La Rochelle, France

Last week I wrote about our trip to the beautiful village of Montmorillon to visit friends from Seattle; you can read that post here. From there we headed to La Rochelle, a harbor town on the Bay of Biscay which was established in the 10th century and is known for its impressive medieval towers that mark the entrance to the port. By the 12th century, La Rochelle (which means small rock) was an active and important port in France and beyond.

There are three famous towers in La Rochelle, all dating back to medieval times and built to guard and protect the harbor. La Tour de la Lanterne was built in 1209 and is 180 feet tall. It was used as a prison for several hundred years, and the walls have over 600 drawings made by the prisoners. It was also used a lighthouse in medieval times.

Tour Saint-Nicholas was built in the mid 1300s and is 138 feet tall. It was also used as a prison over the years, and was named after the patron saint of sailors. Legend has it that it was built by a disgruntled fairy who tossed the stones from her demolished castle on the tower’s location.

La Tour Saint-Nicholas

Tour de la Chaîne was built in 1384 and was 138 feet tall, it is now only 65 feet tall. It was used for gunpowder storage over the years which at one point ignited and blew the top off, thus the shrinkage. At one point there was an actual heavy chain stretched between it and Saint-Nicholas Tower that was moved by a winch, to control the flow of ships in and out of the harbor.

Tour de la Chaîne pictured in front of La Tour Saint-Nicholas

The towers are open to the public for tours and special exhibits. Click here for details. All three towers were declared National Historic Monuments by the French government in 1879.

One of the first things I noticed as we wandered through the city was the large number of trails that lead through beautiful green areas and parks. We meandered for several miles from our hotel as we headed to the harbor mostly along these paths.

La Grosse Horloge (Great Clock Gate) originally constructed in the 14th century, played an important role in the fortification of the city. It was refurbished during the reign of Louis XV, and served as the gateway to the city from the port.

La Grosse Horloge

The backside of the tower.

As always, I get a feel for a place by wandering the streets and snapping photos.

Our hotel was not far from the Market District, which we found set up on Friday morning.

We had some amazing meals, but the best was at Le Bistrot d’la Chaîne. It is run by a husband and wife team who are incredibly friendly and attentive. The food was absolutely amazing.

I had read that Andre’s is the best restaurant in the harbor area, but it looked quite overpriced when we reviewed the menu. Le Bistrot d’la Chaîne was much more reasonably priced and the food couldn’t have been better.

We stayed at Le Champlain, a beautiful and comfortable hotel in the old town, within walking distance to most everything we wanted to see. Our room was light, airy, and comfortable, and the gardens were stunning.

There is much more to see and do in La Rochelle, we just scratched the surface. It is a great place to visit if you have kids in tow as there are many kid-friendly activities, including an aquarium, bike rentals, a zoo, and beaches.

Have you been to La Rochelle? Even if you haven’t I would love to hear from you.

Wishing you grand adventures,


29 thoughts on “La Rochelle, France

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  1. Your photos are truly wonderful and so is La Rochelle. I would love to visit one day in order to explore the Old Port of La Rochelle, see the St-Louis Cathedral of La Rochelle and wander around La Rochelle Old Town. Thanks for sharing and inspiring 🙂 Aiva xx

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  2. SO interesting! We’ve never visited any f these places. What a strange legend about the building of Tour Saint Nicholas was built…(like the script of an animated Disney movie.) And how lovely for you both to be able to “meander” (perfect word) through the lovely places your camera has captured. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Those towers are really lovely! I understand why towers are used for prisons, but it just seems such a waste of such beautiful architecture to be used as somewhere so sad. Beautiful pictures all around of this beautiful city. Those purple flowers just pop with joy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, the fairy did a good job by tossing her castle’s stones around – La Tour Saint-Nicholas is beautiful. Old buildings just have a charm of their own … I mean, just look at that lovely Great Clock Gate. Love your street scenes and once again the photos of your food made my mouth water! La Rochelle is beautiful indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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