This City of Art and History in Picardy’s Aisne department has deep, obscure roots that descend to ancient Gaul. Soissons peaked in the Frankish period as the place where Clovis defeated the Romans, becoming the capital of the Kingdom of Francia, and later where Charlemagne’s sister became an abbess.
If your dream holiday is discovering historic ruins and appreciating forgotten stonework hand-crafted hundreds of ago, Soissons’ decaying abbeys and castles will be right up your street. After wars, Revolution and religious upheaval, these chapels, cloisters and crypts are in varying states of repair, but all have been conserved as exhibition spaces or monuments.
Lets explore the best things to do in Soissons:
1. Soissons Cathedral
From the western portal you’ll notice that the cathedral, started in the 1100s, looks a lot like the Notre-Dame in Paris.
This is no coincidence, as the plan for the south tower was based entirely on the famous cathedral in the capital (with the exact dimensions), and although plans for a matching north tower were drawn up the work was never carried out.
The nave’s interior is acclaimed for the purity of its symmetry, and if you keep going to the choir you’ll see 13th-century stained glass windows.
In the northern transept there are paintings by Rubens and Philippe Champagne, while the southern transept is out of the ordinary as it culminates in an apse.