La Rochelle, France: Best Things To Do in the City of Sailing La Rochelle, France: Best Things To Do in the City of Sailing

La Rochelle, France: Best Things To Do in the City of Sailing

Welcome to La Rochelle: the bustling capital of the Charente Maritime, on the west coast of France. The city is famous for its majestic medieval towers that act as a gateway to the port and the city, and its adventurous maritime history. Aside from this, it’s the perfect place to spend a couple of days, enjoying the lively Old Town and its many bars, cafes, restaurants, and delicious ice cream! Here are some of the top things to do in La Rochelle, France.

Top Things to do in La Rochelle

The city of La Rochelle has plenty of things to offer, including a beautiful harbor and some great beaches close to town. Explore a little further, and you can discover stunning cliff-top coastlines, as well as lesser-known islands that feel a world away from France!

la rochelle france

Cycle Around the City

La Rochelle was one of the first cities in France to adopt a cyclist’s first approach. As a result, there are loads of bike paths and green parks you can explore. Hire a bike, cruise through the city, soak up the atmosphere, and stop off to take photos of the many sights.

la rochelle france

Have a Picnic in the Park

The first thing you’ll notice about La Rochelle is the huge park around the old city. There is green everywhere, which can be seen really well from the towers. Go to the French supermarket, buy yourself some baguette and cheese, and enjoy a French picnic in this beautiful park.

Visit the Towers of La Rochelle, France

La Rochelle is home to two towers that sit at the opening of the harbor. The towers once protected the entrance to the port by a huge chain between the towers. Built more than 800 years ago and nowadays monumental icons of the city! The towers were all designed to be lived in, serving many functions over the years, chapel and even a prison. 

la rochelle france

You can visit three towers, learn about the rich history, and climb to the top for stunning views across the sea, the islands, and the city. 

The Three Towers

  • Saint Nicolas Tower (La tour Saint-Nicolas)
  • The Chaintower (La tour de la Chaîne)
  • Laterntower (Former lighthouse)
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La Rochelle, France: Best Things To Do in the City of Sailing

Visit the Town Hall 

The town hall of La Rochelle is an ornate building and one of the most eye-catching parts of town. Build in the 17th century, it’s thought to be one of the oldest town halls in the whole of France (that’s still used for its original purpose)! It looks more like a palace than a town hall, with its detailed carvings, white pillars, turrets, and watchtower. The town hall is a great spot to start your discovery of the old quarter.

la rochelle france

Sunny days, strolling around the streets of beautiful French towns with an ice cream in hand. Pure bliss! There are loads of great places to get ice cream in La Rochelle, but the most popular is Ernest Le Glacier, and it’s worth the hype!

la rochelle france gelato

Explore the Beaches

La Rochelle’s position on the west coast means it’s home to loads of beautiful beaches for exploring and relaxing. The cliffs are popular amongst walkers, with many of the coastal walks starting here. 

Plage des Minimes
Plage des Minimes is a long white stretch of sand just walking distance from La Rochelle. It’s perfect for a day of collecting shells and paddling in the ocean. Afterward, walk up onto the cliffs for beautiful sunset views, followed by some delicious locally caught seafood in the restaurants.

Plage de la Concurrence
Plage de la Concurrence is 10 minutes from the port of La Rochelle. You can get great views of the La Lanterne Tower from here. It’s also super convenient as it’s closest to the town.

Chef de Baie
This small sandy beach is a great one to explore on a trip to La Rochelle. To the side is an area where you can kayak, and it’s also the starting point for a clifftop walk. Additionally, there’s a lifeguard who supervises swimming, so it’s great for families. 

Take a Day Trip to the Islands

Off the west coast, there are some beautiful islands to explore. In fact, they’re so diverse and wild that, at times, it’s hard to believe you’re still in France!

Ile de Re

Just 30 minutes from the buzz of La Rochelle is the beautiful eco-paradise of Ile de Re! Cross the bridge into a luscious natural area that is home to amazing wildlife, flora, and fauna. It’s also famous for its products because of its salt marshes, oyster farms, and fantastic wineries. You can visit for the day, but we recommend staying for a few days.

Tip: Getting around Ile de Re is an adventure in itself. You can move from A to B by paddle boarding, cycling, walking, or even an eco tuk-tuk!

ile de re best things to do salt marshes

Ile d’Aix

Travel half an hour south of La Rochelle to Fouras, and take a 20-minute boat to your desert island paradise! Visiting Ile d’Aix will give you all the tropical vibes: blue waters, white sandy coves, and traffic-free peace. Life is tranquil, and you can spend a day here just slowly moving from beach to beach by bike.

If you want to stay overnight, book ahead. The island is tiny, and there are not many options for accommodation.

aix island france things to do

How to Get to La Rochelle, France

La Rochelle is on the west coast of France, and it’s easily accessible by public transport. 

By Train: From Paris or Bordeaux, you can reach La Rochelle by direct train in just 3 hours. The ticket price varies but is between 50-80 EUR. Book well in advance to get a better price.

By Car: Paris to La Rochelle is just under 5 hours.

By Plane: La Rochelle has an international airport close to the city offering flights to other popular destinations in Europe.

Getting Around

La Rochelle is a relatively small city, and it’s very walkable. If you want to explore nature outside of the city or see the island of Ile de Re, we recommend hiring a car. However, be aware that islands like Ile d’Aix are transport-free and can be explored only by bike or walking.

la rochelle france

Hotels in La Rochelle

The old quarter of La Rochelle is a beautiful area to stay, as it’s full of charm and history. It’s also great to explore all of La Rochelle’s main sights from there. We stayed at La Fabrique.

Alternatively, you could choose to stay on Ile de Re for a few days instead, basing yourself there to explore the island, as well as day trips to the city.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit La Rochelle is in the spring or the summer! The days are mild, sunny, and it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy the nature that makes the west coast so special. It can be busy with other tourists during this time, but it’s worth getting the true French summer holiday atmosphere!

la rochelle france

This article is a collaboration with and Nouvelle-Aquitaine Regional Tourism Board.

Blog comments (2)

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  • Judy May

    That was the best introduction to La Rochelle I’ve read. It was well written and the pictures were good. I’m about to visit La Rochelle for the first time and I feel you have really managed to capture the atmosphere of the city and the islands.

    • Salt in our Hair

      Thank you Judy! Have a great time at La Rochelle.

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