Poitiers, sitting on a hilltop overlooking two rivers, is a charming country town whose long and sometimes influential history – as the seat of the dukes of Aquitaine, for instance – is discernible in the winding lines of the streets and the breadth of architectural fashions represented in its buildings. Its pedestrian precincts and wonderful central gardens make for comfortable sightseeing, while the large student population ensures a lively atmosphere in the restaurants and pavement cafés.

The town is home to one of the most famous churches in France, Notre-Dame-la-Grande, built in the twelfth-century during the reign of Eleanor. The most exceptional thing about the church is the west front. The facade is not conventionally beautiful, squat and loaded as it is with detail to a degree that the modern eye could regard as fussy. And yet it’s this detail which is enthralling, ranging from the domestic to the disturbingly anarchic. Such elaborate sculpted facades – and domes like pine cones on turret and belfry – are the hallmarks of the Poitou brand of Romanesque. Inside the church, the original Romanesque frescoes are gone, except in the apse vault above the choir, and the crypt. The columns and vaults were repainted by Joly-Leterme in 1851.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Ebikes: are they worth the hype?

Ebikes: are they worth the hype?

Though they may be sniffed at by "real" cylists, e-bikes are opening up serious mountain routes to the more casual pedaller. Andy Turner dons some lycra to find…

27 Oct 2017 • Andy Turner local_activity Special feature
20 seriously weird places around the world

20 seriously weird places around the world

The world is a weird (and wonderful) place. And from a rose-coloured lake to a Japanese island ruled by cats, we've got twenty pictures to prove it. 1. Spotted…

26 Jul 2017 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Forget about the sleazy tourist traps in Pigalle, there's only one place to see burlesque in Paris: the Crazy Horse, opened in 1951. Eleanor Aldridge spent the …

25 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right