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 coastline, as well as lesser-known islands that feel a world away from 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.
Note: Even if you don’t want to cycle, the city is very pedestrian-friendly. Most of the city center is traffic-free, which makes it great for exploring as a traveler!
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 to 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.
You can visit three towers, learn about the rich history, and climb to the top for stunning views out 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)
Tip: There are guided tours you can take which will help you to learn about the ancient maritime history of the towers. They normally include other sights in La Rochelle too, such as the old town hall, and museums.
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.
Also read: A 3-day city trip in Paris
Try the Popular Ice Cream of Ernest Le Glacier
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!
Tip: Once the evening starts, head over for an Aperitif at the bar ‘La Guignette’. It has a very traditional French vibe and it’s just a 3-minute walk away from Ernest Le Glacier.
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!
More about: The best things to do on Ile de Re
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.
Read more: The complete guide to Aix Island & Rochefort
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. Rent a car at Sunny Cars, they work with local car rental companies. When booking through Sunny Cars, all insurances are included. Book your local rental car here.
By Plane: La Rochelle has an international airport close to the city offering flights to other popular destinations in Europe.
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.
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. Also see the other hotel options in this city.
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!
This article is a collaboration with France.fr and Nouvelle-Aquitaine Regional Tourism Board.
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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.
Thank you Judy! Have a great time at La Rochelle.