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Saintes is one of those classic French towns that has loads to offer visitors, and yet it’s hardly known, even to the French.

In the department of Charente-Maritime, close to Cognac, Saintes was once an important Roman stronghold. To this day their legacy can be seen as Saintes has one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in France.

What to see and do in Saintes

Don’t miss the Roman amphitheatre, it is an astonishing sight. Right in the middle of a housing estate, it has stone seats, tunnels you can enter and an atmosphere that really helps you imagine how it once was.

Alongside the river Charente which runs through the town, you can’t fail to spot the enormous Arch of Germanicus. From the café next to it, you’ll have a perfect spot for relaxing and enjoying the view of this vast Roman gateway.

Saintes also has a monumental ancient abbey, founded in the 11th century, it’s now a major music venue. It’s a great place to visit with audio tour guides available. There’s also an extraordinary carousel in the grounds. It looks like a space ship but it’s actually a mobile orchestra pit and the riders become the musicians. You can play the state of the art musical instruments as you ride. I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it in France, possibly in the world!

There are several museums, a really fabulous market, and a lovely old part of Saintes with cobbled streets and pretty little boutiques. Don’t miss the Church of Saint-Eutrope with its Romanesque crypt. Hardly touched for almost 1000 years it is wonderfully tranquil and ancient.

Discover the city by bike, there’s a Velodie (bike station) by the train station; and the tourist office, which is close to the Arch of Germanicus, has details of bike hire shops in the town.

What to see close by

La Rochelle is around an hour away by car. With its historic port, fabulous restaurants and beaches – it’s a great day out.

Head in the other direction to Cognac and enjoy the most glorious countryside, river rides and of course the local tipple!

Find more details of things to do in Saintes and the local area: Tourist Office: visit-saintes.com; Tourist Office Infininement-Charentes.com; https://www.atlantic-cognac.com/

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