Tempted to visit la rochelle? Discover the ocean gateway (as it is nicknamed), its secrets, and its history.
Located by the sea, a stone’s throw from the Île de Ré, La Rochelle is a historic city. As the capital of the Charentes-Maritimes department, of which it is the most populous city, La Rochelle is also recognized throughout the country for its relaxed atmosphere and medieval architecture. Visiting La Rochelle is an excellent way to reconnect with history and, at the same time, to confront the modern era.
If you want to get some fresh air and discover a city of traditions, La Rochelle is the ultimate destination. Discover the must-sees we have selected for a successful stay!
1. STROLL AROUND THE OLD PORT AND ADMIRE ITS TOWERS
The old port is the ideal opportunity to discover the three most famous towers of La Rochelle: the Saint-Nicolas, de la Chaîne, and de la Lanterne towers. They have been the guardians of the city since the 14th century, remnants of medieval fortifications. At the time, their role was to know and regulate the passage of the many merchant ships entering the port of La Rochelle.
The Tour de la Lanterne was unique in that it served as a lighthouse and a place to disarm ships. As for the other two, the Nicolas Tower and the Chain Tower, they were places of residence and then detention for sailor prisoners and later, military personnel.
Today, it is possible to climb to the top of the Nicolas Tower to observe a 360° panorama of the city.
2. VISIT THE LEGENDARY FORT BOYARD
Located on the Boyard Longe and belonging to the Charentais Archipelago, Fort Boyard is a must-see monument to visit during a trip to La Rochelle. Made nationally famous in 1990 by the famous show of the same name, Fort Boyard is now known to all, and many wish to visit it.
Although visits inside the Fort are unfortunately impossible, other equally interesting choices are available to you. Thanks to many local companies, you can sail all around it!
In addition to this wonderful moment spent close to the Fort, you will have the opportunity to discover the breathtaking landscapes offered by the archipelago!
3. THE HALLES MARKET
Also called the Old Market, the Halles market in La Rochelle is located under the Halles, where the Grande Boucherie used to be. It is open every day, to the delight of all gourmet passers-by looking for the freshness of local seafood.
A real old-fashioned market, with its colorful stalls, producers with golden advice, and the thousand smells present, the Halles market will charm you! Stock up on Rochelais flavors and enhance local cuisine!
4. THE MUSEUMS OF LA ROCHELLE
Visiting La Rochelle also means discovering its museums, as there are quite a few.
- There are those related to history, such as the Bunker of La Rochelle, which reminds visitors of the importance of La Rochelle and its submarine base during World War II.
- On the same theme, the Maritime Museum will give you an insight into the past maritime life of La Rochelle. Very informative, you will learn a lot about the city’s glorious past, whether in fishing or trade. The New World Museum guarantees, for its part, to learn more about La Rochelle’s role with the New World (Americas).
- For those more interested in art and culture, don’t miss the Museum of Fine Arts in La Rochelle, a classic, located in a magnificent episcopal palace. Make an appointment with many European paintings from the 15th to the 20th century!
- Finally, the natural history museum offers a local and international look at the coast and marshes. Follow in the footsteps of naturalist explorers on a journey around science and have a unique experience!
5. BOAT RENTAL
If you are passing through the Atlantic coasts, there is one step you must not miss under any circumstances: the boat trip.
Indeed, there are many boat trips to take from La Rochelle to reach the islands of Ré, Aix, or Oléron and approach the famous Fort Boyard! So, take advantage of your visit to rent a boat in La Rochelle.
6. EXPLORE CHARRUYER PARK
Next to the old town is Charruyer Park, which is long and narrow. Thanks to Adèle Charruyer, a local woman, this park was created following a donation and the repurchase of military lands that occupied the space before the park.
Created at the end of the 19th century, it is crossed by two small streams: the Lafond and the Fétilly. It is therefore ideal for afternoon strolls, for walks, and to appreciate nature in the city.
7. VISIT THE AQUARIUM OF LA ROCHELLE
On the old port, you will find the Aquarium of La Rochelle, one of the largest aquariums in Europe. Housing over 12,000 marine animals in more than 3 million liters of water, it offers you the opportunity to discover the little-known world of the oceans.
From sea turtles to sharks to Pacific clownfish, embark on a journey to discover a secret and surprising universe. Also, a space dedicated to children is available for their greatest pleasure!
8. TASTE THE CULINARY SPECIALTIES OF LA ROCHELLE
In La Rochelle, if there is something to taste, it is obviously the Charentais specialties. First, mussels, oysters, or salt are very abundant and, because of their freshness, even better than elsewhere!
Then, let yourself be seduced by the tender flesh of the Île de Ré potatoes; the extra-red eggs of Marans, a regional chicken breed; goat cheese, whose milk is largely produced in Charente… For dessert, fall for the Charentais millas, a corn flan, or a galette, a large sweet butter biscuit from Charente.
So many flavors to discover, for young and old alike!
9. DISCOVER THE OLD TOWN OF LA ROCHELLE
You enter the old town through the Porte de la Grosse Horloge, which serves as a passage between the port and the center. The buildings of the old town have retained a medieval architectural style, giving considerable character to the whole.
Some of them even date back to the 15th century! As you walk through the old town, discover the Town Hall, which looks like a castle, and the many mansions whose facades are made of wood or engraved stone.
A real leap back in time for a terribly seductive atmosphere! Be sure to discover some of the “secret” passages of the old town and learn to visit La Rochelle like an explorer!
10. THE MINIMES MARINA
In the heart of the Minimes district, the marina of La Rochelle stands out for its large size. In fact, it is one of the largest marinas in the world!
Created in 1972, it can accommodate more than 5,000 boats over more than 70 hectares. Very pleasant to visit, especially at sunset, the Minimes marina offers a nice glimpse of La Rochelle. It also reinforces its position as a maritime city.
11. ATTEND THE FESTIVALS OF LA ROCHELLE
La Rochelle is a dynamic, lively city animated by culture. Every year, several festivals take place there. The most famous of them is undoubtedly the Francofolies Festival. Since 1985, it has become one of the most important dates on the French music calendar.
It welcomes the entire current French scene for 5 frantic days! Otherwise, don’t miss the Classical Festival dedicated to classical music, or the audiovisual festivals: Adventure Film Festival, TV Fiction Festival… Many dates to mark in stone!
12. LA ROCHELLE BY BIKE
– LA VÉLODYSSÉE
From Hendaye, in the southwest of France, to Roscoff, in Finistère, follow the Atlantic Ocean by bike! So, on the way, don’t miss visiting La Rochelle, an important stop. Discover the coast by following a marked route and try “slow tourism”, which offers you the opportunity to visit at your own pace and according to your desires!
– VÉLO FRANCETTE
Vélo Francette is a huge cycle route connecting Ouistreham, north of Caen, to La Rochelle. Discover the richness of France by traveling 650 kilometers of roads and paths, following a marked route. Ideal for visiting and marveling at the cultural, architectural, and natural heritage of France.
How to get to La Rochelle?
The highway does not pass directly to La Rochelle but it approaches it, up to Rochefort or Niort. Then, you will have to follow departmental, national, or European roads. The journey is generally good, although in high season you may encounter traffic jams.
Many buses travel throughout France to allow their passengers to travel at a lower cost. Companies like FlixBus, BlablaBus, or Ouibus offer this kind of service. The journey is more or less long depending on your departure city. A little slower than the car, the bus remains a very economical alternative to visit La Rochelle without breaking the bank.
La Rochelle is accessible by rail from all over France! Indeed, Bordeaux, Paris, Angoulême, or Nantes are cities from which you can reach La Rochelle. Not without connections depending on where you come from, the train remains a very good way to travel quickly at a lower cost.
It should be noted that La Rochelle airport is very international-oriented with flights to Ireland, Switzerland, or England, for example. Connected to the airports of Lyon, Nice, and Ajaccio, it is possible, from these cities, to come directly to La Rochelle by plane.
However, if you come from elsewhere, this will require a connection or even a stopover. For example, from Paris, a connection in Lyon is to be expected on the schedule. It’s up to you to decide what suits you best, both in terms of time and money.
We therefore recommend that you consult a flight comparator like Skyscanner to find out more about the best offers of the moment.
Where to stay in La Rochelle?
In terms of accommodation, La Rochelle is not lacking at all. On the contrary, depending on your preference, hotels, bed and breakfasts, Airbnb, or campsites are at your disposal. We recommend staying in the downtown neighborhoods for an authentic Rochelais experience. Enjoy the walks and nightlife! However, other neighborhoods are quite conceivable, such as the popular Fétilly district, with its historic villas, or the Minimes district and its lovely marina!