What to do in Val de Saintonge and Saintes?

Saintes
What to do in Val de  ...

Are you planning a vacation in the Val de Saintonge and wondering what to do around Saintes? Between the Boutonne valley and that of the Charente, the Val de Saintonge has no shortage of tourist attractions to seduce you. This nature destination offers a countryside atmosphere, without being too far from the coast. Its hilly landscapes, crisscrossed by the Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, are very popular with hikers and cyclists. The banks of the Charente and the Boutonne offer numerous aquatic activities. The Gallo-Roman heritage around Saintes and the medieval heritage throughout the Val de Saintonge have something to seduce lovers of old stones. We take you on a journey to the heart of history, in the Saintonge countryside.


Opening photo: The Quays of Saintonge in Saintes. Photo: Lotharingia | Adobestock

Visit Saintes, the capital of Saintonge

In Saintes, you travel through its 2000 years of history! Further on, we know that the Santons laid the first stones there, but they left only few vestiges. Roman constructions, on the other hand, have survived the centuries until today. You can admire the foundations of the Thermes de Saint-Saloine or the ancient gateway to the city, the Arch of Germanicus. The most grandiose symbol of this fabulous history is its Gallo-Roman amphitheater. Of course, it has been affected by time, but its ruins still bear witness to its past magnitude. Consult the practical information for visiting the amphitheater of Mediolanum Santonum.


Saintes
An aerial view of Saintes. Photo © Altitudedrone | Adobestock


If its Gallo-Roman period is its golden age, Saintes is a major stopover for pilgrimages to Compostela. The Capital of Saintonge maintained a certain prestige, especially intellectual and religious, throughout the Middle Ages. This " city of art and history " thus has a beautiful medieval heritage. Religious monuments have a good place there: the Saint-Pierre cathedral, the ladies' abbey, the Saint-Eutrope basilica, the Jacobins convent and many churches. At the Museum of Échevinage, admire beautiful works from the 15th to 20th century. A few mansions still bear witness to past nobility.

In the 18th century, a new urban plan restores life to the town of Saintes. Followed by a large rail yard in the 19th century and a strong expansion of the city in the 20th century. The Dupuy Mestreau Museum retraces the life of this modern era.

Gallo-Roman amphitheater
The magnificent Gallo-Roman amphitheater of Saintes. Photo © J. Ossorio-Castillo | Adobestock

Discover the most beautiful villages of Saintonge

La Saintonge has been occupied since the Gallo-Roman period. Each of its villages or towns is marked by this very long history... To follow this evolution over time, we reveal our selection of the most beautiful villages of Saintonge and their main point of interest:

  • Saintes and its Gallo-Roman sites
  • Saint Jean d'Angely and its royal abbey of the 9th century
  • Aulnay de Saintonge for its Saint-Pierre-d'Aulnay church, a Romanesque building from the 12th century
  • Taillebourg and Castle Crazannes 14th century
  • Dampierre-sur-Boutonne and its castle of the 15th century
  • The Château de la Roche Courbon and its French gardens of the 17th century
  • Saint-Savinien-sur-Charente and its iconic barges river trade of the 18th and 19th centuries


Château de la Roche Courbon
The superb Château de la Roche Courbon and its gardens. Photo © Picturereflex-Adobestock

Take a stroll in Saintonge, on foot or by bike

The Boutonne valley is classified as a “Natura 2000 site”. It is a preserved environment that it is very pleasant to explore in all seasons. The site of the tourist office "Destination Vals de Saintonge" offers you ideas for very detailed hiking tours.

The paths of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle cross the Vals de Saintonge on the Voie de Tours, from Aulnay-de-Saintonge to Saintes. There you will find several entry points. The route passes near Saint-Jean-d'Angély. You follow the GR655. Here is practical information on the GR-infos site.

For cyclists, we advise you to join the Flow bike (fr). It is a new road that goes from the Dordogne to the Atlantic Ocean. In the Saintonge sector, you take it from Saintes to Saint-Savinien. The route is approximately 25 km long and runs along the Charente.

Enjoy the pleasures of water in a leisure park

Want to cool off and have fun with the family? The Miniature Port of Saint-Savinien will delight young and old alike. Small-scale boats of all kinds allow you to test your navigation skills and promise you great fun with the family. In summer, you can also have a blast on inflatables and rides.

If you fancy a walk on the water, the Charente is dotted with nautical bases:

  • In Saint-Savinien where Agence les Canotiers rents you electric boats.
  • On the nautical base of Port-d'Envaux, you can try your hand at canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding or electric boat.
  • There is also a canoe club in Dompierre-sur-Charente.

To change the setting, try a walk on the Boutonne, from the nautical base of Saint-Jean-d'Angély, on the Bernouët lake.

If you prefer a more urban aquatic area, the Atlantys Aquatic Center welcomes you in Saint-Jean-d'Angély. There are many pools to satisfy all your desires and all the members of the family: swimming lane against the current, diving pool, paddling pool for children, relaxation area with bubble bench. You also have access to a relaxation area with jacuzzi, hammam and sauna.


Miniature port of Saint-Savinien

The super miniature port of Saint-Savinien, which will delight the whole family. Photo © Le Port Miniature de Saint-Savinien

Go back in time, in the castles of Saintonge

The Château Fort de Saint-Jean-d'Angle is a leisure park with, as a backdrop, the true and yet incredible story of the Lusignan family. A kingdom of fairies and knights to discover with the family. On site, there is something for all ages: puzzles that take you through a huge park, a lively castle, trebuchet shooting demonstrations, ancient games, a medieval garden and a rose garden, a poultry yard with farm animals…

The Château de Crazannes is a beautiful Renaissance building, which inspired Charles Perrault for the residence of the “Puss in Boots. It must be said that this castle looks like a fairy tale. The interiors are accessible by guided tour. Outside, you can visit the chapel, the keep, the dovecote and a museum. Its flower gardens are very pleasant and allow you to admire the castle from all angles.

The Château de la Roche Courbon is the largest castle in Charente Maritime. And for good reason, the domain includes the old medieval fortress and has been enlarged with a Renaissance-style residence. During the guided tour, you will discover its period furniture, its painted ceilings, its ceremonial staircase… As the site has been occupied for a very long time, it has a prehistoric museum. The youngest will appreciate the games of yesteryear, the workshops and the activities. Its listed gardens are also remarkable and offer various universes.


Fortified Castle of Saint-Jean-d'Angle

The Château Fort de Saint-Jean-Angle offers entertainment for the whole family in the summer season. Photo © The Fortified Castle of Saint-Jean-d'Angle

Satisfy your curiosity in tourist sites

Near Saintes, the Paléosite de Saint-Cézaire is one of the must-sees. It is recognized as the first interpretation center in Europe. These facilities are at the cutting edge of technology. Inside, you will find interactive projection rooms, virtual reality, or with life-size reenactments of prehistoric animals. The rest of the visit takes place in a shaded natural site with reconstructed and animated scenes, workshops to experiment with the techniques of the time...

If you prefer an outdoor site only, go to the Bambouseraie Joan Brisson in Matha, near Saint-Jean-d'Angély. This exotic garden presents different species of bamboo, but also many other rare plants and original flowers. It is a revitalizing, colorful and refreshing haven of peace.


Paléosite

The Paleosite is the ideal place to learn more about our ancestors and all the hominids. Photo © Paléosite de Saint-Cézaire


We hope to have inspired you with lots of ideas for exploring the Val de Saintonge, during your next vacation in Charente-Maritime.

Did you like our article? Find others on our Blog "Do it your way" of the Guide Charente Maritime. Subscribe to the Facebook page of the Guide de la Charente Maritime and also find us on Instagram @guidecharentemaritime.


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