La Rochelle is probably France’s most photographed port. Its heart beats to the rhythm of the ocean and of the town’s festivals.
Its famous towers overlook the city, and the view, between land and sea, is breathtaking.
La Rochelle is bathed by the Atlantic ocean and since the 15th century, has naturally been turned towards the New World. The wealth of ship owners and merchants grew thanks to merchant shipping to America and the West Indies. Thus, magnificent homes with sculpted facades, private mansions, half-timbered (with wood or slate) medieval houses give La Rochelle an incomparable charm.
Whether it is by foot or bicycle, a stroll through La Rochelle inevitably begins by the old port, overlooked by its three towers : 42 metre high Saint Nicolas tower, symbolizing power and wealth, Tour de la Chaine, whose purpose was to monitor traffic and to collect taxes, and Tour de la Lanterne, more commonly known as “Tour des 4 Sergents” by the people of La Rochelle. The latter is the Atlantic coast’s last medieval lighthouse and is easy to spot thanks to its Gothic arrow. It was both a lighthouse and a prison and holds over 600 graffiti by 3 centuries of prisoners.
Opposite the old port, do not miss one of Europe’s largest private aquariums and immerse yourself deep into the heart of the ocean, with over 12.000 marine animals : from fragile jellyfish to fascinating sharks ! On the second floor, the tropical « café de l’aquarium” offers visitors an organic, seasonal meal menu.
Take a lovely stroll in the shady streets lined with arcades. Their names evoke the town’s history - rue des Merciers, rue des Anglais, rue de la Réforme... In the morning, feast eyes and tastebuds on the town’s market, located in a 19th century covered market hall. Here you will find fresh fish, Marennes Oleron oysters, Ile de Re mussels, commonly used for a famous dish called « églade” (cooked on pine needles), Charente melons, "jonchée" cheese and other mouth-watering food. In the afternoon, relax at the beach or take part in one of the area’s many water activities.
In the evening, it is party time! Pubs, bars, nightclubs, festivals (Francofolies, international film festival….), alively casino... You can even tour the town’s unusual and secret attractions by night!
The town's « new » port "les Minimes" is an ideal departure spot for the islands of Re, Oleron, Aix and Fort Boyard (be sure to check your depth sounder before taking a selfie, to make sure you are not too close to the fort !) You can also set off across the Atlantic ! But before doing so, do not forget to visit the Maritime Museum and "Musée du Nouveau Monde" (New World Museum).
Don’t own a boat ? No problem ! Just hop onboard one of the old port’s inter-island cruise ships !
Another alternative (since 1988) is a bridge built between the continent and Ile de Re. It is 42 metres high at its peak, and almost 3kms long! The bridge offers visitors a splendid view of the ocean when the tide is high, and of the island’s mussel and oyster farms, when the tide is low.
Once you’ve reached the island, the best way to tour it is by bicycle. Explore its 10 quaint villages : white houses with blue, green or grey shutters, Alcea rosea flowers, salt marshes and nature sites such as « Bois de Trousse Chemise » forest (mentioned in a French song by Charles Aznavour) as well as Lilleau-des-Niges nature reserve.
Ile de Re gets its charm from its lively ports, including Saint-Martin-de-Re citadel port: a listed UNESCO site (as one of Vauban’s major works), and the port of Ars-en-Re with its black and white church bell-tower which is a well-known waymark for navigators.
Food fans, do not miss the market in La Flotte-en-Re, in a lovely medieval market hall. Spend some time sunbathing on the gorgeous Conche white sandy beach, and if you enjoy a challenge, head to « phare des baleines » (« whale lighthouse ») and climb its 257 steps!
Need to relax ? You have come to the right place ! Make the most of the our seawater treatments in one of the island’s thalassotherapy centres in Ars-en-Re, La Flotte-en-Re and Sainte-Marie-de-Re.
Further information about La Rochelle
Further information about La Rochelle Aquarium
Further information about ile de Ré
You're just a stone's throw away from your next holiday in New Aquitaine thanks to our many airports such as in Bordeaux, Bergerac, Biarritz, Brive, La Rochelle, Limoges, Pau and Poitiers.