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La Rochelle is a city in Charente-Maritime on the Atlantic coast of France. It has a charming old town and harbour, and is often called "la ville blanche" (the white city) for its limestone buildings: they're handsome in any weather, but brilliant when the sun shines down from a big blue Atlantic sky. In 2020 La Rochelle had a population of 77,210.

Île de Ré is a resort island 30 km long, linked to La Rochelle by a toll bridge, and also described on this page. Other islands in the bay, reached by boat trips, are Île d'Aix, Île d'Oleron (usually accessed via Rochefort), and the one you've seen on TV, Fort Boyard.



The Romans built villas, harvested salt from the lagoons, and introduced wine production, but La Rochelle - "the little rock" - only becomes identifiable from the 10th century. It was boosted as a port, like Bordeaux to the south, by the dynastic marriage in 1152 of Eleanor of Aquitane with the future Henry II of England. So it didn't just trade with England, it was an English possession, until the French state expanded in the 14th century. From the 17th century La Rochelle was the base for Atlantic shipping, with fishing off the banks of Newfoundland, Francophone colonies in the Americas, and troop movements as wars between England and France were fought abroad. It became France's leading port but modern shipping outgrew the little harbour, small enough to pull a chain across against marauders. Deep-water facilities moved west to La Pallice, while other development was at Les Minimes, a tract of reclaimed land just south. The historic port and town centre were therefore preserved, and today are the highlight of La Rochelle.

The 1 tourist office is at 2 Quai Georges Simenon 500 m northwest of the railway station, open W-F 10:00-13:00, 14:00-18:00, Sa-Tu 09:30-18:30.

Get in

Map of La Rochelle

By plane


1 La Rochelle – Île de Ré Airport (LRH  IATA), Rue du Jura (5 km west of city, east end of bridge to Île de Ré), +33 892 230103. This has year-round flights from Paris Orly, Lyon and London Stansted. Summer flights include Ajaccio, Bristol, Charleroi, Dublin, Geneva, Leeds, London (Gatwick and Stansted), Manchester, Marseille, Nice and Porto. La Rochelle – Île de Ré Airport (Q1431840) on Wikidata La Rochelle – Île de Ré Airport on Wikipedia

Bus 7 runs downtown (Place de Verdun) M-Sa every 30 min, taking 15 min, fare €1.30. In July and August a bus runs from the airport directly to Île de Ré, at other times you'll have to backtrack via downtown. Taxis wait outside the terminal building, with the fare to town about €20.

By train


TGVs run from Paris Montparnasse every couple of hours, taking 3 hours via Poitiers and Niort. Five or six trains a day run from Bordeaux (2 hr 30 min via Saintes and Rochefort), and from Nantes (3 hr).

2 La Rochelle Ville the railway station is 500 m south of old town centre, near the aquarium and Maritime Museum. It has a grand facade but is poky inside. Cars can be rented from agencies opposite the station.

By bus


Flixbus runs once a day from Paris Bercy Seine, 7 hr. They also run from Nantes (2 hr) and Toulouse (6 hr). Daily buses run from Bilbao and Madrid, and one comes all the way from Algeciras (for ferries from Morocco), taking 24 hours via Malaga, Granada, Jaen, Madrid, Burgos, Vitoria-Gasteiz, San Sebastian, Irun, Bayonne and Bordeaux.

The bus to Île de Ré is run in conjunction with SNCF, so it's through-ticketed, displayed on rail departure boards, and timed to connect with the Paris trains.

Jean Moulin bus station is south flank of the railway station on Rue des Jars, reached by footbridge. It's just an open-air parking lot with flimsy bus shelters, no facilities or departure displays or anything.

Some long-distance and most local services stop at Place de Verdun, by the cathedral in the old town.

By road


From Paris take the A10 onto N11 for La Rochelle. From Bordeaux take A10 then exit onto A837 then D137.

Île de Ré toll bridge in 2023 charges €16 return per car in high season (mid-June to mid-Sept) and €8 the rest of the year. The bridge is free for pedestrians, cyclists and motorbikes under 50 cc.

By boat


Cruise liners occasionally call at La Rochelle, docking at the far end of Viaduc Président Christian Morch, 10 km west of town near the bridge to Île de Ré. Typically these are on week-long cruises of the Bay of Biscay and Channel Islands, with passengers coming ashore for a day-trip to the Dordogne and quick look at the old town. They're not available to book as point-to-point ferries.

Get around

Harbour towers of La Rochelle

Walking is your best choice around the old town and harbour.

Yélo is the public transport combine - it's a pun on "yellow" and "vélo". A single bus ticket can be bought by bank card on the bus: in 2024 it costs €1.50 and is valid for one transfer within one hour. A 10-unit ticket costs €12, a 24-hour pass is €5, a 7-day pass is €22. Buy these from Yélo kiosks, for instance in Place de Verdun, which just about every bus line passes through. One exception is the Friday evening summer service to Île de Ré, which goes direct from the railway station.

The ferry from Vieux Port to Port des Minimes runs hourly, fare €3.

The bike rental service is also run by Yélo: you first need to register at their kiosk in Place de Verdun, with ID and credit card for a €150 deposit. Short-term rental is €1 for the first 30 min then €1.50 per 30 min - these rentals may not be taken to Île de Ré. Longer hires are also easily arranged. There are 112 pick-up and return stations across the city.


Changing times at Musée du Nouveau Monde
  • Vieux Port is the oldest and most picturesque part of La Rochelle, dominated by its defensive towers. The quayside extends 200 m upstream from the port, along Canal Maubec. Most buildings are centuries old and very well maintained. The narrow streets and pale stone buildings make the city feel more Midi than Atlantic.
  • 1 Tour de la Grosse Horloge is the Gothic great gate and clocktower connecting the quays to the network of old streets behind, which enclose the market hall, the Protestant church, and the New World Museum. Eventually Vieux Port opens onto Place de Verdun, with the Cathedral of St-Louis.
  • 2 Tour de la Chaîne: If a party of enormous chess pieces came down to the seaside and got drunk, they would resemble these three 14th- / 15th-century towers. Tour de la Chaîne and Tour St Nicholas lean over the narrow harbour entrance: a stout chain was raised between them to keep out trouble (often English). A rampart stretches west to Tour de la Lanterne, the former lighthouse. You can visit the towers daily 10:00 to 13:00 and 14:15 to 17:30 (18:30 during daylight saving). Adult entry costs €9.50 per tower, or €13 for all three, child free.
  • Église Protestante is at 2 Rue Saint-Michel, a block back from the quay. It has a small exhibition on the local Huguenot community and holds services on Sunday at 10:30.
  • Hôtel de Ville is the ornate 14th century town hall, still in use. It suffered a fire in 2013 but has been restored. They no longer offer tours of the interior but you can look in at the impressive courtyard free.
  • 3 Le Bunker, 8 Rue des Dames, +33 5 4642 5289. Daily 10:00-18:00. Bunker built during the German occupation 1941-45 and now a fascinating museum of that period. Adult €9, child €6.50.
  • 4 Musée du Nouveau Monde, 10 Rue Fleuriau, +33 5 4641 4650. W-F, Su M 10:00-12:30, 13:30-17:30, Sa 13:30-17:30. Housed in the 18th century Fleuriau Hotel, this depicts La Rochelle's relationship with the Americas, especially Maritime Canada and the French Caribbean. Adult €8, child free. Musée du Nouveau Monde (Q3330357) on Wikidata
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts just north of Musée du Nouveau Monde remains closed in 2023.
  • 5 Cathédrale Saint-Louis on Place de Verdun was built from 1742 and consecrated in 1748, but only completed in the 19th century when an earlier church and other buildings were cleared from the site. It's neo-classical, mostly plain but with paintings in the cupola. It also incorporates the 12th century bell tower of its predecessor.
  • 6 Musée Maritime, Place Bernard Moitessier, +33 5 4628 0300. Tu-F, Su 10:00-12:30, 13:30-17:30, Sa 13:30-17:30. Land-side maritime museum plus eight 20th century ships moored in the Bassin des Chalutiers. Jan-March the ships can only be seen by guided tour. Adult €8, child free.. Musée maritime de La Rochelle (Q2371874) on Wikidata
Ships in Musée Maritime
  • 7 Musée des Automates, 14 Rue de la Désirée, +33 5 4641 6808. Daily 14:00-19:00. Grand collection of mechanical toys and scale models. Adult €12, child €8.
  • 8 Aquarium de La Rochelle, Quai Louis Prunier, +33 5 4634 0000. Daily Apr-Jun & Sep 09:00-20:00, Jul Aug 09:00-23:00, Oct-Mar 10:00-20:00. You need two hours to see all the multiple habitats and 82 aquariums. Ample signage in English, you don't need to pay extra for the audioguide. Adult €17.50, child €12.50. Aquarium de La Rochelle (Q2859173) on Wikidata Aquarium de La Rochelle on Wikipedia
  • 9 Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, 28 Rue Albert I, +33 5 4641 1825. Su, Tu-F 10:00-12:30, 13:30-17:30, Sa 13:30-17:30. Old-style museum with stuffed animals from many lands. Several rooms are closed for renovation hence the reduced admission fee. Adult €6, child free. Muséum d'Histoire naturelle de La Rochelle on Wikipedia

Further out

  • 10 La Pallice U-boat base is a gaunt unused dock to the west, with its submarine pens built in 1941. The modern industrial dock is further out.
  • Île de Ré resort island is accessed along Route D735 via a 2-km bridge, see above for tolls.
  • 11 Saint-Martin-de-Ré is the main settlement on the island. Its charming port was fortified from the 1720s by Vauban, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Musée Ernest Cognacq depicts the islands's history.
  • 12 Château de Buzay, 10 Rue du Château, La Jarne, +33 5 4656 6321. Interior Jul Aug daily 14:30-17:30. 18th century mansion with period furniture, still the home of its builder's family. The park and outbuildings are open April-Oct but you can only see inside by guided tour in July and August. Adult €9.50, child €6.50.


Robocop in Musée des Automates
  • La Grande Roue is a 42-m ferris wheel next to the tourist office, running daily to 19:00, to 23:00 in July and August. €5 (adult or child) gets you three spins, taking six minutes.
  • Grand Théâtre de la Coursive is at 4 Rue St Jean du Pérot a block back from the quay.
  • Cinema CGR have cinemas at 8 Cour des Dames in old town and Ave Henri Becquerel in Les Minimes. Their Olympia branch on Rue Chaudrier has closed.
  • 1 Stade Rochelais, Stade Marcel-Deflandre, 27 Ave du Maréchal Juin (2 km west of old town), +33 5 4643 1405. "Les Maritimes" play rugby union (15-a-side) in Top 14, the top tier in France. They usually do well and qualify for European tournaments. The stadium dates to the 1920s, but has been renovated several times and now has a capacity of 16,000. It's named for Marcel Deflandre, who was club president in 1940 when rugby league ("rugby-a-treize") was outlawed by the Vichy government, its assets handed over without compensation to rugby union clubs, and the union game greatly strengthened in France. Stade Rochelais (Q756594) on Wikidata Stade Rochelais on Wikipedia
  • Football - soccer - is only played at amateur level, by ES La Rochelle down in the minor leagues.
  • Port des Minimes is one of the biggest pleasure boat marinas in Europe: mostly yachts not motorboats.
  • Boat trips head out to Fort Boyard and Île-d'Aix, with over a dozen operators.
  • Plage des Minimes is the closest beach to town, a sandy expanse just south of the marina. There's better on Île de Ré.
  • Golf: Golf La Rochelle is 10 km north of town at Marsilly.
  • Film Festival is probably next held 28 June - 4 July 2024, tbc.
  • Francofollies is about French pop and rock. It's next held on 12-16 July 2023, on the parking lot south of the Towers.
  • TV Drama Festival has free screenings of shows not yet broadcast. The next is probably 12-17 Sept 2023, tbc.
  • La Rochelle Jazz Festival is next held 12-15 Oct 2023.
  • Marathon de La Rochelle is next run on Su 26 Nov 2023.


  • Vieux Marché is the main market, north side of old town on Rue Thiers. There's a large covered hall and open-air stalls, daily 06:00-13:30.
  • Monoprix is the main store in town centre, at 29 Rue Admyrauld, open daily 08:30-20:00.
  • Convenience stores are dotted around, such as Epicerie de la Gare in front of the station (daily 09:00-02:00).
  • Big supermarkets are further out, for instance Intermarché Super and Lidl on the retail park 3 km east.


Local specialties: seafood of course. Try the mussels "Charantais" in a creamy white wine and onion sauce. Also try a waffle with "caramel au beurre sale" (salty butter caramel), a crepe/galette de sarasin, broye du poitou (a butter cookie) and some "gache" (a type of brioche). For dessert, tourteau fromager is a baked cheese cake with a burned layer on top; canneles are small cylindrical pastries.


U-boat pens at La Pallice
  • 1 Le Soleil Brille pour Tout Le Monde, 13 Rue des Cloutiers.
  • La Bonne Pâte, 3 Rue de la Fourche (facing La Solette), +33 5 1685 5043. Daily 12:00-14:00, 19:00-22:00. Cheerful inexpensive pizzeria.
  • 2 Moule Shop (Le Resto), 12 Place des Coureauleurs, +33 5 1726 8608. Tu-Sa 12:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00, Su 12:00-23:00. Fast-food mussels.
  • 3 Les Cèdres du Liban, 22 Rue des Templiers.
  • Le RIF, 62 Rue Saint-Nicolas (next to Ibis Vieux-Port), +33 5 4655 6252. Tu-Sa 11:00-02:00, Su 16:00-00:00. Arab-style kebabs and wraps, open late.
  • 4 Le P'tit Bleu, Cour des Dames, +33 5 4631 5854. Daily 12:00-22:00. Good seafood on quayside - and that's all they serve, apart from rolls, so it leaves you short of a main meal.


  • Café de la Paix has indifferent food and surly service, but you come for the decor and because Simenon wrote Maigret novels here. It's at 54 Rue Chaudrier 100 m north of the cathedral, open M-Sa 07:00-22:00.
  • La Kase, 13 Rue de la Chaîne (100 m west of Tour de la Chaîne), +33 5 4655 7336. W-Su 12:00-13:45, 19:00-22:00. Appreciative reviews for this bistro by the ramparts, serving mostly seafood.
  • Comptoir des Voyages is an excellent little Italian at 22 Rue St Jean du Pérot, 50 m back from Tour de la Chaîne, open daily 10:00-13:00, 14:15-17:30.
  • 5 Le Comptoir de Walter, 45 Rue Saint-Nicolas, +44 5 4650 6771. M-Sa 12:00-14:15, 19:00-22:00. Great food in a relaxed setting.
  • Le Jardin du Marché, 5 Rue Gargoulleau (block north of Musée du Nouveau Monde), +33 5 4641 0642. M-Sa 08:30-18:00. Friendly cafe just west of Vieux Marché, fresh food and lots of veggie / vegan options.
  • 6 La Solette, 11 Place de la Fourche, +33 5 4641 0633. Tu-Sa 12:00-14:00, 19:00-22:00. Pleasant bistro in a quiet square.
  • Île de Ré: Bistrot du Marin is on Quai Nicolas Baudin on Saint-Martin harbour island, open F-Tu. Lots of seafood restaurants line the other quays.
La Martiniere is an ice-cream cafe on Quai Poitheviniere, open daily.


Guarding the ramparts of St Martin de Ré
  • Bar Andre, 5 Rue St Jean de Perot (100 m north of Tour de la Chaîne), +33 5 4641 2824. Daily 09:00-22:00. Well-known seafood restaurant earning mostly good reviews.
  • Les Flots, 1 Rue de la Chaine (next to Tour de la Chaîne), +33 5 4641 3251. Daily 12:15-14:00, 19:30-21:30. Acclaimed seafood restaurant run by Gregory Coutanceau.
  • 7 Christopher Coutanceau, Plage de la Concurrence (within Oxford Club), +33 5 4641 4819. Tu W 19:30-21:00, Th-Sa 12:15-13:15, 19:30-21:00. You'll need to book well ahead and have deep pockets for this superb seafood restaurant.
  • La Yole de Chris, also within Oxford Club, is a more affordable branch of Christopher Coutanceau.


  • Cognac. The city is part of Charente-Maritime AOC. It's double-distilled from Ugni Blanc, which is too dry and acidic to drink as wine, at Cognac Godet near the bridge to Île de Ré, and Pineau - Cognac Bossuet who have an outlet in town. cognac (Q284) on Wikidata Cognac on Wikipedia
  • Le General Humbert, 14 Rue Saint-Nicolas (off Quai Valin), +33 5 4637 0108. Su-Th 18:00-02:00, F Sa 18:00-04:00. Irish pub with TV sport, welcoming to visiting rugby fans, no food. It's named for the fellow who invaded Killala, County Mayo in 1798 in support of the Irish rebellion, and gave the London government an almighty fright. US President Biden's ancestors emigrated in the aftermath.
  • La Guignette is along the street from General Humbert at 8 Rue Saint-Nicholas. It's a grungy wine bar in a former garage open M-Sa 11:00-01:00, 17:00-21:00, where you sit at barrel tables. The specialty is wine with fruit juice or syrup, which can get you wasted before you realise it.
  • La Calhute is on Rue de la Fourche, off Rue Saint-Nicholas, and it too serves wine with fruit mixtures. It's open M Tu 14:00-02:00, W-Sa 12:00-02:00, Su 14:00-23:00.


Château de Buzay



As of June 2023 La Rochelle, its approach roads and Île de Ré have 5G from all French carriers.

Go next

  • Cognac: Best use public transport to reach it, or sort out in advance who'll be driving back.
  • Nantes is the port that outgrew La Rochelle, and has an interesting old town centre.
  • Royan is a seaside resort.
  • Bordeaux is best known for its wine; it's equally worth visiting for its grand neoclassical centre.

Routes through La Rochelle
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This city travel guide to La Rochelle is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.