Out and about

Château La Rochefoucauld

From chateaux, a distillery and Roman Baths to a World Heritage city and one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, you’ll find treasures aplenty in Charente.

This is a region steeped in history and rich in architecture. The nearest cities are Angoulême, Cognac and Limoges. Further afield you’ll find Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Sarlat-la-Canéda.

Here we list some of the most popular local attractions. For more information, see the Visit Poitou-Charentes website.

On the doorstep

La Rochefoucauld

La Rochefoucauld is dominated by its beautiful chateau (pictured at the top of the page) which overlooks the town and the Tardoire river. Originally founded in 980 and rebuilt from the 11th century to the 18th century, it was the home of the La Rochefoucauld family and a member of the family still lives within its walls.

Tours can be taken around the chateau for a small admission charge. Park opposite the chateau and take the 17th century humpback bridge with pedestrian alcoves to avoid passing traffic. The town has a number of good restaurants. Even the massive Leclerc supermarket serves very good, inexpensive lunches.

Only 10 mins by car. Head south on the N141. For a spectacular view of the chateau, leave the N141 early and drive through Tapponat-Fleurignac. 10 mins by train from Chasseneuil station.

inside La Rochefoucauld Chateau

Nieul

The Château de Nieuil was once a hunting lodge of King Francois I and stands in 100 acres of grounds including a moat.

Now a luxury hotel (the first chateau in France converted to a hotel). Non-residents can visit the gardens and art gallery without charge. The stables have been converted into a very good restaurant La Grange aux Oies which has a coffee/drinks patio in summer months.

Only 12 mins by car heading north-east.

Nieul

Chassenon Roman Settlement and Baths

This Roman settlement was constructed in the 1st century. The 300-acre site consisted of a surrounding wall, temples, a theatre and Roman Baths. The Baths, which are well-preserved, are the only part open to the public. They cover quite a large area and you are advised to take good walking shoes and a coat.

Guided tours are available or you can hire hearing phones to explain each section of the site’s history in your own language as you walk around and see how advanced the Romans were so long ago.

A fascinating place to visit. There is a shop and light beverage/snacks restaurant. Check opening times as they vary across the year. There is an admission charge.

Only 20 mins by car heading north-east on the N141, just 3 miles east of Chabanais.

chassenon roman baths
© Fonquebure / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Within easy travelling distance

Angoulême

Angoulême is built on a rocky promontory overlooking the valley and the Charente River. The best way to see Angoulême is by walking around the ramparts of this ancient city. Place Beaulieu offers the best views over the City and surrounding areas. Well worth a visit is the Comic Strip Museum on Route de Bordeaux.

Highlight of the year is the vintage and classic car race called Circuit des Ramparts in mid September. This festival lasts three days and concludes on the Sunday with the race around the ramparts. Angoulême has many fine restaurants, art and crafts shops and antique shops.

Only 20 mins by car from Chasseneuil via the N141 national road heading South West or 30 mins from Chasseneuil train station.

Cognac

Cognac is regarded as the Brandy capital of the world. No visit to the Charente region would be complete without a tour of one of the big distillers, Hennessy, Martell, Remy Martin, Courvoisier etc. Most run guided tours including explanations of the grape growing process, distillation and demonstrations of blending techniques often including free tasting.  Most charge admission and it is worth pre-booking to ensure your tour is in the language of your choice.

Just 50 mins by car from Chasseneuil. Or only 37 mins by train from Angoulême – connections from Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure are not practical, so you’ll need to drive or get a taxi to Angoulême. We can arrange a taxi for you – please ask for prices.

Cognac barrels

Limoges

Synonymous with fine quality porcelain and ceramics. The city was ravaged by the Black Prince in 1370 who damaged it severely but which allowed the rise of the commercial side. Famous since the Middle Ages for its enamel work the discovery of kaolin deposits nearby determined its future in porcelain.

The Limoges tourist office is the first stop for the tourist train tour of the city and its major sights including the old Quartier de la Boucherie, famous for the old butchers shops handling Limousine beef. The city has excellent restaurants and good quality shopping and its own trolley bus system.

Just under an hour by car heading east on the N141. Or alternatively, for a more scenic journey, 1 hr 20 mins by train from Chasseneuil station, meandering around the villages and countryside of the Charente to Limoges-Beneditins station – a beautiful building in its own right. Tickets from the tourist office or you can just pay on board.

Limoges

Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a UNESCO World Heritage City and a sought-after destination for visitors from around the world. It is often called the City of Arts & History. Well-known for its wine, the region produces more than 40 million cases of wine per year.

Not a good place to use the car but nevertheless it is an easy place to explore. Bordeaux has an excellent public transport system comprising buses and trams and has over 400 taxicabs. Like shopping? Rue Sainte Catherine is a pedestrianised shopping street 3/4 of a mile long!

Around 1 hr 30 mins by car heading south-west on the N141/A10, Bordeaux can be reached by train from Chasseneuil station via Angoulême.

Bourdeaux place de la bourse

Poitiers

Poitiers is the regional capital of Poitou Charentes. It is now a very modern city. Poitiers is more widely known now for Futurescope, a fantastic 7km futuristic theme park. It has many high technology visual attractions suitable for both young and old which evolve each year. A must-see is the large screen cinema with its ‘Magic Carpet’. Great place to visit particularly with children aged eight and above.

1 hr 30 mins by car or 1 hr 45 mins by train (via Angoulême) from Chasseneuil station.

Oradour-sur-Glane

This once small, peaceful and attractive village was the scene of a terrible and barbaric massacre by Hitler’s elite Waffen SS troops on the 10th of June 1944. 642 men, women and children were killed and the village was burned to the ground. The ruins have been preserved as it was left on that fateful day.

A sad but compelling experience – a testament to the brutality of war. To walk through this martyred village is free and will leave a lasting impression on you. An excellent exhibition centre is next to the ruins which tell the entire story. There is a charge to enter the centre.

Just 1 hr by car.

Oradour sur Glane

Brantôme

This picturesque town in the Dordogne is surrounded on all sides by the River Dronne and is sometimes called the Venice of the Périgord Vert. It is an excellent day trip to one of the prettiest places in the Dordogne.

Brantôme has a medieval abbey and 11th century belfry said to be the oldest still standing in France and behind it, through the courtyard, fascinating ancient troglodyte dwellings. A pleasant place to visit.

Just 1 hr 20 mins by car.

© Monster1000 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

One of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, (the most beautiful villages in France) Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is located in the south-east of the Charente and has an interesting history to match its quite unique and pretty façade. On the steep narrow streets, look out for the beautiful wooden balconied houses overlooking the Dronne River.

A key attraction here is the huge monolithic Church of Saint-Jean, an underground church carved into a cliff in the 7th century and later greatly enlarged by Benedictine monks in the 12th century.

Around 1 hr 20 mins by car.

Aubeterre sur Dronne
© Cobber17 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

Further afield

Royan

Situated in Charente-Maritime, and unusually for this coast, Royan is a very modern resort, having suffered badly by allied bombing in WWII. It has five excellent beaches of fine sand, (called Conches) and, of course, a host of restaurants and typical coastal resort shops.

Take a boat trip from the harbour to see the Phare de Cordouan lighthouse, which has its own chapel inside. Completed in 1611, although later increased in height by 30m, the only part of lighthouse that has been changed is its method of lighting.

1 hr 50 mins by car.

La Rochelle

This busy port, a favourite with many tourists (including us) in Charente-Maritime, is easy to tour on foot. The old harbour stretching across the main commercial centre of the city is a large part of its attraction along with the many stately buildings surrounding the seafront.

A fantastic place for oyster and shellfish restaurants along the front and in the cobbled side streets. Visit the aquarium and walk through tunnels with a fantastic array of marine life, including sharks, swimming around you. The city has much seafaring history and museums.

2 hrs 25 mins by car – The many attractions of La Rochelle will make the longer drive worthwhile.

La Rochelle

Sarlat-la-Canéda

Another longish drive but very worthwhile and manageable in a day. Expect it to be busy, this is the most famous and visited town in the Dordogne region of the Périgord Noir.

This jewel of a place has a beautiful, restored town centre with winding streets and magnificent buildings reflecting its rising wealth since the 9th century and dating back to medieval and Renaissance times. It is a gastronomic centre of repute, particularly for foie gras, truffles and just about anything duck-related.

A good way to see all of its many attractions is to head for the tourist office near the cathedral and get a map showing a walking tour of the town.

2 hrs 25 mins by car.

Sarlat la Caneda
© Gilbert Bochenek / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL