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Discovery Trips

3 ideas for one-day visits starting from Niort...

... so that you can discover and make the most of the natural wealth and the heritage of our area.

1. Niort, Over eight centuries of history – on foot

Niort is a small sized town which is worth a visit. From the twin keeps to the 21st century Espace Niortais, through the renaissance style « Pilory », the town inside the walls offers an eclectic historical and architectural heritage in a pocket handkerchief.
Some points of interests on your way :

An outstanding vestige of the castle of Niort. One of the largest Romanesque keeps of France. Museum of the history of Niort and its immediate surrounding area. Temporary exhibitions. Panoramic view over the city and the Marais Poitevin.

The town hall of Niort before the Revolution. Its is today a « Space for Visual Arts » (gallery for temporary exhibitions).

  • Notre-Dame Church (XVth-XVIth centuries)

Flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance style. The tallest monument of the Deux Sèvres. Must see : the North doorway, the large stained glass window portraying the Tree of Jesse, the Renaissance pulpit and the great organ (classified).

An historical monument. A « cathedral » of wrought iron, glass and steel in Baltard style. 170 stall holders and local producers are there every day of the year except on Mondays.

  • Town Hall (1897-1901)

A smaller version of Paris' Town Hall. Neo-Renaissance style. Must see : monumental staircase, council chambers, state room and wedding hall.

  • L’Espace Niortais (1997-2001)

The town's administrative center with an area of 6000 m2. An alliance of noble building materials : oak and local limestone. Must See : two monumental contemporary sculptures on the theme of « War and Peace, the passing of a century».

  • The dragons of Niort (1992)

Four bronze dragons by the artist and architect Hondelatte illustrate the fight between the terrible beast and the soldier Jacques Allonneau (local legend from the XVIIth century).

A 3-in-1 museum: Fine-Arts, Natural History and School and Teaching Methods museum. The fourth most important painting restoration workshop in France.

2. The Poitevin Marshes, « Great Site of France » - by bike

The largest wet zone of western France, this maze of waterways, a cathedral of greenery, reveals a myriad of sites to visit in order to discover this natural environment forged by man's hand.
Points of interests :

Meander along the banks of the river Sèvre Niortaise, from Niort to Magné (footbridges, locks, mills, quays, bridges and harbour). Enjoy the Mediterranean micro-climate which is due to the amount of sunshine and the hills that protect Niort from the North. The houses are like those at the seaside.

Espace Culturel du Four Pontet (The Pontet Oven Cultural center) (the town's last pottery which was modernised by Mr Pontet and has been an exhibition center since 1998). Metal swing bridge from 1901. Renaissance style Saint Catherine's Church, Saint Macrine's fountain (1 of 3 « miraculous springs » - the only one still existing- a stopping point on the climb towards the church of the patron saint of the boatsmen of the marshes. The church is situated at the top of the highest hill in Magné.

Maison du Marais Poitevin : « Maraiscope » (audio-visual show telling the story of the marshes), an exhibition devoted to the eel (migration and fishing techniques which are an emblem of the marshes), Boat exhibition (construction techniques and use of a “batai” - a big flat boat that was used for transporting the cattle from one side of the canal to the other) and the reconstitution of a traditional marsh home's inside from the end of the XIXth century. Saint Trinité church dating from the XIth and XVth centuries. Landing stages by the quay. Conserverie des Saveurs du Marais (preserve factory) in the old dairy.

 

3. The castles along the banks of the river Sèvre - by car

The Sèvre Niortaise river meanders interminably like an eel. Its green valley with shaded banks dominated by wooded hills, is punctuated by a string of castles from different periods.
Points of interest :

The building of the keep is attributed to Henri II Plantagenet, king of England and husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who gave him the county of Poitou in her dowry. The keep is a witness to the defensive military architecture of the late XIIth century. (A quadrangle, massive square towers flanked at the corners by turrets and semi-circular buttresses on each side. There are few narrow openings).

  • Coudray-Salbart : one of the largest military fortresses in Europe, dating from the beginning of the XIIIth century.

A large quadrilateral with 6 high towers built by the Larchevêque family, the Lords of Parthenay, partisans of the king of England, John Lackland, to watch over the river Sèvre Niortaise and the southern border of the Gâtine, and to be used as a base for military expeditions.

A decorative chateau dating from the XVIth -XVIIth century built by Agrippa d’Aubigné, the grandfather of the Marchioness of Maintenon, a great Baroque poet and equerry of the future king Henri IV. This garden of ruins is today protected.

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