Château d'Oiron dans les Deux-Sèvres

Deux-Sèvres heritage treasures

Welcome to the north of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, sitting proudly between the Marais Poitevin and the first castles of the Loire. An invitation to discover small villages and towns showcasing their premium-quality, authentic architectural heritage acknowledged through the French “Petite Cité de Caractère” (“Villages and Small Towns of Character”) label. Ready for a tour?

Airvault

Airvault, a historic medieval village, developed around one of the finest abbatial churches in Poitou. The village has rich religious and medieval heritage as well as remarkable 19th-century industrial heritage.

Must sees : Saint-Pierre abbatial church, the underground fountain (contact Airvault Tourist Office which will lend you the key) and the Jacques Guidez Museum.

Arçais

This village, set at the very heart of the “marais mouillé” (wet marsh), is surrounded by a labyrinth of trenches, “conches”, the Vendée name for narrow canals, gullies and wide canals which give it a very special “Green Venice” charm.

Must sees : The site of the Bourdettes, between Arçais and Damvix, features a canal lock (1862-1872) and a former cable-operated lift bridge.

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For more ideas of activities to enjoy in the Marais Poitevin, see our article “5 ways to explore the Marais Poitevin”

Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet

This village, located on the banks of the Thouet River, is incredibly-enchanting with its half-timbered houses established along the main thoroughfare leading to the castle.

Take time out and discover Thouet Valley countryside along the enjoyable hiking and cycling trails.

Must sees: the Church of Notre Dame and the castle with its French formal gardens (on request).
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Coulon

Coulon, nestling at the heart of the Marais Poitevin Regional Natural Park, enjoys a strategic position between Niort and the ocean. During your tour, stop off and visit the Holy Trinity Church, then head off to enjoy the must-do activity of the marshes: sailing along the canals in a boat!

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Insider favourite: for a deliciously-gourmet interlude, head over to Le Central Restaurant: family-run, trendy and country-style cuisine, wonderful patio: the must-not-miss place to eat to discover the specialities of the region.

La mothe-saint-héray

Discover mills, bridges, wash houses, illustrating the omnipresence of water to perfection. While you stroll along, the town reveals ever-so charming aspects of the past and hosts an Orangery with French formal gardens, remains of the medieval castle.

Hiking and cycling trails offer one-of-a-kind opportunities to observe the incredible fauna and flora of the Sèvre Niortaise River. Also worth visiting, the Moulin de l'Abbé and Saint Héray Church.

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Celles-sur-belle

At the centre of the “Pays Mellois” (Melle country), the town of Celles-sur-Belle has extremely well-preserved religious heritage the Royal Abbey of Notre-Dame founded in the 17th century, as well as Saint Hilaire Church and its Romanesque vestiges.

This town also boasts rich natural heritage: the Belle Valley, the Abbey’s French formal gardens, etc.

Must sees: the Royal Abbey of Notre-Dame’s museographic site and the Vintage Motorbike area.

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Insider favourite: right next door to the Abbey, if you would like to enjoy a meal or an overnight stay, we recommend the Hostellerie de l’Abbaye: perfect hospitality, modern, stylish décor as well as a creative, talented chef. Elegant, friendly atmosphere, perfect after a day of visits.

Melle

Situated on the Santiago de Compostela route, 30 kilometres south-east of Niort, Melle invites to discover a rich historic and religious heritage, including Saint Hilaire Church, a historic monument, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, as one of the stop-over points of the Santiago de Compostela route in France.

The town also places special emphasis on contemporary artistic creation through its Contemporary Art Biennial.

Must sees: the Frankish Kings’ Silver Mines, the Triade Romane (the trio of Romanesque churches), the Discovery Trail Arboretum , the Monet and Goyon Motorcycle Museum.

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Mauleon

Mauléon, a medieval town between Bressuire and Cholet, has well-preserved traces of its fortifications. During the “Wars of Vendée”, the town was even the capital of the area, scene of bloody battles between Deux-Sèvres, Anjou and Vendée.
Must sees: the Romanesque Church of St Jouin, Ouin Valley for its panoramic views over the town and the history museum.

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Oiron

Oiron, a wine-producing village set in the “pays Thouarsais” (Thouars country), 13 km west of Thouars, is famous for its prestigious castle - gateway to the famous Loire castles - built between the 16th and 17th centuries. This castle hosts a contemporary art collection inspired by the cabinet of curiosities theme. Its Renaissance gallery offers one of the most exquisite examples of mural paintings created during the 16th century.

Must sees: the Château d'Oiron and the 16th- and 18th-century collegiate church which dominates the village.

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Enjoy time out with your family and discover the “Petites Cités de Caractère” (“Villages and Small Towns of Character”) of Melle, Celles-sur-Belle and La Mothe-Saint-Heray with Terra Aventura, a free treasure hunt. Kids (and adults alike!) will be over the moon!

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