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La Rochelle is the jewel in the crown of Charente-Maritime in the west of France, a city that is home to many wonders, all right on the water’s edge. The three towers that open its Old Port are known throughout Europe, so much so that as much as several million tourists flock to the medieval city each year, although the figures are subject to debate. So, if you have planned to spend a few days in La Rochelle, take the time to read our mini guide and you will discover all the essential things to do there.
But first, a few suggestions for hotels for your stay …
- A charming hotel: Entre Hôtes | 8 rue Réaumur, La Rochelle
- A cheap but well-located hotel : Hôtel La Marine | 30 quai Duperre, La Rochelle
- An inexpensive and relaxing hotel: Central Park Hotel & Spa | 4 Avenue Jean Guiton, La Rochelle
Marvel at the La Rochelle Aquarium
The La Rochelle Aquarium is internationally renowned, and it is a cultural and tourist space that is definitely worth visiting at least once. Opened in 1988, the La Rochelle Aquarium is one of the most-visited sites in the region. It is home to nearly 12,000 marine species from the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
Official site | Full price: 16.50 euros (adult) / 12 euros (child)
Explore the Old Port of La Rochelle
The Old Port is a must-see if you plan to spend a few days in La Rochelle. The district is animated by bars, restaurants and tourist shops. On beautiful days, many painters also line the streets, and outdoor shows are held there.
It is not just pride to be found here. The Old Port of La Rochelle played a leading role in the triangular slave trade. Its economy was still very closely linked to it in the 18th century.
But today, it is a meeting place, conducive to all adventure projects. Take the time to stop for a meal or have a drink in one of the establishments on Quai Duperré, before admiring the Grosse Horloge, located at the crossroads of the quay and the Cours de Dames.
If you have children, a stop at Square Valin, located at the corner of the quay of the same name and the quai de Carénage, would be ideal. This has benefited, in recent years, from a major renovation.
Take a walk on the Minimes Marina
Located at the heart of the student districts, the Port de Plaisance des Minimes (official site) boasts 15 kilometers of pontoons that can accommodate up to 5,000 boats. Port de Plaisance is one of three units that make up the port of La Rochelle, and you will be surprised by its size!
Admire the panorama from the Towers of La Rochelle
You can’t miss them from the Old Port, you cannot miss them. If you want to discover the city from a height, visit the towers: La Lanterne , La Chaîne and Saint-Nicolas Tickets can be purchased here. These last two form the gateway to the port, as shown on many postcards. They were completed at the end of the 14th century.
The third, the Lantern Tower, offers magnificent lights at nightfall. If you want to know more about their history, visit to this page from the Tourist Office.
Each of these towers, classified as historical monuments, offers a terrace from which you can enjoy a unique panorama of the city.
Eat local in the Old Town
After enjoying a good restaurant or a drink in the Old Port, it’s not far to the Old Town of La Rochelle.
To do this, go to the Big Clock: this will be your gateway to the historic part of the city. You will discover hidden alleys of arcades and many small craft shops. Even the big brands are represented.
You will also find some unique places that are worth a visit, including:
- The New World Museum situated in a beautiful 18th century mansion
- The Museum of Fine Arts with its collections from the 15th to the 20th century
- La Maison Henri II, which is not really a house…
- The splendid Town Hall with its Gothic walls and beautiful belfry tower
- The Hôtel de la Bourse
Whet your appetite at Les Halles de La Rochelle …
This is a place located in the city centre to appeal to the foodies! Les Halles de La Rochelle, built between 1834 and 1836, is home to a covered market where local artisans sell the best local products. It is a very lively place which everyone loves. The the enticing smells will draw you in from several streets around.
If you can, drop in on Wednesdays or Saturdays. This are the big market days, when the stalls overflow the Halles and colonize the neighborhood. Obviously, seafood takes pride of place, but don’t forget the other regional products, such as farci charentais, a succulent pate of green vegetables.
… and digest at Parc Charruyer
If you are looking for a quiet stroll, head to the heart of La Rochelle for Parc Charruyer. This 40-hectare park, established at the end of the 19th century, is ideal for long walks in the shade of magnificent trees. Entire families of ducks live on the edge of the small canals. If you have children, Parc Charruyer has a playground and a small animal park.
These are our essential destinations in La Rochelle. It is a necessarily subjective selection so do not hesitate to tell us about your favourite places in the comments 👇.