Saintes

One of the undisputed jewels of the Charente Valley, Saintes was founded by the Romans in the 1st century AD, becoming the Gallo-Roman capital of Aquitaine.

Today, this family-friendly town on the Charente has something for everyone. The magnificent Germanicus Arch is guaranteed to fire up young imaginations with its soaring twin arches and intricate carvings. Built by the Romans at the entrance to a bridge, it was moved to its present riverside location in the 19th century.

Then head across town to wander the remains of the spectacular Roman amphitheatre which once held 15,000 spectators, the entire population of Saintes. Set in a natural hollow, it still provides an atmospheric venue for summer concerts.

Saintes was an important religious centre in the Middle Ages but you don’t need spiritual beliefs to be impressed by the crypt beneath the priory church of Saint-Eutrope. Hewn from solid rock, it was a stopping place for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela.

Make friends with Poitou-Charente’s two native breeds of horse – the Trait Poitevin draught horse and the shaggy chocolate-brown Poitou donkey – at the Haras National, or National Stud. And be sure to relax on a guided river cruise - a delightful perspective on this fascinating town.

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