Top French Cities - La Rochelle at a glance

La Rochelle
La Rochelle
Press release

For more information, visit the Tourist Office of La Rochelle at

City region: Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Population & what they are called: 74,998 inhabitants (2014 census), called Rochelais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 4 h 30 min (293 miles) via the A10 autoroute l'Aquitaine

  • by train: about 2 h 30 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Guy Laroche, fashion designer

  • Victor Prevost, photographer

  • Winschluss, comic artist and filmmaker

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • The phare du bout du monde (lighthouse from the end of the world) in the bay facing La Rochelle is a replica of the one near Cape Horn that inspired Jules Verne to write his famous book of the same name.

  • The marina of La Rochelle boasts 4,800 moorings and now ranks among the largest marinas in the world.

Notable sites:

  • Vieux Port – the old port, lorded over by three impressive historical towers – Tour Saint-Nicolas, Tour de la Chaîne and Tour de la Lanterne – and, via the 14th-century Porte de la Grosse Horloge, adjacent to the old town of medieval half-timbered houses set along arcaded streets

  • Aquarium La Rochelle – a state-of-the-art aquarium, one of the largest in Europe (

  • Le Bunker – untouched for decades, this World War II-era, German-built bunker explores La Rochelle's war history (

Top annual events:

  • Francofolies – a festival of French contemporary songs and music (

  • Festival International du Film – a program designed to be eclectic and both geographically and thematically diverse (

  • Grand Pavois – a major event in the international boat show calender (

Most notable museums:

  • Musée Maritime – a fleet of model and full-sized ships brings to life city's maritime heritage (

  • Musée du Nouveau Monde – devoted to the discovery and conquest of the New World as seen from La Rochelle, a main port for trade and emigration toward the Americas

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts – European painting from the 15th to early 20th century, set in an 18th-century palace

Culinary specialties:

  • fresh seafood – everything from ocean fish to scallops, oysters and mussels, and a variety of shellfish

  • galette de Beurlay – a flat, crumbly, savory cake made of flour, eggs, butter, sea salt and one special ingredient: angélique, or wild celery

  • farci charentais – a pâté made of green vegetables

Local wines & spirits:

  • Cognac – the world's best-known brandy, produced in vineyards that reach as far as La Rochelle, with strong local representation by Cognac J. Normandin-Mercier (

  • Pineau des Charentes – a fortified wine made from a blend of local grape juice and Cognac

  • guignette – a very popular, local and light aperitif of fruit-flavored white wine, drunk chilled


  • Marché Central – the large, daily covered market in the 19th-century building in the town center

  • Rue des Merciers – a major arcaded shopping street with a lively atmosphere

  • Made in La Rochelle – near the Espace Encan event space (located in the former fish market): Comptoir Charentais (regional food products), Matlama (bags/accessories), Farol (sailor’s knives) and more

Most popular night spots:

  • La Coursive – a national theatre and event space that stages contemporary circus shows, theatre, dance and musical events, as well as major annual festival (

  • Bar du France 1 – located on the upper deck of the France 1 ship (which houses the Maritime Museum)

  • Quartier Saint-Nicolas – a bohemian and artistic district with vintage shops, art galleries, wine bars, atmospheric local bars and restaurants

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • parks – from Parc Charruyer, a long park following the old town fortifications, to Parc Franck Delmas, connected by the Allée du Mail, a majestic avenue lined with elm trees

  • beaches – the small, central Plage de la Concurrence was the first and most historic beach, followed by the larger Plage des Minimes and Plage Chef de Baie, although much prettier beaches are found on the nearby islands of Ile de Ré and Ile d'Oleron

  • cycling – more than 100 miles of cycle paths make it easy for bikers to get acquainted with La Rochelle and its surroundings

Local industries:

  • maritime services – taking advantage of La Rochelle's position and history it provides naval architects, designers and engineering consultants, specialists, renovation professional... and the marina

In Pop Culture:

  • Fort Boyard – a French game show set in a 19th-century Napoleonic sea fort located off the coast of La Rochelle

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark – the 1981 action movie by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford filmed scenes for the World War II German submarine base

  • Das Boot – the 1981 German drama film about life on a World War II German U-boat

About Top French Cities -

Top French Cities is an association of 29 cities, from regional capitals like Bordeaux to important towns like Avignon and Versailles. They are perfect for young travelers, families and anyone else looking for fun and authentic French experiences that will fit their budget. Most of these cities are university towns with a youthful atmosphere, but all of them reflect the heritage and distinctive flavors of the regions to which they belong. Many are forward-looking too, with historic buildings repurposed to house contemporary art and activity centers like Les Docks in Marseille. Many have created or integrated new, modern museums to contrast with their classical, architectural heritage, like in Nimes, where the cutting-edge Museum of Roman Civilization (Musée de la Romanité) is located across from the historic Roman amphitheater, or in Nantes, where whimsical mechanical creatures are being created, or in the UNESCO World Heritage Site concrete city of Le Havre.


Marion Fourestier
Atout France-The France Tourism Development Agency