La Rochelle Tourist Attractions
The interesting old port town of La Rochelle, once capital of the district of Aunis and now chief town of the département of Charente- Maritime and the see of a bishop, lies between Nantes and Bordeaux in a bay on the Atlantic which is sheltered on the seaward side by the islands of Ré and Oléron.
To the south of the old town is the picturesque Vieux Port (Old Harbor). Since this is too small for modern requirements, however, large seagoing ships and La Rochelle's fishing fleet (the fifth largest in France) now use the new harbor beyond the Pointe des Minimes.Between the 14th and the 18th C. La Rochelle was one of France's leading maritime towns, carrying on an independent trade with North America from an early period. During the 16th C. wars of religion, as a Huguenot stronghold, it was the scene of much fighting. In 1628 it was besieged by Richelieu's forces and starved into surrender. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and the loss of Canada in 1763 ended La Rochelle's great days; but with its old harbor defenses and its arcaded houses the town has preserved much of the character of the Huguenot period.The famous physicist René-Antoine de Réaumur (1683-1757), inventor of the Réaumur temperature scale, was born in La Rochelle.
In the center of La Rochelle is the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, with the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), a richly decorated Renaissance building mainly dating from 1595-1606, surrounded by an older defensive wall (1498). In Rue des Merciers, an arcaded street which runs from the northeast corner of the Town Hall to the market square, are many picturesque old houses (particularly Nos. 3, 5, 8, 17 and 23).
In La Rochelle, from the Town Hall Rue Dupaty runs west into the town's main north-south axis: to the left Rue du Palais, lined by arcades of the 16th-18th C., to the right Rue Chaudrier, which runs north into the Place de Verdun. At the end of Rue Chaudrier, on the left, is the Cathedral of St-Louis, a building in classical style designed by Jacques Gabriel (1742-1762), with a 15th C. tower.
In La Rochelle, a short distance southwest of the Cathedral is the Musée d'Orbigny (local history, ceramics, East Asian art). To the south of the museum is Rue de l'Escale, lined with handsome Baroque houses.In La Rochelle, a little way west of the Place de Verdun, in Rue Gargoulleau, is the former Bishop's Palace (18th C.), now housing the Musée de Peinture (the municipal art gallery) and the Municipal Library. Notable among the pictures in the Museum are a landscape by Corot and an "Adoration of the Shepherds" by E. Le Sueur.In Rue Albert 1, the northward continuation of Rue Chaudrier, is the Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Garden), with the Fleuriau Museum (natural history) and the Lafaille Museum (oceanography and ethnography).
In La Rochelle, in Rue du Palais, on right, are the Palais de Justice (Law Courts, 1789) and the Bourse (Exchange, 1785), with a handsome courtyard; both buildings have fine facades.In a side street, Rue des Augustins, is the Maison de Henri II, a town house of 1555.At the end of Rue du Palais is the Porte de la Grosse-Horloge (14th-15th C.), the only surviving town gate; the top portion dates from 1746.
In La Rochelle, beyond the Porte de la Grosse-Horloge, flanked by Quai Duperré and the Cours Wilson, is the Vieux Port, a busy and picturesque scene with its crowded fishing boats (boat trips round the harbor). The entrance is guarded by the massive Tour St-Nicolas (1384; view) on the east side and the Tour de la Chaîne on the west. The Tour de la Chaîne (which contains an interesting relief model of the medieval town) gets its name from the chain which was drawn across the mouth of the harbor at night during the Middle Ages. From the south side of the outer harbor there is a magnificent view of the harbor and the towers of the town.The fishermen's quarter lies round the Bassin à Flot, to the south of the Vieux Port.
In La Rochelle, from the Cours Wilson Rue St Jean du Pérot runs southwest to the beautiful Parc Charruyer, which extends along the old fortifications. From the south end of the gardens the Mail continues west along the seafront.In the Port des Minimes district is France's largest aquarium.
While the construction date is unknown the first reference to this tower was in 1384. By itself it serves as a fort in a strong position over the harbor. Quite irregular in shape, the interior is a maze of odd corridors, staircases and rooms.
Tour de la Lanterne
Tour de la Chaîne
La Rochelle Festivals
Festivals and events in Le Rochelle include Sailing in May and the Festival of French song in July.
12km/7.5mi north of La Rochelle is Esnandes, with a Romanesque church which was altered in the 14th and 15th centuries but still preserves its original facade, incorporated in a defensive wall.7km/4.5mi north is the little town of La Pallice, with La Rochelle's New Harbor (1883- 1890). This steadily developing commercial port can handle large seagoing vessels.Just off La Rochelle, on the north side of a wide bay, the Pertuis d'Antioche, is the Ile de Ré with its extensive salt pans and oyster beds.South of La Rochelle lie the two islands of Aix and Oléron.