The French city of Niort lies in the department of Deux-Sèvres in the western region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It sits on the River Sèvre Niortaise and is home to around 53,000 people.
Niort is also one of France's main financial centres, ranked fourth ranked after Paris, Lyon and Lille. At least that's according to Wikipedia which explains that the town is “the French capital of mutual insurance and bank companies”.
Nevertheless, Niort has taken a bashing by one of France's 'greatest living writers' Michel Houllebecq who, in his latest novel, has his protagonist describes it as “one of the ugliest” towns he has ever seen.
But here's a list reasons why Niort is actually well worth a visit.
On top of that, at the very heart of Old Niort, you'll find an impressive trapezoidal hall where the medieval pillory (stocks) used to be appropriately named Le Pilori.
Nowadays, it's a space for temporary art exhibitions.
Les Halles de Niort. Photo: Jfpnt/Wikicommons
Les Halles de Niort
The Donjon de Niort is a medieval castle located in the old town and was built by English kings Henry II and Richard the Lionheart and offers spectacular views over the city and river.
Meanwhile the Musée Bernard d’Agesci is dedicated to the work of the 18th century painter who was born in Niort and established the city's first library and opened a museum and botanical garden.
Musée Bernard d’Agesci. Photo: Théo Henri/Flickr
The Église Notre-Dame is the oldest church in Niort and is in the Gothic style, with work on it beginning in the 1400s and ending in 1534.