Sprawling on the banks of the River Aisne, Soissons is an ancient town north-east of Paris that was previously known as Noviodunum. During the 5th century, it served as the capital of the Kingdom of Soissons and is dotted with monasteries housing history and art museums.
Things to do in Soissons
In the heart of Soissons is the Cathedrale Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais, a magnificent Gothic basilica that dates back to the 12th century. It houses a 13th-century choir with beautiful stained glass windows and a tapestry depicting the lives of Gervasius and Protasius. A highlight of the elegant northern transept is the “Adoration of the Shepherds” painting by Peter Paul Rubens.
A short walk south is the Abbey of St. Jean des Vignes, an Augustinian monastery founded by Hughes Le Blanc in 1076. Originally designed in a Romanesque style, it was rebuilt at the end of the 12th century and encompasses peaceful cloisters dating from the late 13th century. Adjacent to the abbey is the Arsenal Saint-Jean, which houses art and cultural exhibitions.
History buffs shouldn’t miss a visit to St Ledgar's Museum of Art and History, which displays archaeological artefacts and artwork that bring Soisson’s past to life. Housed within an ornate abbey and its 13th-century church, highlights of the museum include vestiges from Saint-Medard and a 9th-century crypt. Also on display are changing temporary exhibitions, which focus on varying themes related to the history of Soissons.
Getting around Soissons
Soissons is around 1.5 hours’ drive from the centre of Paris and one hour from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, which has flights to destinations across the globe. Regular buses connect to Soissons and the town is small enough to explore on foot.