La Rochelle is a city on France’s west coast, a city whose port was an important trading and fishing center from the 11th to 14th centuries. During this time, the city was protected by towers at the port. Today, you can see and visit these icons of the city.

La Rochelle west coast of France French beaches

La Rochelle

This seaside town has a rich maritime and Huguenot background with museums to suit history-lovers. From La Rochelle hundreds of French immigrants went to Quebec in 17th and 18th centuries. Many of these were French Protestants (Huguenots) escaping persecution.

La Rochelle has well-preserved architecture and a lively waterfront which makes it a great place to spend a few days. Buildings of white limestone give it the name “ville blanche.”

Old Town La Rochelle, medieval La Rochelle

Porte de la Grosse Horloge


Through the Porte de la Grosse Horloge, an arched doorway, you can access the Old Town for shopping, restaurants, and photo opps of the arcades, half-timbered buildings, and slate tile roofs through narrow medieval streets.

What to do in La Rochelle

Le Vieux Port: Visit the Old Port to explore the waterfront of the city. Here you’ll find the famous towers, as well as restaurants, water views, and many boats.

The modern area of Les Minimes has the largest marina in France for pleasure boats. If you like boats, there are many to admire, plus regattas, cruise departures, and other water-related events.

Acquarium de la Rochelle is a huge family-friendly aquarium with 600 species. Located on the Quai Louis Prunier,

Tour Saint Nicolas La Rochelle, Tour de la Chaine

Medieval Towers guarding the city

Tour de la Lantern is one of the towers you’ll find on the waterfront entrance to the city. It is a lighthouse built to resemble a candle.

Tour Saint Nicolas faces the Atlantic and was built in the 1300s. You can visit inside here too.

Tour de la Chaine is a rounded tower near Saint Nicolas.

Settlers from La Rochelle explored Quebec and thousands of French people emigrated there and to the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries. Learn more about this fascinating period at the Musée du Nouveau Monde (New World Museum).

France coast

La Rochelle Waterfront

Boating trips to Ile d’Aix and Fort Boyard.

Cross over a nearly 2-mile long bridge you’ll find the charming island of Ile de Ré (see separate post.)