Poitou-Charentes travel guide

Everything you should know before planning a holiday in Poitou-Charentes, at a glance.

When go, the best sights and attractions, food and drinks not to miss.
And the best boutique hotels in Poitou-Charentes bookable online, just a click away.  

Located in western central France, the region of Poitou-Charentes is a varied one. In the west, along the coast, the beaches of Charente-Maritime are popular with French vacationers. Off the beaches, there are historic towns, island cruises and fresh seafood. Inland, the region is characterised by vineyards, forests and winding river valleys. In the department of Deux-Sèvres, the landscape is marked by rambling country lanes and the marshes and canals of the Marais Poitevin. 


When to travel to Poitou-Charentes

Poitou-Charentes has a sunny climate, with long, warm summers and clear autumns. It is the warmest and sunniest part of the Atlantic coast, with its coastal areas receiving more sunshine than anywhere in France other than the Mediterranean region. Winter can be very chilly, particularly in the inland regions, which have a more typically continental climate. Early spring is still a little cool, making the best time for a holiday in Poitou-Charentes probably the late spring and early summer.


Climate


Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Average Temperature
°C 5 6 9 11 15 18 20 20 18 14 9 7
°F 41 43 47 52 59 65 68 67 64 57 48 44













Average Rainfall
mm 87 58 83 72 81 72 59 41 55 74 66 94
Days 11 11 12 14 12 14 19 19 18 16 15 13

Sights and attractions in Poitou-Charentes

One of the most famous exports of the region is Cognac, the famous brandy. Equally refined is the historic town itself, with half-timbered medieval buildings lining its narrow streets and numerous warehouses full of the town's most famous product. The town is a pilgrimage destination for those who appreciate this fine liquor, and one of the major draw for a holiday in Poitou-Charente – together with its coastline.  

Other historic cities in the region include Poitiers, La Rochelle and Angoulême. Poitiers was once the seat of the dukes of Aquitaine, and was the home of the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, who would later be queen of England. Its most famous sight is Notre-Dame-la-Grande, a 12th century church with an exceptional carved facade. It's also home to the 4th-century Baptistry of St John, one of Europe's oldest Christian structures.

Angoulême is another medieval town, although more modern ramparts have replaced its medieval walls. It's famous for its paper-making industry, a heritage that is reflected today in its connection with comic books (bandes dessinées in French). Walls throughout the city are painted with bright comic murals, and the city hosts both a comic strip museum and an annual festival.

La Rochelle was Renaissance France's greatest port, and much of its historic limestone city centre is still preserved as a pedestrian zone. This city was once a haven for France's Protestants, until they were driven out in the 17th-century wars of religion. Today, the city is best known for its beautiful centre and waterfront, as well as miles of nearby beaches. Nearby, don't miss the 17th-century naval base of Rochefort.

More rustic beauty is on display on Île de Noirmoutier, a small island off the coast known for its beaches, woods and marshes. In a single day, visitors can visit a 12th-century castle, the Plage des Dames and a variety of different landscapes. Cycling is a relaxing way to get around this beautiful spot. 

One of the most unusual parts of the Poitou-Charentes region is the Marais Poitevin, a large area of wetlands which was once a large tidal marsh. Canals and footpaths crisscross the region, which is known as “La Venise Verte” (the Green Venice) because of the green duckweed which gives the canals their colour. Barge tours through the Marais Potevin reveal the hidden, tranquil beauty of this unique place.

Main cities of Poitou-Charentes: Poitiers, La Rochelle

Main attractions of Poitou-Charentes: Cognac, Ile-de-Ré, Noirmoutier, Angoulême, Marais Poitevin, Vaux-sur-Mer

Most beautiful villages of Poitou-Charentes: Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, Ars-en-Ré, La Flotte-en-Ré, Mornac-sur-Seudre, Talmont-sur-Gironde, Coulon, Angles-sur-l'Anglin

Food and drinks of Poitou-Charentes

Poitou-Charentes is most famous for Cognac, but there's much more to Poitevin food and drink than brandy, no matter how fine. 

  • Seafood
    The long coastline of the region is dotted with fishing towns and villages; shellfish are particularly popular. Mouclade is a local dish of mussels cooked in white wine, served on the half shell and covered with a simple cream sauce. Oysters from Marennes-Oleron are regarded as the best in France.
  • Pineau
    Pineau des Charentes, or simply Pineau for short, is an aperitif native to the Poitou-Charentes region. Despite its popularity in the area, Pineau is relatively little-known abroad or even in other regions of France. According to local legend, a 16th-century vintner accidentally mixed fermenting grape must and spirits to create this blend. The grapes that produce the juice traditionally come from the same maker as the cognac with which the juice is mixed.
  • Cognac
    The most famous product of Poitou-Charentes, Cognac is made according to strict requirements. It must be made from certain varieties of grape, distilled twice in copper stills and aged in barrels made of oak from certain areas of France. Although the minimum ageing period is two years, most Cognac is aged for much longer to improve its flavour. Most manufacturers blend different ages of eau-de-vie (the raw spirit) together to create consistency, but some don't, producing a purer but more variable flavour. Vineyards throughout the region sell their own cognac.

About

Size: 25,809 square kilometres 
Population: 1,722,000 people 
Capital city: Poitiers
Provinces: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres, Vienne
Landscape: Sandy beaches, historic towns, vineyards, river valleys, flowering meadows


Places to stay in Poitou-Charentes

Domaine du Châtelard

Domaine du Châtelard

Dirac, Domaine du Châtelard
Domaine du Breuil

Domaine du Breuil

Cognac, Domaine du Breuil
Le Pigeonnier du Perron

Le Pigeonnier du Perron

Availles-en-Châtellerault, Le Pigeonnier du Perron