La Rochelle

La Rochelle is a charming seaside town, loved for its relaxed atmosphere, medieval architecture and its maritime soul full of surprises.
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Nicknamed the Gateway to the Ocean, La Rochelle is located in the south-west of France, in the heart of the Charentes-Maritimes region of New Aquitaine. Heady and dynamic, the city hides historical treasures, a rich heritage and gastronomic delights.

Every year it attracts travellers in search of breathtaking landscapes, relaxation and beaches, but also history, visiting the Porte de la Grosse Horloge, the Old Fortified Port, the Natural History Museum, the New World Museum and the Aquarium.

La Rochelle is also known for its many festivals such as the famous Francofolies and the Festival dedicated to classical music.

Things to do in La Rochelle

Situated by the ocean, just a stone’s throw from Ile de Ré, La Rochelle is an enchanting historical city, loved by tourists for its relaxed atmosphere and medieval architecture. This thousand-year-old city has a rich historical and architectural heritage, full of surprises and small wonders.

Vieux-Port

1Vieux-Port, 17000 La Rochelle, France

A nerve centre and the heart of the city’s development since the Middle Ages, thanks to the triangular slave trade, it is today a lively marina.

Its cheerful quays, the Quai du Carénage, the Quai Duperré and the Cours des Dames invite unhurried strolls, especially in summer, when they are teeming with painters and street shows. It is the perfect place to relax and have a drink, sitting on one of the countless terraces that line the quays.

The Old Port has always been guarded by the ancient towers, the guardians of the city since the 14th century, vestiges of medieval fortifications. At the time, their role was to regulate the passage of the many merchant ships entering the port of La Rochelle.

If the Tour de la Lanterne served as a lighthouse and a place for the dismasting of boats, the Tour Nicolas and the Tour de la Chaîne served as residences, places of detention for sea prisoners and finally barracks. Today, it is possible to climb to the top of the Nicolas Tower to observe a 360° panorama of the city.

Old town

250 bis Rue Gambetta, 17000 La Rochelle, France (Website)

After strolling along the seafront and admiring the bustling life of the port, watched over by the medieval towers, we recommend you walk through the old town of La Rochelle: the area begins at the intersection of Quai Duperré and Cour des Dames where you will find the Porte de l’Horloge Grande, which serves as a passageway between the city centre and the port.

From here, a dense network of streets with arcades unfolds, giving the city an old-world charm. These large stone arches date back to the Middle Ages and served to protect the merchants’ stalls from the weather. Today they house shops ranging from major ready-to-wear brands to grocery shops, bookshops, souvenir shops and cafés.

Also not to be missed are the many historical buildings with their wooden or carved stone façades, the town hall, which resembles a fortified castle, with its Gothic courtyard and its façade decorated with gargoyles and sculptures, the house of Henry II, an elegant Renaissance-style building and the courthouse.

Old covered market

3Vieille Ville, 17000 La Rochelle, France

Lovers of good food and local produce should not miss a visit to the city’s old covered market, which dates back to the 19th century. Ideal for stocking up on fresh produce and savouring local flavours, it owes its fame especially to the fresh fish and shellfish stalls, which can be sampled on site.

Don’t miss the opportunity to try mussels and oysters, but also the tender potatoes from Île de Ré, the extra-red eggs from Marans, goat cheese, most of whose milk is produced in the area, the Millas Charentais, a corn flan or a galette, a large biscuit sweetened with Charente butter.

On market days, Wednesday and Saturday mornings, stalls even spill out onto the square and surrounding streets.

Port of the Minimes District

4Régie du port de plaisance de, Av. de la Capitainerie, 17000 La Rochelle, France (Website)

In the heart of the Minimes district, the port of La Rochelle stands out for its large size: it is in fact one of the largest marinas in the world.

Created in 1972, it can accommodate more than 5000 boats on more than 70 hectares. Enchanting at sunset, the Minimes marina offers a beautiful view of La Rochelle.

La Rochelle Aquarium

5Quai Louis Prunier, 17000 La Rochelle, France (Website)

Opened in 1988, it soon became one of the most visited tourist sites in Poitou-Charentes and one of the largest aquariums in Europe.

Families with children will not miss the opportunity to admire almost 12,000 different species in various sections dedicated to Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean and tropical forest species.

Fort Boyard

6Île-d'Aix, France

Located on the Longe de Boyard and belonging to the Charentais Islands archipelago, Fort Boyard is a historical monument to be admired during a trip to La Rochelle. The purpose of the structure was to defend part of the French west coast from possible attacks by the British fleet, which was at war with the Kingdom of France.

Made nationally famous in 1990 by the television programme of the same name, Fort Boyard is best known to the French. Although visits inside the Fort itself are unfortunately prohibited, you will have the opportunity to admire this Vauban fortification by sea, via small cruises departing from the port.

The museums of La Rochelle

Although La Rochelle is a small town, it has a number of interesting museums, first of all Maritime Museum7, where you can discover the maritime history of La Rochelle, from the year 1000 to contemporary ports, through models and original objects, while also visiting several ships including a sailboat, fishing boats and a tugboat.

The New World Museum8, on the other hand, tells the story of France’s relations with the Americas and the West Indies, tracing the history of trade routes and explorations.

Also interesting is Muséum d'Histoire naturelle de La Rochelle9, which houses almost 10,000 objects from ethnographic and naturalist collections.

Finally, remember Bunker La Rochelle (Museum)10 a real bunker occupied by German commanders during the Second World War, which will tell you the story of La Rochelle from 1939 to 1945.

Best beaches in La Rochelle

If you plan to dedicate a few hours to relaxing by the sea, we recommend the three best beaches in La Rochelle.

La Plage De Concurrence11 is a 5-minute walk from the centre and is the best equipped beach in the city.

Enchanting Plage Chef de Baie12 is further afield but undoubtedly the most suitable for bathing, as it is protected from the wind by a dyke.

Finally, Plages des Minimes13 is the largest lido, equipped with shops and restaurants located directly on the beach.

Map

In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article

Activities

Where to stay in La Rochelle

Located on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, La Rochelle is a historic port city, protected from storms by the beautiful neighbouring islands of Ré and Oléron. It forms an immense port complex with its three commercial, pleasure and fishing ports, making it a popular destination.

For accommodation in La Rochelle, the best choice is to find a hotel in the central districts of Saint-Sauveur, Saint-Nicolas and the Town Hall, the heart of the historic centre.

Saint-Sauveur is the area for strolling, with many shops, magnificent arcades and splendid historical monuments. When night falls, the district comes alive and becomes a perfect place to enjoy the evenings with many bars and clubs located near the Cour du Temple, towards the Porte Grosse Horloge.

Another perfect place is Saint-Nicolas, the old fishermen’s quarter, which has retained all its picturesque appearance and old-world charm. During the day, the streets teem with bakeries, shops, restaurants and small local bookshops, giving the quarter a small village feel, while in the evening, the bars of Place de la Solette come alive with the city’s youth.

A stone’s throw from the old town, Le Minimes is the city’s student quarter, a great area thanks to its many shops and businesses, close to the faculties. It is also home to the city’s most beautiful beach, ideal both during the day and at night for a sunset aperitif.

Finally, we recommend Fétilly, one of the city’s busiest areas: this is where La Rochelle’s historic old bourgeoisie quarters are concentrated, with very quiet spaces and sumptuous old buildings. This historic district is perfect for staying in the city, thanks to its location close to the centre and the many parks in which to relax, including the famous Parc Charruyer.

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How to get to La Rochelle

Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, La Rochelle is a must-see destination on a trip to Aquitaine, easily accessible from the main towns in the region.

The quickest way to get to La Rochelle is to land at Nantes Airport, which is less than 2 hours away, or at Bordeaux Airport, covering approximately 190 km. Once you reach Nantes or Bordeaux, you can either continue by an intercity train that, in both cases, takes 2 hours to La Rochelle, or rent a car directly at the airport.

La Rochelle Weather

What's the weather at La Rochelle? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at La Rochelle for the next few days.

Saturday 2
10°
Sunday 3
10°
Monday 4
10°
Tuesday 5
12°
Wednesday 6
13°
Thursday 7
13°

Where is located La Rochelle

La Rochelle is a city in the south-west of France, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, 137 km from Nantes and 183 km from Bordeaux.

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