Vieux port de la Rochelle

Three days… in La Rochelle

Looking out over the ocean La Rochelle is a sunny, lively and welcoming place. I took a few days out to discover one of the most beautiful towns along the Atlantic Coast.

Day 1

1 - The La Rochelle Towers

I start by having a coffee in the Old Port before we begin our tour by visiting one of the three Towers. It's great to start off with this fantastic view of the town. At the foot of the Chaîne Tower, we board a ferry (€1) for a quick ride on the water between the two towers. Then it's on to the Gabut quarter of town.

Full rate: €9; free for under 26 years. www.tours-la-rochelle.fr

2 - The Gabut

The former fishermen's district, the Gabut with its colourful wooden houses, reminds us that the town used to be an important trading partner with Scandinavian countries. Today the district is a favourite playground for graffiti artists. On the walls of a derelict factory you'll see an explosion of colour and true works of art. The Gabut is surrounded by two wharves, perfect for a terrace lunch.

3 - The Saint-Nicolas district

I continue my dawdling through another district with a maritime past. Small village within the town, and home to designer boutiques, thrift shops, art galleries, booksellers and second-hand book stalls, today the area is a great place for strolling and shopping. Head to the beautiful terraces on the place de la Solette to relax in the shade. And make sure you stop at the bar La Guignette, favourite haunt of the local youngsters, before you leave. Former rallying point for sailors, the place has managed to hold on to all its charm and authenticity.

La Guignette, 8 Rue Saint-Nicolas. Tel.: +33 (0)5 46 41 05 75.

Place la Rochelle

Day 2

1 - The Maritime Museum

On a family trip, a visit to the Aquarium is a must. But today I feel like a cultural visit to the Maritime Museum. Situated at the end of the trawlers dock, it stands out with its colourful spinnakers and invites you to see the “La Rochelle, born of the sea” exhibition, which completes the visit of floating vessels. I continue the river theme by stopping for lunch at France 1. From the ship's deck, I savour simple cuisine served with a smile.

Aquarium. Adult: €16. Children aged 3 to 17: €12. Free for the under 3's.
www.aquarium-larochelle.com
Maritime Museum. Adult: €9. Aged 4 to 18: €6.5. www.museemaritimelarochelIe.fr

Be smart. During the summer you can get reduced rate morning and evening tickets to visit the La Rochelle Aquarium.

2 - A walk around town

Then I set off to discover the town and take a stroll through its famous arcades. From the rue de l’Escale to the rue du Minage, lift your eyes to see the beautiful timber-framed houses and splendid residences that belonged to former ship owners. On the way, you'll find plenty of places to visit such as the Saint Louis Cathedral, the Natural History Museum or the New World Museum with its majestic statue by Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow displayed in the courtyard.

In the evening, I make sure I take a look at what's on at the Coursive, a National Theatre reputed for its outstanding skylights. Some of the Francofolies concerts take place here!

Day 3

1 - The Bunker

Hidden away in the former market district is a strange building: a Bunker. Headquarters of the Admiral and his U-boat commanders during the Second World War, it was built on the quiet in 1941. Kept intact since the Liberation, it's an invitation to discover the story of La Rochelle between 1939 and 1945. Kids will enjoy solving the puzzles and other games.

Adults: €7.50, children aged 5 to 12: €5.50. Tel.: +33 (0)5.46.42.52.89.

2 - The Market

Set in the 19th century market halls, today's market in La Rochelle
amazes me with its smells, colours, atmosphere and fish displays. On the main market days, Wednesday and Saturday, the stalls overflow into the surrounding streets, a real treat.

Central market, open everyday until 1.30pm.

3 - A trip to the beach and a bike ride

With my basket full, I climb onto my bike and head to the beach for a picnic on the sand. The locals are lucky to have three beaches on hand, the Minimes, la Concurrence and the Chef de la baie. The last, a little bit further out from the town centre, is their favourite. Even better, getting there gives me the chance to take a ride along the sea front. On the way back, I stop off at the Corniche brasserie in Port-Neuf. From the terrace, it gives you probably the best view of the town over the bay.

La Corniche, 2 Boulevard Winston Churchill. Tel.: +33 (0)5 46 43 77 77.

3 jours ... à La Rochelle 

City break atlantique

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