Saintes is a commune and historic town in western France, in the Charente-Maritime department of which it is a sub-prefecture, in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Its inhabitants are called Saintaises and Saintais. While a majority of the surrounding landscape consists of fertile, productive fields, a significant minority of the region remains forested, its natural state.
Today, Saintes remains the economic heart of the center of the department, and it is an important transportation hub. A few major industrial businesses operate (in electronics, rail repair, construction of hoists). The city’s commerce and service sector is large, featuring the headquarters of Coop Atlantique, and administrative functions of state, courts, and legal services; banks, schools, and a hospital. Beyond this, property maintenance, retail, and tourism sectors provide large numbers of jobs.
- The Arch of Germanicus, a triumphal arch, was built at the entrance to a bridge, where the main Roman road crossed the Charente River. The bridge was demolished in 1843 but the Arch was saved by Prosper Mérimée and rebuilt at its present location on the bank of the river.
- Ruins of the Roman amphitheatre on the main, left bank of the Charente, near the summit of the hill upon which the town was built. Its notable tiers (cavea) are built against the hill and an embankment.
- Some remnants of the thermae of Saint-Saloine (1st century) are also visible, in particular an aqueduct.
- Fragments of the 3rd century rampart (to the city walls) can be seen in the Place des Récollets. It was built with stones taken from the Roman buildings.
- the Musée archéologique, which has a restored Roman cart/wagon of the 1st century amongst a collection of sculptures and inscriptions.
- the Musée du Présidial, which has a mannerist architecture and a collection of regional ceramics and paintings of the 15th to 18th century.
Saintes is a transportation hub of some importance, connected by two motorways and several secondary roads, national and departmental, that converge towards the rocade (partly a 2×2) that bypasses the city on its western and southern sides.
The Gare de Saintes (train station) is at the focal point of five railways that link the agglomeration to Nantes (by La Rochelle), Bordeaux, Angoulême, Niort and Royan ; the trains are mainly part of the regional rail network TER Nouvelle-Aquitaine and the network Intercités.