Perched on the Bay of Biscay, La Rochelle is nicknamed “La Ville Blanche” for its whitewashed limestone facades, which pair well with maritime museums, cathedrals, wine bars and nature reserves. Arched walkways, stone towers, decorative gargoyles and lighthouses reflect the city’s centuries-old architectural history.
Things to do in La Rochelle
Stroll through the 13th-century Vieux Port, home to historic fortifications, including the La Tour de la Chaine and La Tour Saint-Nicolas towers that stand guard over the harbour. Afterwards, browse the local market for fresh seafood, trinkets, crafts and jewellery.
Travelling with the family? Drop in at Aquarium La Rochelle to see 12,000 marine animals, including Atlantic cuddlefish, Mediterranean slipper lobsters and leopard sharks. At Musee Maritime, you can clamber aboard a tugboat, fishing vessel and meteorological research craft.
Don’t miss seeing the 15th-century Tour de la Lanterne, a conical lighthouse lovingly called “the beauty queen of La Rochelle”. Head to the city centre to check out Cathedrale Saint-Louis, then drive about 15 kilometres to peer through telescopes at about 250 bird species inside Reserve Naturelle Marais d’Yves.
In the evening, sample some of the city’s fresh seafood, including renowned Marennes'Oléron oysters at Le Panier de Crabes. Follow it up with vino tasting at Chez Garcia – Cave de la Guinguette, a trendy and rustic wine bar that’s been pouring drinks since 1933.
Getting around La Rochelle
Electric buses and taxis service the city, while rental bikes include cruisers, tandems and street bikes. You can rent a car at La Rochelle – Ile do Re Airport, about six kilometres away.