Niort travel guide

Cities and towns

About Niort

Niort in Poitou-Charentes is an important modern finance centre with a rich historical past as a trading port and the second largest donjon (keep) in France.

During the 12th and 13th centuries Niort was a wealthy port town with strong trade along the river and from the the sea in salt, wine, cereals and skins. Leather tanning became big business in the town and chamois leather and glove-making employed thousands here in the 19th century.In the 12th century Henry II, or his son Richard the Lionheart, began the construction of a huge château on the river. Finished in the 15th century, the château is now largely destroyed - all that is left is the immense keep, the Donjon de Niort, sometimes called the Château de Niort.One of the most important and most impressive examples of medieval military architecture in France, it now houses an archaeological museum and other temporary exhibitions as well as having rooms decorated in the regional Poitevin style. The town has some stunning religious architecture, most notably the 11th century church of St André that was rebuilt in the 19th century in the Gothic Revival style and has twin spiers that tower 70m high and the church of Notre Dame, a Gothic church with some Renaissance features whose bell tower reaches up 75m high into the skyline.

The Musée Bernard d'Agesci holds 3 different museums inside the former girls' school - a fine arts museum, a natural history museum and a museum dedicated to the school and the history of its teaching practices. Nearby you'll find the Place de la Bréche, the largest square in the west of France, which is home to the Tourist Office and a 4 acre garden with underground carpark. Across the town you'll discover several different weekly and monthly traditional markets and pass the bronze dragons that are synonomous with the town from local legends. Inside the Halles de Niort, an 18th century Baltard style building of cast iron, glass and steel is a large indoor market of over 140 stalls on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays that is also open for breakfast. Explore the narrow backstreets and be welcomed by decadent chocolateries, intriguing artisans stores, and specialist food shops selling terroir produce. Delicacies not to be missed are the fine and delicate Echiré butter, the mojette (or mogette) - white beans that are grown in the nearby marshes, and angelica, a plant known for centuries for its medicinal properties and used in sweets, jams and liquers. In particular, Niort is famous for serving candied angelica in its sweet shops.

Just outside of Niort are the marshes of Marais Poitevin, a network of waterways that is full of pretty villages, and rich in flora and fauna. This nature park can be explored as the villagers have travelled for centuries - by flat-bottom boat - or why not go hiking, cycling or horseriding through this charming area? There are over 100 miles of cycle routes and trails winding their way though the hills and valleys and uncovering châteaux and landscapes that you will remember after you leave! The Château Mursay, whose ruined garden is an historical monument, and the Château Couldray-Salbart, a 13th century castle said to have been built in 3 nights by the fairy Melusine, are both just 20 minutes away

Why visit Niort?

  • Donjon de Niort
  • The Architecture
  • Food and Drink
  • The Countryside 

Overview

  • Country: France
  • Region: Poitou-Charentes
  • Department: Deaux-Sèvres
  • Population: 60,500
  • Coordinates: 46.32678,-0.464172

Coordinates shown are based on the WGS84 system, please check driving directions before departing.

Nearby attractions

The second largest keep in France, the Donjon de Niort is an important medieval monument. With its walls 3.5m thick and twin towers that rise 28m high, the keep is an imposing sight in the heart of the city.

Housed in a former girl's school, the multi-disciplinary Musée Bernard d'Agesci has 3 very different collections - a fine arts collection, a natural history collection and a collection dedicated to the study of the school...

An ideal way to see the beautiful green marshes & waterways of the Marais-Poitevin or Green Venice is to take a one or 2-hour guided tour in a punt or the new 'Grande Promenade' electric punt (an hour and a half tour)....

This impressive château has some interesting architectural features and some rare collections of weapons, keys, paintings and woodwork from the Château de Chambord. The residence is fully furnished with 17th & 18th century...

Places to visit nearby

La Rochelle in Poitou-Charentes is a city by the sea known for its history in trade and fishing and is joined to the charming Île de Ré by a road bridge.

Saintes in Poitou-Charentes is the second largest city in Charente-Maritime and has an historical heritage dating back to Gallo-Roman times with some excellent ruins of Roman baths and an amphitheatre.

Poitiers in Poitou-Charentes is a beautiful city built on a rocky promontory that is full of Romanesque heritage and over 80 listed monuments.

Nearby events

Hotmilk Film Makers, short film festival

New talents in short format.In 2013, the Hotmilk Film Makers Festival was launched in Cholet with...