de La Roche Courbon (Saint-Porchaire) (20 km towards Rochefort along the highway). One of the most beautiful castles in Saintonge. Built in the 15th century as a fortress, the castle dominates the marshes and surroundings. In the 17th century it was converted into a private residence, but after the French Revolution it was abandoned. In the early 20th century, author Pierre Loti wrote an appeal in Le Figaro newspaper that the once-magnificent castle had to be saved, and in 1920 Paul Chénereau, a wealthy industrialist bought the ruins and had them restored. Today the castle and its gardens are a tourist attraction.
  • 7 Abbaye de Fontdouce (Saint-Bris-des-Bois) (between Saint-Bris-des-Bois and Burie (20 km east from Saintes).). Cistercian abbey founded in 1111 next to the Fontaine Douce ("sweet fountain") in the Coran valley. Over the years the abbey gained ownership over large land areas in the region, and through the support of Eleanor of Aquitaine a second monastery was built. The French Wars of Religion meant the end of the monastery, however. Today the abbey church has disappeared, but a small chapel and some other buildings remain.
  • 8 Écomusée du Cognac (between Burie and Migron (25 km from Saintes)). At the heart of a vineyard founded in 1850, you can learn about the wine and cognac production including things such as how labels for the bottles are made.
  • 9 Pons (Pons) (15 km to the south). A medieval town south of Saintes with a castle, ramparts, dungeon, and a public garden with a beautiful view over the Seugne valley. The pilgrim hospice is listed as a world heritage site. Château d'Usson just southeast of Pons has been turned into a theme park named Château des Enigmes with treasure hunts, themed trails, an escape room, a petting farm and the like.
  • 10 Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sablonceaux (Sablonceaux) (towards Marennes, 25 km west of Saintes). 12th century abbey, that was inhabited by the Saint Augustin order for six centuries. It has an Romanesque church with an impressive choir, though the church is a bit smaller than it once was with two domes and the chapter house having been torn down. The dormitory of the monks was rebuilt in the 18th century and next to it is an American walnut tree which is more than a hundred years old and described as one of the most beautiful trees in Saintogne.
The spectacular Trizay abbey
  • 11 Abbaye de Trizay (Trizay) (towards Rochefort 30 km northwest). Trizay abbey in the Arnoult Valley is on the Way of St. James. The 11th century priory has a polygonal plan, a richly decorated choir, and the refectory has murals of the symbols of evengelists. It's also home to a contemporary art center.
  • 12 Royan (30 km west). A resort at the Atlantic coast, that in the 19th century was frequented by the upper class of Bordeaux and Paris and even some international stars. Bombed to pieces in WWII, it was rebuilt as a beach resort for everyone, and in addition to beaches it features interesting 1950s architecture. Royan (Q81909) on Wikidata Royan on Wikipedia
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