Saintes is the 2nd largest city in the Charente Maritime region and if you’re wondering what there is to do in Saintes, then this is the blog post for you.
The historical city of Saintes is most well known for its medieval Gallo-Roman heritage. It’s the reason Saintes is a Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire (“Towns and Lands of Art and History”).
What to do In Saintes, France
Become a Gladiator at the Amphitheatre Gallo-Roman de Saintes
These amazing roman ruins were once a place of gladiator fights, animal hunts and even somewhere to witness lunchtime executions. Constructed around 40 – 50 AD this impressive monument could once accommodate between 12 and 15 thousand people.
Situated north of the Charente river and Saintes city center it’s easy to miss, but you really don’t want to.
This spot is perfect for a picnic in the sun, or even a relaxing afternoon read. There are entrance fees, but at 4euros per adult it’s not going to break the bank and it’s well worth it. With your entry you get an information sheet and unlimited time inside the amphitheatre, so make the most of it and bring a big hamper of lunch. If you have children and wondering what there is to in Saintes for kids, then this place is great for them to pretend to be gladiators for a while.
Stroll Along the Charente River
The Charente is a 237mile long river located within 4 departments of France; Haute-Vienne, Charente, Vienne and Charente-Maritime. While in the Charente Maritime, the river flows right through the centre of Saintes. The river bank in Saintes is a lovely location for a stroll. With seats scattered along the bank, you can sit and watch the river flow by or, if you prefer, you can hire an electric boat and cruise straight down it.
Snap-up at the Selfie Points
There are 10 selfie points around the city centre. Situated at all the main photographic monuments you’ll find this little green circle on the floor. Stand upon it, hold out your phone and snap up a shot. If you want to find them all, then head to the locations listed below:
- St. Eutropius Basilica
- the place of the Échevinage
- the end of the Alsace-Lorraine street
- the portal of St. Peter’s Cathedral
- the arc of Germanicus
- the public Garden
- Ladies’ Abbey
- the prairie of La Palu
- the esplanade of Bellevue
Don’t forget to upload your selfies to Instagram and tag the @saintestourisme account.
Read a Book in the Jardins
These bookcases are really popular throughout France and in many small villages have replaced phone boxes.
The gardens in Saintes are a great place to spend some time and take in some nature, so why not sit for a while and read one of the many books. Don’t worry about them all being french, we found some cracking English ones like Cheryl Cole’s biography (lol)!
The public gardens are filled with beautiful flowers, play parks for young children and skate parks for older children as well as a small bird aviary (although I did find this quite cruel and unnecessary).
Abbaye aux Dames
This old benedict abbaye in Saintes was originally the first convent in the region. Now it’s the musical hub of Saintes. The Abbaye has a rich history. The impressive building was once one of the most powerful women’s monasteries in the south-west of France and in the French revolution it became a prison and later became a military barracks. Take a walk around the stunning location and head inside for an audio tour and learn more about the remarkable history.
Lunch on a Boat
What better way to enjoy your meal. Take in the views and enjoy true luxury on board Le Batia. You can sit indoors or outdoors and even occasionally enjoy a lunchtime concert while you dine. The boat is air conditioned to ensure your comfort during the toasty Summer months and between July and August the boat is open 7 days a week. Check out their webpage to view the typically French, tasty menu.
Light a Candle at the Cathedral Saint Pierre de Saintes
The former roman catholic cathedral is most well known for its bell tower which dominates the Saintes skyline. The bell tower which is covered by a dome was supposed to have featured a tall stone spire which would have increased its height by around 38 meters. However, due to its historical past in the War of the religions, the Saintes cathedral was left damaged and unfinished. If you are into French architecture then definitely take a look inside and explore the wide range of styles.
Relive Christmas in a Cosy Coffee Shop
Now, I’m not sure if this little coffee shop had intentionally left up their Christmas decorations in February or if this is just how it looked but I loved it! Everything about it reminded me of a warm, cosy, German Christmas shack. Cladded in wood with a Christmas tree and some baubles out front this cafe is a great place to sit and watch the people walk by. And, the coffee’s and hot chocolates are delicious. You can also purchase a wide range of coffee beans inside, great French inspired gift for your loved ones.
Soak up the History
Across the city of Saintes you’ll find plenty of signs with the cities history written on. From the gallic tribes to the roman conquest right to its modern day, the city has a whole host of history to soak up. Head to the tourist office to start your sightseeing tour. From here you’ll discover plenty of monuments like the Germanic Arc, the Archaeological Museum of Saintes and the Abbaye aux Dames. Most of these historical monuments will come with information – but the best way to explore the cities history is via the Little tourist train. Le petit train touristique is around an hour long, runs everyday throughout June till September, and features commentary in both French and English, It’s one of the best things to do in Saintes.
Shops & Markets
Like most quaint French towns Saintes is full of small independent boutiques shops and daily markets. Every day (except Monday) there’s a large open air market. Often held at the Place Saint-Pierre, the markets location changes daily, so keep an eye out for signs to ensure you don’t miss out. During December the city also holds a month long Christmas market too, so if you’re planning a Winter trip – Don’t miss out.
Where to Stay to visit Saintes, France
Everyone knows Campsites are my favourite place to stay when visiting a new location in France. Whether you’re staying as a couple or a family there is no better atmosphere than a French campsite.
The Sequoia Parc Campsite is just 40 minutes from Saintes so it’s a great base to explore from. It’s also located perfectly for visiting other French towns like Cognac, la Rochelle and Royan. It’s also just 5km away from the beach at Marennes.
The campsite has an incredible waterpark (perfect for little and big kids), a Spa (perfect after a busy day sightseeing), a bar/restaurant and in Summer there’s also evening entertainment.
Situated in the city centre this hotel is perfect for solo travelers or couples who want to spend their visit in the center of it all. If you’re planning to visit the region for just a weekend then a hotel in the centre of town is one of the easiest ways to see it all.
With free wi-fi, satellite TV and air conditioning this hotel is well equipped for your requirements.
With one of the best rated locations in Saintes you can ensure the perfect base to explore from, especially if you don’t have a vehicle during your stay.
If you prefer to stay in a swanky hotel and don’t mind being just a few kilometers out of town then this hotel will definitely fit your expectations. Located just 2.3km away from Saintes city centre this luxurious hotel is set in a 7-hectare park with over 600 rosebushes and offers an indoor swimming pool.
There’s parking on-site, full WI-FI throughout and there are also several bars where guests can relax on the terrace overlooking the pond, by the fireplace or in the piano room.
If you want to relax during your trip, this is for you.