New functionalities in nonlinear optics will require systems with giant optical nonlinearity as well as compatibility with photonic circuit fabrication techniques. Here we introduce a platform based on strong light–matter coupling between waveguide photons and quantum-well excitons. On a sub-millimetre length scale we generate picosecond bright temporal solitons at a pulse energy of only 0.5 pJ. From this we deduce a nonlinear refractive index three orders of magnitude larger than in any other ultrafast system. We study both temporal and spatio-temporal nonlinear effects and observe dark–bright spatio-temporal polariton solitons. Theoretical modelling of soliton formation in the strongly coupled system confirms the experimental observations. These results show the promise of our system as a high speed, low power, integrated platform for physics and devices based on strong interactions between photons.