A stay in the historical port city of La Rochelle
Apr 26, 2024

A stay in the historical port city of La Rochelle

A stay in the historical port city of La Rochelle
Julien Mainguy

French and based in Vancouver since 2014, Julien Mainguy is the co-founder of Best of France. Passionate about the cultural difference between Canada and Europe, he is leading numerous projects to create awareness, help people grow, and bring communities together.

"La Rochelle was, of all the kingdom’s cities, the one where the national defence had made the greatest progress; it had become an almost impregnable citadel." - Alexandre Dumas, Les Trois Mousquetaires.

Between the salt spray of the Atlantic and the ramparts steeped in history, La Rochelle reveals itself as a living canvas, where each street tells an ancient story and each port a chapter of the sea that inspired many legends and forged French cultural legacy. Located on the picturesque Atlantic coast of southwestern France, La Rochelle is a city that perfectly blends history, culture and natural coastal beauty. For travellers seeking a unique blend of old-world charm and modern vibrancy, this charming port city rich in maritime heritage has long been a beacon. With its ancient stone fortifications, busy port, lively city centre and thriving cultural scene, La Rochelle has become a popular destination for those seeking a quintessentially French experience. Moreover, when arriving in this beautiful city, you will discover its train station, one of the most magnificent in France. If you wish to embark on a journey to discover the charm of La Rochelle, its dense history, astounding architecture and vibrant modern life that make this city a true gem on the French coast, read what follows!

The port of La Rochelle by night
The port of La Rochelle by night

A coastal haven through the ages

From a glorious medieval city

Testament to a bygone era, the origins of the medieval city of La Rochelle date back to the 10th century. However, the coastal region was occupied since Roman times, and the city eventually became functional in the 12th century thanks to William d’Aquitaine. Like most charming coastal French cities, La Rochelle grew from a humble fishing village to a bustling maritime centre. However, this one truly sealed the region's fate. The wine and salt trade via the maritime routes enabled La Rochelle to develop itself. Indeed, with the strategic advantages of a natural harbour, an ideal location and thanks to the privileges acquired in the context of Franco-British competition, La Rochelle attracted merchants from all over Europe and quickly developed into a major trading centre. Therefore, the old port witnessed this maritime expansion that began during medieval times.

The medieval battlements of La Rochelle

To a gem of the French Renaissance

Jewel of the French Renaissance, La Rochelle is a testament to France's rich cultural and architectural heritage. Combining history and charm, its impressive architectural treasures, including the Old Port's iconic 14th-century tower and the stunning Town Hall, bear witness to the city's Renaissance splendour. La Rochelle's maritime heritage is equally fascinating, having been an important trading and research port during the Age of Discovery. Indeed, La Rochelle’s history is rich: for instance, it has long been the defender capital of the Protestants. Nowadays, La Rochelle truly embodies the timeless beauty and elegance of the French Renaissance, making it a must-visit haven for history buffs and romantics alike.

The port of La Rochelle
The port of La Rochelle

The maritime legacy of La Rochelle

An iconic port city surrounded by pristine beaches

The establishment of the commercial port of La Pallèse in 1890 (now the sixth largest port in France) contributed to a strong population development, and La Rochelle has continued to grow since the 1950s. With its large marina, old quarters and historical monuments, Les Minimes now attracts tourists; it has become an attractive city. Indeed, any history buff knows the crucial importance of La Rochelle port in French history, and most French consider this place a must-visit location for its unique port city centre. This place is especially nice to visit in Summer as the sun’s rays uncover its pristine beaches. La Rochelle's beaches are an idyllic getaway where the azure waters of the Bay of Biscay meet the golden sands of the French coast. These beaches provide the perfect environment for relaxation and outdoor adventure. Whether it's the family-friendly Minimes Beach or the tranquil and natural Houmeau Beach, La Rochelle's coastline has something for everyone!

The beach of La Rochelle by sunset

An architectural heritage to preserve

Combining the splendour of the sea with the elegance of the city, La Rochelle's medieval architecture is a stunning testament to the city's enduring charm and historical significance. Entering the Old Town is like travelling back in time, as the city's carefully preserved architecture transports visitors back to the Middle Ages. One of the most striking landmarks is the majestic towers of La Rochelle, including the impressive Tower of Saint-Nicolas and the elegant Tower of La Sane, erected during the 14th and 15th centuries. Built from the region's unique honey-coloured limestone, these twin sentinels guard the entrance to the Old Port and are characterized by strong fortifications and tall towers. They provide a vivid insight into the city's past as an impressive maritime fortress. Walking through the narrow, winding streets, visitors will see rows of half-timbered houses, their intricately carved wooden beams decorated with bright flowers in the summer. As you explore further, you'll see the historic Town Hall, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture with an ornate facade and intricate details. The city's medieval architecture is also reflected in its many churches, including the Church of Saint-Sauveur, a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture, and the stunning Cathedral of St. Louis, illustrating the transition from Romanesque to Gothic styles. Thus, if you are a history enthusiast, wandering through this city steeped in a medieval and maritime atmosphere will be truly invigorating. 

The city centre of La Rochelle
The city centre of La Rochelle

How to spend an unforgettable stay in La Rochelle

Must-do activities in La Rochelle

Uncover the Secrets of La Rochelle through a 3-Hour Private Guided Tour

Are you ready for an unforgettable trip to the hidden gems of La Rochelle, France? This three-hour private tour is your ticket to access the heart and soul of this charming coastal town. The expert local guides will lead you on a mesmerizing exploration of this historic city, revealing its fascinating stories and providing insights beyond the guidebook. Imagine yourself strolling through the cobbled streets of the Old Port with hundreds of years of maritime history unfolding around you. In front of La Rochelle's iconic towers and architecture, you will have the opportunity to hear stories of resilience and triumph that have shaped the city's character and heritage. With a small group of travelling companions, you can ask questions and delve into La Rochelle's fascinating past.

Don't miss this opportunity and make your trip to La Rochelle an unforgettable experience. Book your trip now and let our expert guides tell you the fascinating stories and sights that await you in this picturesque corner of France. Explore La Rochelle like a local and leave with a deep appreciation for the city's heritage and charm!

The city of La Rochelle
The city of La Rochelle

Enjoy local seafood cuisine at restaurant Christopher Coutanceau

Renowned chef who brings culinary excellence to the picturesque French coastal town of La Rochelle, Christopher Coutanceau is the creator of his eponymous restaurant meant for seafood lovers. Therefore, if you wish to taste the region’s gastronomic gems, this is the perfect place! Moreover, his cuisine is committed to sustainable seafood sourcing and protecting rich marine ecosystems. Thus, his restaurants have become beacons of eco-friendly dining. Suppose you are a foodie looking for new sensations. In that case, you must try Chef Coutanceau’s culinary skills and innovative seafood creations that transform the day’s freshest catch into exquisite dishes that tantalize the taste buds. With a menu that changes seasonally, each visit to Christopher Coutanceau's restaurant offers a unique and unforgettable gastronomic journey, making it a must-visit for those seeking the best French seafood experience in La Rochelle.

Fresh Charentaises oysters

Stay in beautiful hotels to better enjoy the city

La Monnaie Art & Spa Hotel

Among the finest accommodations La Rochelle has to offer, the La Monnaie Art & Spa Hotel stands as a true gem, fusing contemporary elegance with a touch of artistic flair. You will not lack comfort there and will stay in the heart of the bustling city. You will soon be able to immerse yourself in a world of relaxation and rejuvenation at their exquisite spa facilities, ensuring your stay is truly unforgettable.

Maison des Ambassadeurs

For those seeking a unique and immersive experience, the Maison des Ambassadeurs is your ideal choice. This luxury boutique hotel exudes old-world charm and modern French sophistication. You will discover the historic residence of Ambassador Albert Bodard in an intimate ambiance. It's the perfect setting for a romantic getaway with its stunning pools and incredible dining options. There, you will not have time to be bored as this beacon of luxury will provide you with a spa treatment, bar and breakfast service in amazing decor.

Bed & Breakfast Eden Ouest 

Meanwhile, if you prefer a more personalized touch, the Bed & Breakfast Eden Ouest offers cozy and stylish accommodations with a delightful daily breakfast. You will have the opportunity to choose your spacious suite and its style personally. Located in a charming residential area, you will enjoy a tranquil escape while remaining close to the city's vibrant heart. It is also an ideal place for a romantic getaway.

Hôtel Le Champlain

Lastly, the Hôtel Le Champlain, with its modern amenities and warm hospitality, strikes a harmonious balance between comfort and convenience through its lovely suites. Situated in a central location, it's the perfect launching pad for your La Rochelle adventures. If you like ancient decor and the historic atmosphere, the beautiful architecture of this hotel will seduce you. Moreover, if you want to enjoy the fresh air, its bucolic terrace is perfect for you to enjoy your delicious French brunch!

The coastal side of La Rochelle
The coastal side of La Rochelle

Indeed, La Rochelle promises a delightful escape for travellers seeking a blend of culture and relaxation. So, whether you are a history buff, a foodie or a nature lover, La Rochelle has something to offer! Book your stay now and immerse yourself in the beauty of this coastal gem.