La Rochelle, a sparkling seaside town with a great reputation
In La Rochelle, visit the historical sites, the famous towers, Tour Saint-Nicolas (tower Saint-Nicolas), Tour de la Chaîne (tower of the Chain), Tour de La Lanterne (tower of the Lantern), the Old Harbor (Vieux Port), the "Cours des Dames", the "Grosse Horloge" (Big Clock), the quay Duperré, the Old City (Vieille Ville), the City Hall (Hôtel de Ville), and discover the new neighborhoods and amenities, the Gabut district, the Great Yachts Basin and the Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, the marina of Les Minimes (Port des Minimes), ...
La Rochelle affirms its commercial and tourist vocation directed towards the sea, develops its attractiveness by its artistic and cultural demonstrations, film festivals, videos, Francofolies, ... and cultivates its image of pioneer in urban ecology.
Our ambition is simply to give you some keys to approach this exceptional city and to understand the attraction that it exerts on us, visitors for a day or accustomed passages and stays in La Rochelle.
The "Vieux Port" (Old Harbor) of La Rochelle
The "Vieux Port" remains the central point of La Rochelle and the starting point of any first visit. It is the right place to stop for a few moments and make your own landmarks for walks in the city.
The "Vieux Port" is the most lively place in La Rochelle, especially in summer. The "Cours des Dames" (Ladies Cours), the part of the quay closest to the Tower of the Chain, and the Quai Duperré, the part of the quay that extends the "Cours des Dames" from the Big Clock, are traveled by tourists and holidaymakers.
The towers of La Rochelle, the Saint-Nicolas tower on the left, the Chain tower on the right and the spire of the tower of La Lanterne
The terraces of the bars, cafes and restaurants of Quai Duperré are very popular. They offer a beautiful view of the towers of the harbor entrance.
Stop on the quays of the Vieux Port, for example on the Quai Duperré, near the statue of Admiral Duperré. The emblematic image of La Rochelle, the two towers of the harbour entrance, is in front of us. On the left, the imposing Saint-Nicolas tower, on the right, the round tower of La Chaîne..
A unique position to visualize The city of La Rochelle, the top of the tower Saint-Nicolas
We strongly recommend visiting the Saint-Nicolas tower to view the site and map of La Rochelle.
From the terrace of the tower, there is a superb circular view.
Towards the west, it is the outer harbor, the bay, narrow in front of the towers and which widens gradually towards the open sea.
On the south shore, the walk to the port of Minimes, on the north shore, the tower of the Lantern, the beach, the island of Ré.
On the east side, it's the Vieux Port, it's the Old Town, it's the new neighborhoods, the Gabut, the Great Yachts Basin. We redo several times around the terrace to enjoy and memorize these superb views.
The tower Saint Nicolas is imposing by its mass, interesting from the point of view military architecture, but its interest for a first visit, also resides in the views that it offers on the city and the harbor.
La Rochelle, the entrance of the Saint-Nicolas tower
La Rochelle, the climb to the terrace of the tower Saint-Nicolas
La Rochelle, the terrace of the Saint-Nicolas tower
La Rochelle, terrace of the Saint-Nicolas tower, overlooking the Old Harbor
La Rochelle, terrace of the Saint-Nicolas tower, view on the Big Clock and the cathedral
La Rochelle, terrace of the tower Saint-Nicolas, view on the basin afloat
La Rochelle, terrace of the Saint-Nicolas tower, view of the tower of the Chain and the tower of the Lantern
La Rochelle, terrace of the Saint-Nicolas tower, view on the bay and the space Saint-Jean d'Acre, site of Francofolies
Visit of La Rochelle
The views from the top of the Saint-Nicolas tower may suggest that places to see extend over distances incompatible with a walking tour.
This is not the case, La Rochelle can be visited on foot, without the need to take back the car.
The new neighborhoods are naturally part of the city's discovery trail.
Looking at the two towers, we have behind us and on our right, the old town. We have on our left the inland watercourse, the colorful buildings of the renovated '' Le Gabut '', then the Great Yachts Basin, the former trawlers' basin.
It is in this part of La Rochelle that the famous Aquarium and the Maritime Museum are located.
La Rochelle, le bassin à flot du Vieux Port
The "Vieux Port" district and the Old Town of La Rochelle
We enter the old town of La Rochelle by the door of the Big Clock. This gate built in the 14th century has been modified several times. At the entrance of the Big Clock, an information panel gives us the map of the Old City of La Rochelle and positions the main buildings to see.
A short text summarizes all the interest of the old town:
"The pedestrian center of La Rochelle resurfaces the long and rich history of the city since its birth in the 12th century.The old port sheltered from its two towers, the Big Clock giving the passage to the street of the Palace where stands the Hotel de la Bourse, the Renaissance Town Hall, symbol of communal power, and the beautiful mansions of the 17th and 18th centuries in the quieter streets, testify to a past dedicated to the sea and trade. "
From the Big Clock, take the Rue du Palais and stroll in the small streets to the City Hall.
La Rochelle, The Big Clock, entrance to the Old City and statue of Admiral Duperré
The Town Hall of La Rochelle
Beautiful first impression with the enclosure and the flamboyant Gothic style of the front door struck with the coat of arms of the city.
This door leads to the rectangular courtyard.
Our eyes are immediately attracted by the statue of Henry IV under the bell tower. The central building, built in 1606 is marked with the claws of Henry IV and Marie de Medicis.
The roof of La Rochelle City Hall was ravaged by a fire on June 28, 2013. Restoration is in progress.
La Rochelle, Town Hall, from the outside
The streets of La Rochelle Old Town
After the visit of the Town Hall, we like to stroll through the arcaded streets.
The arcaded streets are one of the charms of La Rochelle. We find there the commercial vocation of the city and the concern of the merchant, to display his goods while protecting them against bad weather.
We return to the Old Harbor by small streets such as rue Saint-Sauveur and rue du Port.
We pass from medieval houses to mansions, half-timbered houses and slates of the Middle Ages, carved stone facades of the 16th and 17th centuries, large 18th century ship owners' hotels.
The church Saint-Sauveur with its tower of 42 meters, is classified Historical Monument since 1907.
Ice enthusiasts flock to Ernest, the famous glacier of the Rue du Port.
La Rochelle, the Old City, Saint-Sauveur Street and Saint-Sauveur Church
South of the Old Harbor, the recent neighborhoods of La Rochelle
Quai Valin extends the Duperré wharf. The quai Valin is that of the lighthouse sandwiched between two buildings.
The Valin wharf runs along the inland basin and leads to Gabut, a district distinguished by its colorful wooden constructions.
The Gabut extends between the inland basin and the basin of the trawlers become the basin of the Great Yachts. The Tourist Office of La Rochelle is located near the dock of Gabut.
Cafes and restaurants with terraces on the pond afloat offer beautiful views, with a little perspective, on the Old Port. The south side of Gabut district overlooks the Great Yachts Basin.
We are facing the famous Aquarium La Rochelle, built on the opposite platform. The Café de l'Aquarium, on the second floor, offers one of the most beautiful views of La Rochelle.
La Rochelle, the terraces of the Quai du Gabut, relaxation, calm, harbor view, recommended for a coffee break or restaurant.
Restaurants in La Rochelle
Restaurant Le Gaburon - La Rochelle
RESTAURANT ON THE PORT OF GABUT
New restaurant completely renovated, new management since April 2019. Welcome to our marine restaurant on the port of Gabut in La Rochelle. The Gaburon welcomes you in its magnificent air-conditioned room facing the port, in front of the aquarium. One of the most beautiful views of La Rochelle. Come discover a unique culinary experience.
The Great Yachts Basin in La Rochelle
The Grands Yachts basin creates an attractive animation center, still in the city.
From the bridge that allows you to go from one platform to the other of this basin, you have a nice overview of the Gabut and the old port in the background.
By the bridge, we reach the dock where are moored the historic boats of the Maritime Museum of La Rochelle.
It was in 1993 that fishing boats migrated to a new infrastructure at Chef de Baie, north of La Rochelle.
The Sea Bus and the Passeur
The Sea Bus and Le Passeur, electric powered shuttle boats, are two very pleasant and relaxing ways to go from one bank to the other, without having to go around the Vieux Port basin.
The Passeur ensures the crossing of the Quai du Vieux Port to the south shore of the harbor, with landing stage beyond the towers. The smuggler, double smuggler, to pass from one side of the port to the other, and especially to pass between the two turns. The crossing is short-lived, but sufficient to have a thought for all these boats and all these sailors, anonymous or famous, who crossed the pass between the tower of the Chain and the tower Saint-Nicolas.
The Sea Bus provides the link between the Old Port and the Port des Minimes.
The Pier of the Passeur and the Bus of Sea, cours des Dames
The beaches of La Rochelle
The seaside tradition is very old in La Rochelle. The city of La Rochelle has three beaches monitored during the summer season, the beach of "La Concurrence", the beach of "Les Minimes" and the beach of "Chef-de-Baie".
The beach of La Concurrence with its walk lined with oaks woods, is close to the city center and the Old Port.
The beach of "La Concurreence " 'competition), a curious name for a beach. We are told that this "free" beach entered the 19th century in competition with baths established on the site of the current casino.
La Rochelle, the beach of La Concurrence and the promenade lined with holm oaks.
Close to the beach of the Competition, the Mail is one of the most beautiful walks of La Rochelle.
800 meters long, it is lined with trees and beautiful houses.
The Casino La Rochelle overlooks the Mail. We are here in the heart of the La Rochelle seaside tourism.
La Rochelle, Le Mail, walk lined with trees and beautiful mansions. The Casino La Rochelle overlooks the Mail.
A bit of contemporary history of La Rochelle
The information is extracted from signs that had been put in place temporarily during the renovation of the Saint-Nicolas district which ensures the transition between the Old Port and the station.
1850 - 1870 La Rochelle pushes the walls
From the beginning of the 1850s, the arrival of the railway is envisaged. The choice of the location of the station is not simple because the city is then enclosed in a corset of fortifications. Finally, it was decided to implant the station outside the walled enclosure.
The railway arrives at La Rochelle in 1857.
On September 6th, the first station is inaugurated.
The evolution of shipbuilding techniques and the growth of maritime trade
To favor steel and steam, a new basin is needed. Outside the walls, the outdoor pond is landscaped.
Until the end of the 19th century, it acts as a trading port (wood - coal). After the creation in 1890 of the port of La Pallice, this basin, enlarged in 1922, will shelter first of all the fishing and today the yachting.
1910 - 1930 La Rochelle out of its ramparts
From 1910 to 1930, a vast construction left La Rochelle of its walls.
The current station, built between 1909 and 1922, saw its work interrupted during the First World War to install workshops of American railway equipment.
Designed by the architect Esquié, this is one of the last monumental railway stations built in France.
The monumental railway station of La Rochelle
1910 - 1980 Fishing in La Rochelle
It was after the war of 1870 that the first steam fishing boats appeared. In 1905, there are 8 steamboats for more than 600 sailing boats.
1935: the first diesel trawler leaves for its first tide.
After the second world war, the whole fleet of fishing Rochelaise is equipped with diesel engines.
La Rochelle an excellent place to visit
One hour’s drive away from Royan, La Rochelle is an excellent place to visit , either for a day, a week-end, an afternoon or just an evening at any time of the year.
Travelling from Royan, the simplest route to follow is to take the by-pass, leaving at the exit for La Rochelle Centre and to continue following the signs for the Centre and Parking du Vieux Port. This car-park, at the foot of the Lantern Tower, also called ‘the four Sergeants Tower’, is a good departure point for all walks in the city.
Several hundred metres after leaving the car, you will arrive in the Old Harbour area and there you will suddenly find the lively atmosphere of La Rochelle.
Several possibilities are open to you. If you are interested in the old district, you can follow the quay up to the Big Clock Gate, Porte de la Grosse Horloge, which was the entrance to the city from the harbour side, and pass the gate to walk in the picturesque streets lined with arches, la Rue du Palais, la Rue du Minage, la Grande Rue des Merciers,….
One has only to walk alongside the Old Harbor to arrive at the foot of the Saint Nicholas Tower, and then follow the pier which leads towards the sailing harbour of "Les Minimes".
As you walk along, you begin to understand the importance of yachting for La Rochelle.
On the right-hand side, thousands of masts as far as the eye can see and on the left, the numerous shipyards and the businesses connected with the boats and their equipment.
After this hour of walking, you can choose to return to the Old Harbour by either of two different routes.
You can take the ‘Sea Bus’ directly from the harbour of ‘Les Minimes’, which will return you to the quay Duperré.
In winter, this bus runs only during the weekends.
If you choose to return back on the same road, you can take advantage of the views at the entrance of the Old Harbour and the town.
You can, moreover, shorten the route by taking the 'electric boat’ in front of the harbour which is a boat shuttle service between the south bank and the quay Duperré.
The Bridge of the Ré island and Châtelaillon-Plage
Before leaving La Rochelle, you can go in the direction of La Pallice to look at the Bridge of the island of Ré, 3 km long.
Beautiful panoramic views of the bridge and the island can be seen from a "belvedere" or viewing point without having to cross the bridge and pass the toll gate.
On the way back towards Rochefort and Royan, you can have a short stop by Châtelaillon-Plage, a dozen kilometres to the South of La Rochelle. This seaside walk offers a magnificent view of the coast and the islands.
La Rochelle, to see on bernezac.com
to see near La Rochelle
La Rochelle, seen from the sky
La Rochelle, seen from the sea on the Old Port and the city
La Rochelle, view on the ENCAN space (exhibition centre), the trawlers' basin and the basins of the Old Port
La Rochelle, view of the bay and the harbor of Minimes before the extension opened in 2014
La Rochelle, view on the Old Port
La Rochelle, view of the city and the green alleys of Charruyer Park
LES STATIONS BALNEAIRES