La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime: tourism & sightseeing

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Visit La Rochelle (Poitou-Charentes, France)

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La Rochelle is on the western coast of France, in the Charente-Maritime department. 

Explore La Rochelle

France This Way comment: La Rochelle is certainly among the most attractive port towns of France, and a very pleasant place to visit and to pass a few days as well as having easy access (by car) from the beach resorts and villages of the Ile-de-Ré.

The tourist office can give you a very good guide for walking around La Rochelle - both within the city and surrounding region. The same brochure also includes many bike rides and bike paths in the city.

harbour at sunset

The focus of the town is in and around the old harbour, a lovely part of the town and very picturesque with its monumental towers either side of the port entrance, through which you can watch the boats enter. The harbour is very active, with boats, numerous buskers, market stalls selling a wide range of products (mostly 'arty') and a general lively atmosphere.

The harbour region is well supplied with fish restaurants, and before dinner the walls of the old town are a popular place for an evening promenade, as is the harbour front.

The old town, just behind the harbour, is extensive and very well preserved and restored and dates mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries. Boutiques now occupy the ground floor of many of the buildings.

You will discover many fine buildings in the main shopping streets, but you also need to explore the side streets in this part of the town. The historic centre of La Rochelle has an impressive unified appearance, with arcaded streets, houses constructed in the local light stone, and light grey shutters.

Because there is a great deal to see and do in La Rochelle and the town falls in several 'regions' we have several articles about the highlights of the town:

  • the harbour, with the old town and historical centre, is the centre of activity and interest within the town and contains many of the most important monuments - see La Rochelle old town.
  • the three towers and the ramparts - see La Rochelle Towers
  • the large, modern port section a couple of kilometres south at Port des Minimes

La Rochelle market

The market in La Rochelle, a few streets behind the harbour and old town, has been held in the same location for several centuries, and is one of the finest markets I have seen in France. The market hall itself was built in 1835.

Outside the market hall you can choose from a great selection of fruit, vegetables and flowers, and admire the market building, a good example of 19th century stone and wrought ironwork. Before entering the market be sure to admire the impressive 16th century half-timbered house just across the square.

Inside, the market has an extraordinary display of some of the freshest and tastiest looking ingredients you will have seen. The glistening fish and seafood, the meat and related products, the pates and cheeses, and much more besides - all beautifully presented and looking delicious and very tempting. Bring your wallet - the prices might not be the lowest you have seen but you are sure to end up buying something!

Street of arcades and shops in La Rochelle

As well as the harbour and old town there are several individual highlights and attractions in La Rochelle that are interesting to visitors, such as:

You will also find a small beach in the town just along the harbour from the Lantern Tower. The beach is attractive at high tide although not very impressive at low tide when large stretches of slippery rock must be crossed to reach the sea. Most people head to Ile-de-Ré for better beaches.

There are also several attractive gardens to explore in La Rochelle.

cloisters with gardens

Activities nearby

Many visitors take boat trips from the harbour to the nearby islands, including trips to Ile de Ré, Ile d'Oleron and Fort Boyard (well known among French people because of a television 'action quiz' that is filmed there).

While Ile de Ré has lovely beaches it is also necessary to use a toll bridge to get to the island. If you want to avoid paying these charges too often you might like to try the small resort at Chatelaillon Plage, a short distance south of La Rochelle along the Charente-Maritime coast.

You will better understand the town if you know a little of the history of La Rochelle

You can find more local travel ideas in the Charente-Maritime guide and the Poitou-Charentes guide.

See also:

Map of La Rochelle and places nearby

Visit near La Rochelle with France This Way reviews

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Charente-Maritime

Tourist classifications for La Rochelle

La Rochelle is classified as a historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé)

Address: Rochelle, Poitou-Charentes, 17000, France || GPS: latitude 46.158, longitude -1.153

Plan your visit to La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Aquarium de La Rochelle: aquarium
  • La Flotte-en-Re: most beautiful village (14 km)
  • Saint-Martin-de-Ré citadelle (Vauban fortifications): heritage site (17 km)
  • Marans: ville fleurie 4* (21 km)
  • Jardins du phare de Chassiron: remarkable garden (22 km)
  • Jardins de la Boirie: remarkable garden (27 km)
  • Rochefort: town of art and history (28 km)
  • Ars-en-Re: most beautiful village (28 km)
  • Forêt de Benon: site of natural beauty (29 km)
  • Baie de l'Aiguillon: site of natural beauty (29 km)
  • Eglise de Notre-Dame de l'Assomption (Maille): religious monument (35 km)

Market days in La Rochelle, France

Regular market(s) are held in La Rochelle each every day. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at La Rochelle (Francais)