Situated on a bend in the Sèvre Niortaise, Niort is considered the French capital of insurance and banking. Its historic quarter is dominated by a medieval fortress dating from the years of Eleanor of Aquitaine while the picturesque canals of the Venise Verte (“Green Venice”) lie to the west.
Things to do in Niort
Sweeping views across the town are on offer from the Donjon de Niort, a medieval castle that comprises two towers linked by a slate-topped building. This is all that remains of the garrison fortress established by King Henry II in the 15th century. Browse the Bronze Age and Gallo-Roman artefacts on display in the ground-floor archaeological museum and explore the Poitevin-inspired room where a nationally important collection of traditional costumes is exhibited.
One of Niort’s most famous sons was the 18th-century painter, Bernard d’Agesci, whose life and work are celebrated within a former girls’ school. In addition to paintings and sculptures by the artist, the Musée Bernard d’Agesci exhibits decorative arts from the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods and a natural history collection showcasing the local fauna and geology.
A short drive north of Niort will take you to the Château du Coudray-Salbart, a ruined castle notable for its remarkable 13th-century architecture. Wander through its vaulted rooms while learning about the site’s restoration or coincide your visit with one of the medieval-inspired events that regularly take place here.
Getting around Niort
Niort is around a one-hour drive from La Rochelle and La Rochelle – Île de Ré Airport, which has flights to destinations across Europe. Regular trains connect from Paris to the Niort railway station and buses travel throughout the town. The centre of Niort is compact enough to explore on foot.