La Rochelle, France tourist information.
Known as La Ville Blanche (the White City), La Rochelle is one of France’s foremost seaports from the 14th to 17th centuries, and is a very pleasant place to visit and to pass a few days largely due to its preserved old town and the harbour’s fortress towers. You will be surprised by its architectural heritage, its unique atmosphere, the diversity of its museums and its eclectic nightlife.
The focus of the town is the old harbour, a lovely part of the town and very picturesque with its two monumental towers (St Nicolas Tower and the Tower of the Chain) either side of the port entrance, through which you can watch the boats enter. A third tower, the ‘Tower of the Lantern‘ is connected to the Chain Tower by a section of the ramparts that originally defended the town.
St Nicolas tower
The leaning tower of St Nicolas at the entrance to the old harbour was built in the early 14th century from the stones of a castle belonging to Henry II. Three times between the 12th and 14th centuries, La Rochelle was English. The St Nicolas tower contains a maze of steps and chambers, where soldiers have scratched their graffiti. There’s a great view from the top.
The old town, just behind the harbour, is extensive and also very well preserved and restored and dates mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries. The main shopping streets especially have many fine buildings, but you will also need to explore the side streets in this part of the town. The whole of the historic centre of La Rochelle has an impressive unified appearance, with arcaded streets, houses constructed in the local light stone, and light grey shutters. Boutiques now occupy the ground floor of many of the buildings.