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Tourism and Holiday on the French Atlantic Coast


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Site map -  Royan, La Belle Epoque, France, French Atlantic Coast

You are here: Home > To see > Royan > La Belle Epoque


to discover

the Grande Conche

the Sea Front

Notre-Dame Church

the harbour

the Central Market

the reconstruction

the evolution

learn french in Royan


To see, north to south

The "Marais Poitevin"

La Rochelle

Island of Ré

Island of Aix



Madame Island

Island of Oléron




La Tremblade


La Palmyre









To do


Boat trips





The market


Drives through the vineyards

Drives through the marshes

Drives through the forest


To know

The Romanesque Art


The Citadel of Brouage

The Citadel of Blaye

The lighthouses

The forest of La Coubre

The marshes

The "Marais Poitevin"

The carrelets

The ostreiculture

Vine and wines

To taste






Sea food

"Terroir" products

The restaurants



Royan, from the beginning of sea bathing
to the 39-45 war and through the time of
 the "Belle Epoque"

After the end of the First Empire in 1815, came the Restoration period during the reigns of Louis XVIII until 1824 and then Charles X until 1830.

It was in this department, called Charente-Inférieure at that time, on the island of Aix, that Napoleon surrendered to the English on July 15th, 1815.

Sea bathing became fashionable during this period, following a trend which started in England where the first sea water therapies had just begun.

This vogue swiftly arrived in France on the beaches of the North, as can be seen on this coloured postcard of the beach at Boulogne-sur-Mer.

This new fashion of sea bathing was launched in Royan by the Inhabitants of Bordeaux. The first bathing huts on wheels appeared on the beach in 1824.

Regular connections between Bordeaux and Royan by the Gironde

Regular connections between Bordeaux and Royan by the Gironde were established from 1820 and the first steamer from Bordeaux came to Royan on April 5th, 1829.

Between 1830 and 1848, under Louis-Philippe, the resort continued to develop with the Inhabitants of Bordeaux. The competition with Arcachon became intensified with the start of the railway line Bordeaux-Arcachon in 1841.

But Royan quickly became modernised and the first casino was built in 1845, in the district of Foncillon, to attract the bourgeois clientele.

After the revolution of 1848 and the fall of Louis-Philippe, Louis Bonaparte became Napoleon III in 1852. The Second Empire lasted from 1852 till 1870.

The resort extended then on the West towards Pontaillac, always at the instigation of the rich Inhabitants of Bordeaux.

Over twenty years, la conche de Pontaillac changed from a deserted place to a very chic and fashionable area.

Chalets and mansions were built on the cliffs in front of the sea.

On the left lateral cliff of the beach, an enormous villa was built in 1856, with a large portico and with colonnades and rounded bays facing the west, directly overlooking the sea. It later became the l’Hôtel du Golf which remained a hotel until it was sold in 1965 and was turned into apartments.

The extension of the railway network

Under the Second Empire, a network of railways was developed in France. In 1871, at the beginning of the 3rd Republic, all the main lines were built and the big towns of France connected to Paris. The railway took an increasingly important part in the economic and tourist development of the country.

In 1875, Royan was linked to the railway line Paris-Bordeaux by the railway company La chemins de fer de la Seudre. This was an important development for Royan and one which made it more accessible to the Parisian clientele.

In 1875 the same company also opened the line from Saujon-La Tremblade to the terminus at La Grève. This train was in still in use until the 1960s as a goods train. During the Christmas and New Year period it because known as the ‘oyster train’.

In 1984, the line resumed life during the summer season, as the tourist train of La Seudre.

"La Belle Epoque", all of Paris came to Royan

From the beginning of the 3rd Republic, Frédéric Garnier became Mayor and remained in office from 1871 until 1905. He was responsible for the development of Royan during this time.

A new casino, le Grand Casino de Foncillon, was inaugurated in 1885. At this time, the casino was a fundamental element of the sea resort image.

In 1890, Frédéric Garnier established the steam tram Decauville which was in service on the Champ de Mars in Paris for the World Fair of 1889.

At first it connected the district of Le Parc with Pontaillac, then it was extended to connect Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, Saint-Palais-sur-Mer and La Grande Côte.

The Mayor then decided to build a municipal casino to compete with the casino of Foncillon. The Casino Municipal, built on the Grande Conche and inaugurated in 1895, was at that time the biggest in France.
A walk was also built along the beach. The district of Le Parc was completed.

Emile Zola at Royan

The resort was very fashionable ; Emile Zola came for the first time to Royan in September, 1886 and then became a regular visitor. He stayed in villas, which have now disappeared, but were situated on the boulevard currently named Frédéric Garnier.

History has recorded two things about the visits of Zola to Royan, his love for Jeanne, his wife’s laundry maid and his discovery of photography. From that time, photography became a passion for Zola.

As far as the the port is concerned, the pier where the Pointe de Grave ferry arrives was built in 1899.

The period between 1880 and 1914, preceding the first world war, is today known as " La Belle Epoque ".

Looking back, this period seems to us in retrospect certainly more beautiful, more magnificent than it probably was in reality at that time.

According to the memories, it seems that a "joie de vivre" characterised the daily life. During these years many of the new places of entertainment, such as casinos, appeared. The images which we have of Royan at that time illustrate this spirit.

Le manège à l'entrée du port

In the 1900s, Royan welcomed 100 000 tourists every summer.

Everything new and progressive came to Royan. The first aviation show was organised in 1910 and a pilot came from Bordeaux and landed with his monoplane Blériot on the beach of Pontaillac. In 1911, another pilot landed on the Grande Conche.

Even now, every year, the Fêtes de la Belle Epoque,organised in mid-August with parades, animations and spectacles, brings alive again for a few days the spirit and good times of that ‘ belle epoque’.

La plage de Pontaillac et le casino dans les années 1930

Between the wars

Between the wars, Royan was a fashionable resort. Bathing in the sea and sun-bathing became normal and the resort was frequented by the celebrities of that time.

The casino of Pontaillac was built in the 1930s. Today it is the only one in the town of Royan and because of that, it is called the Casino de Royan. With its geometrical architecture, it looks as though it was built in the 1950s.

It was managed to escape the bombing of 1945 and a large part of the structure is of the original building.

Numerous chalets and villas are built in the middle of pines, often with influences of regional styles such as the Basque style.

The coast still keeps today an architectural heritage, very diversified and representative of that time.

One can see a wide panorama of villas dating from the end of the 19th Century to the years 1920-1930, by following the Boulevard Frédéric Garnier, along the beach.

Castels et chalets d'avant-guerre

Picasso in Royan

In 1939, with the first exodus of the Parisians towards the region, Picasso arrived in Royan in September. He was 58 years old and he spent a whole year there. From his home, he saw the Café des Bains which he painted.

The picture "le café des Bains" was painted in August, 1940 in Royan. This café was situtated on the site where the restaurant Siesta now stands, in the angle of the main avenue and the street leading to the port.


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Hotel Le Pasteur Royan

downtown Royan  in a quiet area very close to the sea, close to the famous Central Market.

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Le Richelieu Hotel in Saujon, 10 minutes away from Royan, 20 air-conditioned rooms,all different.

Hotel Residence de Rohan
Charming house, 3 kms away from Royan in a unique environment. By the sea, direct access to the beach

Yukadi Village Le Logis

Le Logis, under the warm Charente sun, 600 metres from the sea and 10 km from Royan, much of it situated in a pine forest

Camping des Deux Plages
Campsite at Saint-Palais-sur-Mer, close to the beaches and the town centre.

Domaine de Berthegille

Guest house, B&B, ideally located in the Romanesque Saintonge area, close to the Atlantic coast.

Le Tileuillé

Guest rooms, B&B, between Saintes and Royan, in Sablonceaux close to the famous 12th Century abbey.

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Guest rooms, B&B, between Saintes and Royan among fields, vineyards and woods, in a typical Charentaise house.


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