Saintes is a 27,000 inhabitant French town located in the Charente Maritime department and the Poitou-Charentes region. Capital of the Saintonge area renowned for its heritage and cultural life, Saintes has been an Art and History Town since 1990. It is also the sous-prefecture of Charente Maritime and a Ville Fleurie: many parks and gardens are the best places to hang out and enjoy life in Saintes. Mediolanum Santonum is the name given to Saintes during Antiquity: it comes from the Gaul people called Santons. Public transports offer three routes traveling all over the town.
Over the years, Saintes enriched with a great archeological and monumental heritage. During the Middle Ages, new monuments were built. At this time, Saintes played an important role while making the Compostela pilgrimage.
The Abbaye-aux-dames is the first convent for nuns. It has been the most important Benedictine abbey for eight centuries, which purpose was to welcome nobility lasses and educate them. The main entrance door dates from the 12th century and has a Roman style. Climbing till the bell tower will allow you to admire the view over the town. You may also see the Gothic arches of the cloister. Nowadays, the abbey houses an exhibition on its history and music concerts of the Festvialde Saintes.
Saint-Pierre cathedral is a Roman church built during the 12th century. With its sculpted facades and cupola, this is a beautiful religious monument worth a visit. Saint-Eutrope church constituted an important step for pilgrims on the Compostela way. It was built by Benedictine monks and its particularity is that actually two churches are superimposed and connected by a unique body. It is today part of the World Heritage.
The amphitheatre dates from Emperor Claude period around 40 AD. It is composed of a set of tier – called cavea welcoming until 15,000 people. This is the most important vestige if the city. Another Roman vestige is the arc germanicus: it was used as the entrance door of the town. Erected in 18-19 AD thanks to Caïus Julius Rufus donation, it was almost destroyed when the bridge on which it is based was demolished.
Several museums are also interesting for people who want to learn more about Saintes.Echevinage museum is the house of an art exhibition: you may see paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries with different styles – neo-classic, romantic, orientalist, academic, impressionist… Présidial museum displays an interesting art gallery with 15th and 18th centuries paintings and Saintonges ceramic. Visiting Dupuy-Mestreau museum, you can discover dozens of everyday life items, signs, gravures, weapons, costumes, headpieces, jewels… finally, the last but not least, archeologic museum gathers numerous remains dating from the ramparts’ demolition.
Finally, thermal baths are not to be missed. Built during the second half of the 1st century, you may catch a glimpse of the caldarium – hot bath.
In 2009, the average price for a property in Saintes is €1,935/square metre. Considering property prices in France i.e. €3,197/square metre, we can deduce that prices in the town are quite cheap. Newly built apartments are however more expensive - €2,480/square metre - than old apartments - €1,640/square metre. If you are looking for a house, a 3-room property should cost between €92,900 and €138,500, a 4-room property between €118,000 and 156,000 and a 5-room house between €141,000 and €180,000.
Saintes houses 46.9% of tenants, which means that is should be an interesting location for a buy-to-let. However, only 5.1% of the apartments are studio-flats. The demand in such dwelling may not be very high, and it should be better to look at larger apartments or even houses.
To get updated info about the property prices in Charente Maritime, please browse our French Property Market Reports published in the News Section every month.
Saintes is a town gathering gastronomy, architectural and cultural heritage and nature where it is pleasant settling. Here are some reasons to convince the most sceptical people.
Culture and festivals: all year long, Saintes marches the beat of music, song, dance and theatre. All these events contribute to the touristy attractivity and economic dynamism of the town thanks to their quality, diversity and richness. Festivals, concerts, open-air cinema, exhibitions… will allow you to dream and entertain!
Gourmet food: Saintes is not outdone when it deals with gastronomy. Except fleur de sel - French sea salt -, Pineau des Charentes and Cognac which can be found all over Charente Maritime, some produce are not to be missed. Taste the Grillon Charentais, a health food made of pork meat. It is a sort of French pâté seasoned with marine salt. Local tradition is to eat grillon May, the 1st with aillet, an Aquitaine vegetable. oyster pâté and snail pâté are also typical dishes from the area.
Architectural style: in the town centre, you may admire the beautiful monuments dating from different periods. Saintes is often compared to Rome, probably due to its wonderful amphitheatre. Except its heavy religious monuments which are really amazing, some others seems rarer: the thermal baths and arc germanicus are part of the most important heritage of Saintes.
Twinned town: Saintes is twinned with six towns worldwide. In 1940, Saintes houses Belgians and was thanked with an honour medal. This is why Belgium offered Saintes to be twinned with Nivelles. Saintes set up different actions to help Tombouctou in Mali. The France-Russia association is the reason for a twinning between Vladimir and Saintes. As regards Salisbury in Great Britain, the twinning is the result of a demand from local schools in Saintes. Cuevas Del Almanzora is part of a triangular exchange (with Saintes and Tombouctou). Finally, Xanten in Germany is also twinned with Saintes thanks to their similarity: they are both ‘music towns’. Furthermore, Father Huneborn was passionate with Saintes and was part of the twinning project.
Transport links: public transports in Saintes are well-developed. Three bus routes serve the town centre and eight coaches lead to the nearest towns. Saintes also holds a railway station travel to Nantes, Bordeaux and Paris. Regional lines go to Niort and Angoulême. The closest airport is La Rochelle (48km) - Ile de Ré airport flies to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Munich, Madrid, Bologna, Lyon, London, Birmingham, Southampton, Dublin and Edinburgh.
Charentaise houses: they have a rectangular shape and the roof is made of tiles. Front facades are often painted in white and shutters in blue. Most of the time, beams are exposed inside the house and you may also find some with exposed stones. They come with a garden and a fireplace. One of their particularities is that they have seldom more than two floors. Steel ties can be seen on the façade whose purpose was to reinforce the wall’s structure. Nowadays, they are more a decoration and typical feature of such properties.
Village houses: often attached to other houses, they have the advantage to be located near to all amenities. From outside, they may appear unattractive but are usually charming inside. However, some of them may need to be renovated, but this is the occasion for you to choose the decoration and materials. Such properties are perfect either for an investment or as a secondary home.
Cottages: they are one-storey properties with a piece of land. Some cottages are very small and thus ideal for a buy-to-let investment as they have few rooms (often only one bedroom). Others are larger and could be used as a main or second home. Most of the time, they have a tile-made roof and painted front facade.
Click here for more info about the Poitou-Charentes Architecture.
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