Nouvelle-Aquitaine (Occitan: Nòva Aquitània; Basque: Akitania Berria) is administrative region in France, created by the territorial reform of 2015 and effective on January 1, 2016, after the regional elections of December 2015.

Resulting from the merger of the former regions Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes, it was initially called Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes. It brings together 12 departments, extends over 84,036 km2 (i.e. one eighth of the national territory), has 6,033,952 inhabitants (municipal population as of January 1, 2020) and is the largest French region (mainland and overseas combined), with an area greater than that of Austria.

Bordeaux, its largest city and the regional capital, is at the heart of an agglomeration of more than 995,000 inhabitants, the sixth largest nationally. Bordeaux Métropole, the only intermunicipal structure in the region to have metropolis status — created by the law on the modernization of territorial public action and the affirmation of metropolises —was created on January 1, 2015.

The growth of its population, especially on its coast, makes it one of the most attractive areas of French territory: the new region is, thus, ahead of Île-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in terms of demographic dynamism.

Apart from that of Île-de-France, the regional council of Nouvelle-Aquitaine is the one which invests the most in innovation. The region’s research potential is based, in particular, in addition to businesses, on its five universities (Bordeaux, Limoges, La Rochelle, Pau and Poitiers) and several Grandes écoles.

The leading agricultural region in Europe in terms of turnover, it is also the leading French region in terms of number of tourist jobs, counting the presence of three of the four historic seaside resorts on the French Atlantic coast (Arcachon, Biarritz and Royan), as well as several winter sports’ resorts in the Pyrenees (Gourette), the third French region for the production of wealth (with a GDP amounting to 157.6 billion euros) and the fifth region in number of business creations.

Its economy is based on agriculture and viticulture (the internationally renowned vineyards of Bordeaux and Cognac), as well as France’s leading shellfish farming industry (half of the national oyster production takes place in the Marennes basin).

Geography

Nouvelle-Aquitaine is delimited by four other French regions (Pays de la Loire to the north-west, Centre-Val de Loire to the northeast, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes to the east, and Occitania to the south-east), three autonomous communities in Spain to the south in the Pyrenees (from east to west, Aragon, Navarre, and Basque Community), and the North Atlantic Ocean (the eastern part of Bay of Biscay, Golfe de Gascogne in French) to the west.

Nouvelle-Aquitaine comprises twelve departments: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Corrèze, Creuse, Dordogne, Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Deux-Sèvres, Vienne and Haute-Vienne.

Tourism

Prehistory, numerous sites bear witness to the occupation of the region. Some, such as the roc-aux-Sorciers d’Angles-sur-l’Anglin (Vienne), the Montgaudier cave in Montbron (Charente), the Pair-non-Pair cave in Prignac-et-Marcamps (Gironde), the caves of Isturitz and Oxocelhaya (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), the Moulin de Laguenay cave (Corrèze) or the Neanderthal man burial of Chapelle-aux-Saints (Corrèze), benefit from a mainly local reputation, or at least limited to experts; others have acquired an international reputation; most notably, the case of the Pope’s cave (Landes), where the famous lady of Brassempouy was found.

Bastides and villages of character have strongly marked the regional landscape. Experiencing great development between the 13th and 14th centuries, bastides are “new towns” built according to very specific town planning rules. They are found in the southern part of the region, from Charente-Maritime to the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. Some have remained modest, such as Beaumont-du-Périgord, Lalinde, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande and Labastide-d’Armagnac; others have evolved to become real cities, like Libourne and Villeneuve-sur-Lot.

The cities of Bayonne, Bergerac, Bordeaux, Cognac, Limoges, Montmorillon, Pau, Périgueux, Poitiers, Rochefort, Royan, Saintes, Sarlat-la-Canéda and Thouars are also labeled “cities of art and history” due to of their cultural heritage (museums, monuments).

Regional religious architecture is particularly varied, and many country churches are listed or classified as historic monuments. Poitiers retains a large number of Christian buildings, including the Saint-Jean baptistery (4th century), the Notre-Dame la Grande Church (12th century; in Poitevin Romanesque style), and the Saint-Pierre cathedral (13th century in Angevin style). Nearby, in Saint-Savin, the abbey church preserves frescoes unique in Europe, which have earned it world heritage status. Further south, the Saint-Pierre d’Aulnay Church and the Saint-Eutrope Basilica in Saintes are also classified as world heritage sites; the Notre-Dame de Royan Church, a “concrete cathedral” built after the Second World War, features avant-garde shapes.

The Saint-Pierre Cathedral in Angoulême, the Saint-Léger Church in Cognac and the Saint-Étienne and Saint-Front Cathedrals in Périgueux, although significantly different, all were influenced by the movement of “à la mode,” very present in the south-west and inspiration for the Angevin style. Limoges is distinguished by the mass of its Saint-Étienne Cathedral, in Gothic style, but also by the Saint-Michel-des-Lions Church, in the heart of the medieval district. Not far from there, the Saint-Léonard collegiate church of Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat also benefits from a world heritage listing. In Corrèze, Brive-la-Gaillarde has an 11th century church, the Saint-Martin Collegiate Church.

The desire to defend oneself, in order to benefit from a comfortable environment, explains the profusion of castles and noble or bourgeois residences throughout the region. Among the fortified castles, one of the most famous is the anachronistic Bonaguil Castle, built at the dawn of the Renaissance. Not far from there, the castle of Gavaudun is built on an eminence overlooking the Lède. Meccas of military art, the castles of Beynac and Castelnaud, enemies during the Hundred Years’ War, face each other across the Dordogne.

On the borders of Agenais, Périgord Noir and Quercy, the Château des Rois Ducs owe their names to the kings of England and the Dukes of Aquitaine, masters of the region during part of the Middle Ages. In Gironde, the castle of Villandraut is characteristic of medieval strongholds, as is the castle of Rudel de Blaye. In Deux-Sèvres, near Niort, the Coudray-Salbart Castle dates from the 13th century; in Vienne, near Poitiers, Chauvigny constitutes a unique group of five fortified castles established on the same promontory.

Natural heritage is just as varied and cannot be limited to the coastal regions (dunes and pine forests of the Côte d’Argent, cliffs of the Basque coast and the Côte de Beauté, Gironde estuary, Charentais archipelago, Bassin d’Argent, Arcachon, etc.). The Dordogne, one of the most wooded departments of mainland France, is punctuated by green valleys, sometimes bordered by steep cliffs. Limousin, a land of high plateaus and chestnut forests, has steep valleys, such as the Cère Gorges or the site of Saint-Nazaire (confluence of the Dordogne and the Diège), in Saint-Julien- near-Bort, in Corrèze. The Landes Forest, the largest forest in Western Europe, extends over three departments (Gironde, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne) and nearly a million hectares. The second largest wetland in France with the Marais Poitevin and its numerous canals. In the south, the Pyrenees extends in multiple directions, from the green mountains of Labourd, facing the Atlantic, to the Béarnais peaks, which can be observed from the Boulevard des Pyrénées de Pau, the Col Aubisque or the Ossau valley.

Main attractions (by departments in alphabetical order)

Charente

Angoulême

Cognac city

Charente-Maritime

Beaulon castle

Ciré-d’Aunis cars museum

Citadel of Château-d’Oléron

Crazannes castle

Gataudière castle

Fort Louvois

Fouras fort

Jonzac castle

Le Château-d’Oléron metal installations

Mirambeau castle

Museum of Naval Aviation

Nieul-lès-Saintes castle

Panloy castle

Plassac castle

Pons

Rochefort

Rochefort-Martrou Transporter Bridge

Roche Courbon castle

Sablonceaux Abbey

Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste priory of Trizay

Saint-Jean-d’Angle castle

Saintes

Usson castle

Dordogne

Mareuil castle

Périgueux

Gironde

Bordeaux

Cazeneuve royal castle

Landes

ALAT helicopter museum

Arthous Abbey

Dax

Laballe castle

Montreal Castle

Sorde abbey

Lot-et-Garonne

Agen

Nérac

Notre-Dame de Peyragude sanctuary

Poudenas Castle

Saint-Maurin

 

Pyrénées-Atlantiques

Arcangues castle

Bayonne

Bellocq castle

Bidache castle

Château d’Abbadia

Mauléon castle

Moncade castle

Orthez

Pau

Pau castle

Socoa Fort

Urtubie castle

Deux-Sèvres

Niort

Thouars

Atlantic resorts (from north to south)

Most beautiful villages of France list (by departments)

Charente (1 village)

  • Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

Charente-Maritime (5 villages)

Corrèze (6 villages)

  • Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne
  • Collonges-la-Rouge
  • Curemonte
  • Saint-Robert
  • Ségur-le-Château
  • Turenne

Creuse (0 villages)

Dordogne (10 villages)

  • Belvès
  • Beynac-et-Cazenac
  • Castelnaud-la-Chapelle
  • Domme
  • La Roque-Gageac
  • Limeuil
  • Monpazier
  • Saint-Amand-de-Coly
  • Saint-Jean-de-Côle
  • Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère

Gironde (0 villages)

Landes (0 villages)

Lot-et-Garonne (5 villages)

Pyrénées-Atlantiques (5 villages)

  • Ainhoa
  • La Bastide-Clairence
  • Navarrenx
  • Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
  • Sare

Deux-Sèvres (0 villages)

Vienne (1 village)

  • Angles-sur-l’Anglin

Haute-Vienne (1 village)

  • Mortemart

Natural objects (rivers, lakes, mountains)

Cultural Heritage

Currently, the region has two practices listed in UNESCO’s inventory of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity: the Aubusson tapestry (in 2009) and the Limousin septennial ostensions (in 2013).

Cuisine

The variety of terroirs explains the diversity presented by regional gastronomy, which can be divided into four large families: Gascon and Guyennaise cuisines, Basque cuisine, Limousin and Périgord cuisines and Charentaise and Poitevine cuisines, whose benefits for health are characteristic (along with the cuisine of Mediterranean Provence) of what is called the French paradox.

We can, however, note that a preparation – such as caillebotte (cheese), also called “quail” in Deux-Sèvres and “mamia” in the Basque Country – is common to almost all the countries of New Aquitaine and not very widespread outside. Likewise, the region, as a whole, is concerned by the protected geographical indication (PGI) Bayonne Ham (the entire region is included in the production zone) and by the IGP Porc du Sud-Ouest.

For duck and goose products, the countries of Gascony and Guyenne are the lands of choice. Food is generally cooked with the fat of these birds, giving them a unique flavor. The specialties are numerous: duck breast, cooked in many ways, but traditionally simply grilled on vine branches, duck and goose foie gras, aiguillettes, confits and gizzards. The Landes plate includes several of these ingredients in its composition.

Beef is also very present in local cuisine; in particular, Bazadais or Chalosse beef, prepared in various ways: Bordeaux steak – simply grilled and served with shallots – or Bordeaux style – served with a sauce of wine, butter, shallots and beef marrow.

In the Médoc, Pauillac lamb, raised “under the mother,” is cooked in the simplest way. Among the main Gascon specialties are escaoudoun Landais, an estouffade made from black pork from Gascony, lamprey à la Bordeaux, pibales and oysters from the Arcachon basin. Béarn also produces the famous garbure, a hearty soup made from various vegetables and candied meats, the hen au pot, popularized by Henri IV, and the spit cake. Gascon cuisine is also rich in famous sweets, including Bordeaux canelés, Saint-Émilion macarons, tourtière or Landes croustade.

Transport

Roads and highways

Many roads and highways in the region radiate from Bordeaux and just attach to its peripheral belt (Bordeaux ring road or A630). The main lines used for reinforcing roads and highways are in addition some terminal bonds designed to streamline access to two major resorts in the area, Arcachon (via Highway A660) and Royan (by via the N150, partly making 2X2 routes).

The A10 autoroute (the “Aquitaine”) is the major artery between Bordeaux and Paris, commissioned in 1981. It is part of the network of “autoroutes du Sud de la France” and provides access to several cities: Saintes, Niort or Poitiers.

Connecting the east of Bordeaux (Libourne) to Greater Lyon, the A89 motorway (called “La transversale”) irrigates the eastern part of the region, facilitating travel between the cities of Bordeaux and Périgueux, Brive-la-Gaillarde, Tulle and Ussel.

Southwest of Bordeaux, the A63 is a major focus of the regional motorway network. Forming a large artery almost straight through the vast expanses of flat Landes de Gascogne, it crosses the south of Gironde and Landes (passes near Dax but avoids the prefecture, Mont-de-Marsan) before joining Bayonne and the Basque Country, to Irun, on the Spanish border, the main border crossing.

The Basque Country and Béarn are also served by a road parallel to the Pyrenees, which facilitates access to Toulouse and the Mediterranean regions: the A64, called “La Pyrénéenne”. It starts from Briscous (in the outskirts of Bayonne), continues to Pau before reaching Tarbes in the neighbouring region of Occitania) and the Toulouse ring road.

The eastern region is well served by the A20 north–south axis between Paris and Toulouse and opens up Limousin.

Shortest distances to Bordeaux from the main cities of France (capitals of regions)

  • Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (Lyon): 5 hr 32 min (554 km) via A89
  • Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (Dijon): 6 hr 39 min (670 km) via A89
  • Bretagne (Rennes): 4 hr 44 min (465 km) via A83 and A10
  • Centre-Val de Loire (Orléans): 4 hr 35 min (462 km) via A10
  • Grand Est (Strasbourg): 9 hr 21 min (968 km) via A89
  • Hauts-de-France (Lille): 7 hr 57 min (801 km) via A10
  • Île-de-France (Paris): 5 hr 53 min (584 km) via A10
  • Normandie (Rouen): 6 hr 13 min (654 km) via A28 and A10
  • Occitania (Toulouse): 2 hr 24 min (244 km) via A62
  • Pays de la Loire (Nantes): 3 hr 29 min (346 km) via A83 and A10
  • Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Marseille): 6 hr 16 min (641 km) via A62

Trains

The regional rail network is organised around the main towns: Bordeaux, Limoges, Poitiers, La Rochelle and Bayonne. The main line is the one between Paris and Madrid via Poitiers, Bordeaux and Hendaye; then comes the line Lille-Brive-la-Gaillarde, which serves Limoges, both served by TGV trains. Other lines are served mostly by the TER network of TER Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

The largest station in the region is Bordeaux-Saint-Jean, which accommodates 10 million passengers per year; then comes Limoges-Bénédictins station and its 2.5 million passengers. Poitiers has two stations: Poitiers station and Futuroscope station which serves the technology park Futuroscope. Angoulême station sees around 1.45 million passengers per year; Agen station links the Occitania region; Pau station, Dax station.

The implementation of the LGV Sud Europe Atlantique, which is part of a priority program initiated by the state.

Airplanes

The region benefits from the presence of several airport infrastructure. The main airport is Bordeaux-Merignac, world class, which hosts nearly four and a half million passengers per year and offers flights to many destinations; It is the seventh metropolitan France Airport (fifth if we except the Paris airports).

The second airport is Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne, third is Pau Pyrénées Airport, then Limoges-Bellegarde, and Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport.

The airport of La Rochelle – Île de Ré offers flights to several French and European cities. Smaller, airports Poitiers-Biard, Brive Dordogne, Agen-La Garenne and Périgueux-Bassillac offer mainly domestic flights. Airports Angoulême-Cognac and Rochefort-Charente-Maritime are only turned to business flights in the absence of regular commercial lines.

Main facts

GPS coordinates: 44° 50′ 12″ N, 0° 35′ 20″ E

Area: 84 036 km²

Population: 6 069 352

Language: French, Occitan, Basque

Currency: euro

Visa: Schengen

Time zone: UTC+01:00 (CET)

ISO 3166 code: FR-NAQ

See here France travel guide

See here Spain travel guide

See here Pyrenees travel guide

See here Andorra travel guide

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