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Get away... Shop with a stopover for city buzz in Poitiers

Get away... Shop with a stopover for city buzz in Poitiers

When you feel a need to get away from it all, or simply feel like a change of scenery, there are plenty of options even in winter. Take a trip to Poitiers out-of-season to recharge your batteries... 

short-break-poitiers

Why Poitiers?

Poitiers was recently voted by L’Express magazine as the best medium-sized place to live where life is good, and – perhaps bizarrely – ‘normal’. Anyone who discovers the city (designated a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire in 1985) knows it’s far from normal, and with 2,000 years of history, that’s hardly surprising. See it sparkle around Christmas and the New Year.

What can you do?

Seasonal shopping:

POITIERS MARKETS

Notre Dame - This indoor market situated next to the Eglise Notre-Dame-la-Grande opens Tues-Sat, from 6am to 1pm. Inside there’s local produce, delis and freshly-prepared hot food. There’s also an outdoor market on Tues, Thur and Sat mornings, plus a brocante market every Fri morning.

Les Couronneries - Wed and Sun (brocante), this big, bustling market is full of stallholders from 6am to 2pm on the Place de Provence.

BOUTIQUES

Ciergerie Guédon, 113 Grand Rue, candle maker: The ‘Au Flambeau d’Argent’ candle-making workshop is part of the city’s craft heritage. Installed here in 1735, it’s run today by François Guédon, one of the last wax chandlers in France. Open Tues to Fri 9.30am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 7pm, Sat 10 am to 12.30 pm. Closed Sat afternoon and Mon.

François Freres, 137, Grand Rue: François Frères have designed, sold and restored umbrellas here for four generations. Open Tues to Sat 10am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 7pm
La Maison de Papier, 31, bis rue de la Cathédrale: Here you’ll find a choice of +190 handmade papers for crafts, lampshades and gifts. Open Tues, Thur and Fri 11am - 6pm; Wed & Sat 2pm - 6pm.

Rannou Métivier, 30, rue des Cordeliers: (shops also in Gençay and Auchan Poitiers Sud shopping centre). The culmination of +150 years of offering the finest French chocolates and making traditional Montmorillon macarons. Open Tues to Sat 10am - 12-30pm and 2-30pm - 7pm.

The best shopping streets lie between the Hotel de Ville and the Eglise Notre-Dame-la-Grande. They’re completely pedestrianised, so you can stroll and browse to your heart’s content. The Cordeliers shopping mall has over 40 shops on 2 levels, with a coffee shop overlooking the streets below.

Get to know it on foot

‘Poitiers pas à pas’ (Poitiers on Foot) circuits available from the Tourist Office, guide you to such sights as the Eglise Notre-Dame-la-Grande, Baptistère Saint-Jean (the oldest Christian building in France, with parts dating from the 4th Century) and the historic narrow streets surrounding the huge Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, one of the finest French Gothic cathedrals. Don’t miss seeing the celebrated facade of the Eglise Notre-Dame-la-Grande ablaze with projected medieval colour each evening at 6pm from 7 December to 7 January.

Discover a Roman portal tucked away in rue Bourcani, a brief stroll from Place Maréchal Leclerc, lie the sole surviving (above-ground) vestiges of the 1st-Century Amphithéâtre de Poitiers, once one of the greatest Roman structures in Aquitaine. Most people miss it, but an interpretation panel gives some idea of how it would all have looked.

Visit the Musée Saint Croix, 3 bis, rue Jean Jaurès. The collections revealing Poitou in art and history. Closed Mondays and public holidays.

Parc de Blossac is located near the heart of the city. Ideal for a winter stroll with 9Ha of gardens and avenues. From 7 December to 6 January, the Parc will host a funfair with a big wheel and free carriage rides into the town centre.

Enjoy a coffee break (or a bistrot)

La Serrurerie, 28, rue des Grandes Ecoles; bar and bistro with art exhibitions. Open for lunch 12 noon to 2-30pm, dinner 7pm to 10-30pm, though open all day for drinks, and convenient for shoppers. www.laserrurerie.com

Get around on two wheels

Cap sur le Vélo bike hire, Pôle d’échanges multimodal, Espace Toumaï, 52, bd du Grand Cerf.
Open Mon to Fri: 8.30am to noon and from 1.15pm to 5.30pm. Electric bikes also available. You’ll need identification and proof of address. Deposit payable.

Originally published in Living Poitou-Charentes December 2011  © All Rights Reserved