What character !
10 SMALL TOWNS OF CHARACTER
Nestled in the heart of the Thouet Valley, Airvault was built around the Abbaye des Augustins. Dominating the market town, the Vieux Château (old castle) watches over this medieval town which developed in the 19th century. Wander around its picturesque narrow streets and enjoy the preserved heritage punctuated with numerous curiosities: market buildings, underground fountain, cylinder organ...
The starting point of the eastern part (called mouillée, meaning wet) of the Marais Poitevin, 15 minutes from Niort and 30 from La Rochelle beaches, Arçais is the perfect symbiosis of several elements of choice: narrow canals, well-preserved conches, the soft green of water lentils rippling with the pure blue of the punts, a picturesque architecture.
Celles-sur-Belle is a charming town, bestowed with a rich architectural heritage and embellished by the River Belle which is inviting for long walks along its banks. Lovers of heritage will fall for the charms of its famous abbey. And to complete your visit, check out Verrines-sous-Celles to discover a richly-sculpted Romanesque church there.
The town gets its name from the River Boutonne whose source is located right in the centre, under the washhouse of the Rue de la Fontaine. Chef-Boutonne is perfect for daydreaming; take time to immerse yourself in the heritage, to imagine the washerwomen at work... Behold the Château de Javarzay while comfortably seated on the lakeshore and above all, visit the two churches – Saint-Chartier, a listed historic building, and Lussay which towers over the old town.
In the heart of the Green Venice, the reputation of Coulon and its jetties is well known. If it’s possible to escape our noisy lives for a few hours, let’s follow the River Sevre from Niort to Coulon and stopover in La Roussille. The serenity of the really typical pollard trees and the unspoilt character of this towpath immerses us little by little in the falsely inert world of the Marais.
This charming town takes pride in its orangery. Built by Richelieu’s master mason, and later enhanced with a canal and a French formal garden, it is regarded as a benchmark in art. La Mothe-Saint-Héray stretches for 3 km along the banks of the Sèvre Niortaise ; its lovely trails invite you to peacefully observe nature and to discover watermills, bridges or other hidden washhouses.
Built on a rocky spur, Mauléon stunningly overhangs the Ouin Valley. Its castle offers an exceptional panoramic view of the town’s roofs and the surrounding bocage (a terrain of mixed woodland and pasture). Straight out of an ancient legend, Mauléon (which comes from “méchant lion” meaning wicked lion) retains a typically medieval urban structure. At the foot of the ramparts, let yourself succumb to the charm of the Saint-Jouin district, the historic heart of the town.
Capital of Protestant Mellois, Melle has successfully combined its appealing heritage and recent botanical developments. The Baltard market buildings, the three remarkable Romanesque churches or even the Protestant temple blend perfectly with the exceptional arboretum (Arboretum du Chemin de la Découverte) composed of 1,800 species of trees and shrubs. Inhale the innumerable fragrances as you walk.
Audacity was needed to make this typically Renaissance castle a place of exhibition for contemporary art. However preposterous, farcical and astonishing they are, the works have been adopted by the murals and sculpted panels which make up the décor. Note: the Château d’Oiron was owned by the Marquise de Montespan, Louix XIV’s favourite.
While strolling through Saint-Loup-Lamairé you’ll discover traditional half-timbered houses, narrow streets full of flowers, hidden dry stone nooks... The setting is ideal for a bucolic tale, it is full of charm and the town boasts a treasure – one of Poitou’s most beautiful castles, the one which inspired Charles Perrault to write the story of Puss in Boots.
Plan your trip
Our suggestions for activities, visits, sites of interest to discover the Small Towns of Character in Deux-Sèvres