Whether you’re here as a couple, with family or friends, for just a weekend or a week, La Rochelle is a living maritime museum with much to offer. Here’s what not to miss when you stay in our beloved city.
Discover the city’s stunning range of museums as you stroll under the 13th-century arcades and along the cobbled streets of the historic centre.
Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum)
Musée Maritime (Maritime Museum)
Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts)
Musée du Nouveau Monde (Museum of the New World)
• Tourist sites and the Vieux Port
From one quay to the next, La Rochelle’s Vieux Port (Old Port) brims with beauty. Since this autumn, the Quai Vallin has been renovated with a new esplanade of light flagstones. Along a radiant new square frequented by children and adults, and along the Bassin à Flot where the majority of pleasure boats in the port area are moored, bike users can enjoy a wide cycling route. Operational since the renovation of the Quai Valin, this new route will be extended before the end of this year to connect with the Quai Georges Simenon. At the end, the footbridge spanning the former Bassin des Chalutiers will also be restored, but pedestrians and cyclists will still be able to cross it on foot to enjoy a unique panorama of the three towers of La Rochelle, the access channel to the Old Port and the Atlantic Ocean.
• Arcades and old town
Discover La Rochelle's old town and its 13th-century arcades, its cobbled streets, and its numerous bourgeois and monumental houses.
• Towers of La Rochelle
TOUR SAINT NICOLAS: Like a castle in the city and a palatial residence facing the sea, this military building symbolises the power and wealth of La Rochelle. Standing 42 metres tall, its architecture revolves around a maze of stairs and corridors built into the thick walls.
TOUR DE LA CHAINE: The gateway to the Vieux Port, the Tour de la Chaîne used to watch over the movements of boats and the traffic in the port, and oversaw customs and taxes. New from 1st January 2018: the exhibition “Tous à la plage” (“Everybody to the beach”), an overview of seaside towns from their beginnings to the present day.
TOUR DE LA LANTERNE (Nicknamed “The Four Sergeants”): The last medieval lighthouse standing on the Atlantic coast at a height of 55 metres and topped with an octagonal Gothic spire, the tower has been a lighthouse and a prison throughout its history. It contains more than 600 pieces of graffiti sculpted into its walls by inmates across three centuries.
• Hôtel de Ville
The beating heart of our maritime city since the 13th century, La Rochelle’s town hall was, unfortunately, the victim of a terrible fire in 2013. Following a period of reconstruction, you can once again visit this historic building so beloved by the citizens of La Rochelle.
• Le Gabut
Between the marina and the former Bassin des Chalutiers, the former bastion of Le Gabut isn’t built of white stone. Instead, the buildings boast colourful wooden facades and traditional Charentais roofs, gently sloping with Roman tiles. A delightful mix, it fits in with the urban style while also providing a change of scenery; while strolling through it, you could imagine you were in a Scandinavian harbour town.
• Guided tours
Explore the old town and the Vieux Port, discovering the past of this free city of commerce – the memory of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the antics of Henry IV, the siege of Cardinal Richelieu – and also fall in love with the present day with its lively quays and terraces, the colours of its market, and the calm of its English-style parks.
• The market
Entirely devoted to food, this real local institution is the perfect place to experience the very best of French produce. Facing a timber-frame Renaissance house, the 19th-century market hall is filled with fishmongers, cheesemongers, charcutiers, and other sellers of the very best of the region’s produce.