The number one attraction in the Poitou-Charentes is, of course, the theme park Futuroscope but after that come a huge variety of things to see and do – from animal parks and zoos to cognac tours, Roman remains, nature reserves, unusual and fascinating museums and historic sites that really tell of this area’s turbulent past. So, if you’re looking for a great day out, take your pick from the the list of the top 50 attractions in the Poitou-Charentes below”¦
1. Futuroscope: the theme park near Poitiers that’s a mix of thrills and education with rides and 3D and now 4D films
2. Aquarium: at La Rochelle in the Charente-Maritime, 12,000 marine animals, with 70 different aquaria within the complex, including a shark tank over three levels.
3. Zoo de la Palymre: near Royan in the Charente-Maritime, see 1,600 species, from flamingos, monkeys, cheetahs, hippos and elephants to snow leopards, pandas, penguins, polar bears, ostriches, pythons and sea lions. Among them are several endangered species, such as the White Rhinoceros, which the zoo is helping to save with breeding programme.
4. Les Antilles Water Park: an indoor aquatic centre in Jonzac in the Charente-Maritime that’s is one of the largest of its type in Europe, offering swimming plus slides, water toboggans, indoor beaches, beauty and fitness centres, tropical surroundings and great eating too.
5. L’Hermione: the replica, being built in Rochefort in the Charente-Maritime, of the famous ship that took the Marquis de La Fayette to America in 1780 to fight in the War of Independence against the British. This year – 2011 – is the last you can see it in dry dock before it takes to the sea.
6. Vallée des Singes: a 15 hectare monkey and ape park near Civray in the Vienne where many of the 350 primates, from gorillas to chimpanzees and squirrel monkeys, travel freely through the trees and along ropes strung between them, or are enclosed on large islands which allows them to move as they please.
9. Centre International de la Mer: at the Corderie Royale (the Royal ropeworks) in Rochefort in the Charente-Maritime, houses both permanent and temporary exhibitions on the sea and seafaring.
10. Cité de l’écrit: the town of Montmorillon in the Vienne, whose medieval centre is known as the City of Writing and Bookmaking or the Village of the Written Word. Here the town comes alive to the sights, sounds and smells of the book and writing trade.
11. Le Vigeant: in the Vienne, near L’Isle Jourdain, the racing circuit of 2.341 mile (3.768km) track that regularly hosts major race events.
12. Halles aux Vivres: museum in the Brouage citadel, not far from Rochefort in the Charente-Maritime, that covers the history of the Brouage citadel, as well as military history with temporary exhibitions about the area, its history and culture.
13. Les Jardins du Monde: the 7.5 hectare (18.5 acre) park in the Marais de Pousseau area of marshland near Royan in the Charente-Maritime, with plants as well as electric boats you can navigate through the waterways and a butterfly house.
14. The towers of La Rochelle: the three 14th and 15th century towers that dominate the port area of La Rochelle in the Charente-Maritime
15. Maison du Cognac: visit one of the big names cognac houses in and around the town of Cognac in the Charente
16. Planète des Crocodiles: at Civaux in the Vienne has a collection of around 200 reptiles from eight different species of crocodile and alligator.
17. The P’tit Train de Saint-Trojan-les-Bains: on Ile d’Oléron in the Charente-Maritime, it combines railway history, tourism and environmental awareness all in one little railway track.
18. Zoodyssée: a 25-hectare nature park zoo and animal park in the forest of Chizé in the Deux-Sèvres which has around 500 animals from 60 different European species.
19. Le Parc de l’estuaire: nature park in Europe’s largest estuary near Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, south of Royan in the Charente-Maritime.
20. Espace Mendès France: in Poitiers, a centre designed to popularise the worlds of science and technology with permanent and temporary exhibitions and a planetarium.
21. Paléosite: a 10-hectare park at Saint-Césaire in the Charente-Maritime, situated at the site of the 1979 archaeological dig and which now takes look at Neanderthal (and Homo Sapiens) life.
22. CIBDI: the comic strip museum in Angoulême in the Charente that’s the Louvre for comics, with a collection of more than 8,000 original drawings and over 110,000 magazines and comic books.
23. The Château des Énigmes: at Pons in the Charente-Maritime, a this Renaissance château where adults and children solve the final mystery of the château through a series of 21 games.
24. Château de la Gataudière: near the coast at Marennes in the Charente-Maritime, have fun on the dirt (scramble) and quad bike circuit, the paintball and laser tag area and a treetop adventure obstacle course.
25. The Abbey of Saint-Savin sur-Gartempe: in the town of the same name in the Vienne, the abbey famed for its 11th century paintings that have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
27. Angoulême museum: formerly the Musée des Beaux-Arts with collections of African and Oceanic art and the history of the Charente, from geological times, through prehistoric humans to the Middle Ages.
28. Underground church at Aubeterre-sur-Dronne: in the Charente village officially designated one of the most beautiful in France, this church was carved out of cliff face back in the 12th century.
29. Grottes de Regulus: in the town of Meschers-sur-Gironde in the Charente-maritime, walk through the seafront caves of the prehistoric troglodytes.
30. Le Marais aux Oiseaux: on Ile d’Oléron, a nature park with 60 species of wild, domesticated and caged birds.
31. The Natural History Museum: in La Rochelle in the Charente-Maritime has an eclectic collection of more than 10,000 objects from Africa, America and Oceania.
32. Archaeological museum: by the Roman Arc of Germanicus in Saintes in the Charente-Maritime the museum its collection includes grand statues, sculpture and mosaics to more common objects from Roman times.
33. Pont Transbordeur: the suspended car or ferry bridge near Rochefort in the Charente-Maritime that’s the last of its kind in France.
34. Pôle-Nature de Vitrezay: a nature reserve on the largest wild estuary in Europe, in the Charente-Maritime.
35. Abbaye aux Dames: in Saintes in the Charente-Maritime, a former Benedictine abbey.
36. L’île aux Serpents: at La Trimouille in the Vienne see more than 50 species of reptile. CURRENTLY CLOSED
37. Maritime Museum, la Rochelle: in the pretty Charente-Maritime town, its exhibits are housed on three ships, each of which is classed as an historic monument.
38. Site de Moussais la Bataille: where the 732 battle between Christian and Muslim armies is said to have taken place.
39. Ecomusée du Marais Salant: near Loix on Ile de Ré, covers the production of salt on the island.
40. Château de la Roche Courbon: in the Charente-Maritime, it’s known as Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
41. Lilleau des Niges nature reserve: on Ile de Ré in the Charente-Maritime where 310 species of bird have been seen.
42. Maison Pierre Loti: the flamboyant home of romance write Pierre Loti in Rochefort in the Charente-Maritime. CURENTLY CLOSED FOR RESTORATION
43. Maritime Museum, Rochefort: in this elegant Charente-Maritime town, see models boats as well as other naval memorabilia.
44. Musée des Commerces d’autrefois: in Rochefort in the Charente-Maritime, see 20 superb replicas of shops from the turn of the last century.
46. Château de la Rochefoucauld: an original 11th century square keep flanked by Renaissance towers, in la Rochefoucauld in the Charente.
47. Les Géants du Ciel: in the hillside old town of Chauvigny in the Deux-Sèvres, see displays of falconry.
48. Asinerie Nationale: in Dampierre sur Boutonne in the Charente-Maritime, the place to see the du baudet du Poitou donkey. For more information…
49. The Musée Napoléon: home of Napoleon I on Lîle d’Aix, restored, and a museum on Napoleonic history.
50. Maison du Marais Poitevin: in Coulon in the Deux-Sèvres, exhibitions and displays about the flora and fauna, traditional architecture and way of life of the Marais people.