Today, it is the beautiful and dynamic city of La Rochelle that we make you discover. A city that combines cultural, historical and family activities as well as idleness. Often ranked among the cities where life is good in France, La Rochelle offers a very pleasant living and traveling environment. Discover in this article the places to visit in La Rochelle and its surroundings as well as suggestions for accommodation well placed to visit La Rochelle. What to do in La Rochelle, here we go.
La Rochelle, culture, history and coastline
Located in the department of Charente-Maritime, La Rochelle is a historic city that has known how to modernize over time. Due to its location, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, La Rochelle is above all a center of fishing and commerce of the first order. Facing the islands of Ré to the west, Oléron and Aix as well as Île Madame to the south and southwest, it has a rich historical and cultural heritage. A heritage with varied origins that attracts many tourists every year.
Finally, La Rochelle is also a very dynamic city thanks to its university and its many festivals. Including the very important ones: Francofolies (music festival in July), Fema (film festival in July) and TV Fiction Festival (September). Find all the events organized in La Rochelle on the website of the tourist office: here.
What to do in La Rochelle?
Discover the Old Port
An emblematic photo of the city, the Old Port is the first place to discover in La Rochelle. Former commercial port, it is today a marina where it is good to walk. Especially on its very lively quays such as the Quai du Carénage, Quai Duperré and the Cours des Dames. Bordered by many restaurants and terraces, they are the ideal place to admire the city. Whether in the early morning to see it wake up gently or in the evening to watch it come alive with its craft market. To discover the Old Port, I advise you to take the ferry that will allow you to cross the Old Port by sea.
In the Old Port, it is impossible to miss the 3 emblematic towers of the city: the Lantern Tower, the Chain Tower and the Saint-Nicolas Tower. 3 buildings built in the Middle Ages to protect the city that can be visited. The ticket to visit the 3 towers costs €9.5 (free for children under 25) and allows you to learn more about the history of La Rochelle and discover magnificent 360-degree views of the city from the top. Each of the towers has a different style and characteristics. Indeed, they did not have the same functionality.
Historically, the Tour Saint-Nicolas symbolized the military power and wealth of La Rochelle. It protected the city from the dangers of an invasion by sea. The Chain Tower was the gateway to the port, it was used to control port traffic. Finally, the Lantern Tower served as a lighthouse and prison.
Get lost in the old town
Despite its small size, the old town of La Rochelle has an undeniable charm. With its typical arcades, its cobbled streets, its small squares, it offers a very pleasant setting for strolling. Starting with the Big Clock which marks the separation between the Old Port and the City Centre. Then pass by the Town Hall which was completely renovated following a fire in 2013. Finally, the best way to discover the old town of La Rochelle is to get lost there. You will discover monuments steeped in history, mansions, small cobbled streets, lively squares or typical arcades of the city.
Don’t miss the Quartier Saint-Nicolas: organized around rue Saint Nicolas, it is home to bars, cafes, shops and restaurants. Finally, the historic center of La Rochelle is also home to La Maison Henri II, the Hôtel de la Bourse and the courthouse.
Shopping at the halls of La Rochelle
Impossible to visit La Rochelle without going through the halls. The covered market halls are the ideal place to taste local products. Built in the 19th century, they host a covered market every morning from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with stands overflowing with fresh produce and fish. You will discover market gardeners, butchers/charcutiers, fishmongers, oyster farmers, cheese makers, bakers and even caterers. Finally, note that on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the market extends to the surrounding streets. And on Friday afternoon, it goes on in rue Gargoulleau and up to place de Verdun.
Go to sea
How to be in La Rochelle and not take advantage of it to treat yourself to a trip to the sea? The island of Aix, Fort Boyard, Oléron, the island of Ré, Les sables d’Olonnes, the island of Yeu and many other nice places to visit, the possibilities are numerous. Whether by sailboat, motor boat or catamaran, it is very easy to treat yourself to a cruise in the surroundings of La Rochelle.
In 2 clicks, it is possible to rent a boat, whether you are a novice or a skipper, for one or more days. Samboat offers the catamaran rental, sailboat, motor boat or even small boats without a licence, with or without a skipper. And this in more than 45 countries. You will have the choice of the boat but also to be accompanied by a skipper who will pilot the boat for you in complete safety. He will choose with you the best places to discover. An original way to escape to sea while getting away from mass tourism.
Relax on the beaches of La Rochelle
What a pleasure to enjoy the beach after spending the day visiting! This is what La Rochelle offers. Indeed, three beaches are easily accessible: Concurrence beach, Minimes beach and Chef-de-Baie beach. Located 5 minutes walk from the city center, Concurrence beach is the most popular beach in the city. It offers a nice view of the boats in the Old Port! The beach of Les Minimes is quieter, because it is located away from the city center, and larger.
Discover Street-art in La Rochelle
For street-art lovers, head to the port district of Gabut. A surprising district that is home to colorful wooden houses of Scandinavian inspiration and many works of street-art. The Gabut district is located in front of the Aquarium. It is in the naval wasteland that the majority of street-art works are found. Boosted by the Springtime Delights Festival, street art in La Rochelle is constantly evolving.
What to do around La Rochelle?
The surroundings of La Rochelle are also very interesting. You can in particular in less than two hours by road discover the Marais Poitevin (nature and sports getaway in a unique place in Europe), visit the Saint-Jean-d’Angle fortified castle, spend the day in the Futuroscope amusement park or in the famous Puy du Fou leisure park.
Otherwise you can, from the port of La Rochelle, take one of the river shuttles to Île de Ré, Île d’Aix, Île d’Oléron or even Fort Boyard. Islands full of charm that will offer you a real breath of fresh air.
Where to sleep in La Rochelle?
Even if it’s not always easy to find a good hotel in La Rochelle, especially in summer, here are some hotels that should please you.
- Hotel of peace: Located in the Old Town, the hotel offers comfortable, well-decorated rooms. Excellent value for money (from €68 per night, breakfast extra at €13.50) in the heart of the city centre.
- The Temple of La Rochelle : Fully equipped one bedroom apartment in the heart of the Old Town. Close to restaurants, bars and the old port. Night from 70€.
- The Beautiful Mooring: Beautiful guest house offering double, triple and quadruple rooms. The hostess of the guest house knows the region very well, she is always ready to share advice and good addresses. From €120 per night in a double room. Breakfast included.
Find other hotels in La Rochelle on booking.
And you, what did you enjoy doing in La Rochelle? What other places would you recommend visiting in La Rochelle?