Still a very Important fishing port on Bay of Biscay
A major Protestant stronghold and surrendered after long siege in 17th century
Old Port guarded by three 14th-century stone towers
Interesting medieval and Renaissance architecture in fortified old town
The Siege of La Rochelle forms the background for
The Three Musketeers
by Alexander Dumas.
If you are interested in
A BRIEF HISTORY OF LA ROCHELLE click Here
Where to eat and drink
La Rochelle is very much a ‘café’ society place. The locals hang out in the café’s fronting the Vieux Port. You can sit outside at the tables and drink some local wine, pastis or coffee, watching the boats go by in the Vieux Port. At lunch time they all serve light meals, snacks or sandwiches. The view across the road to the famous Richelieu towers and the boats in the little marina is lovely. Very popular with local ‘Brits and the crews of visiting sailing boats, as well as the younger Rochalais set, is Fitzpatrick's Irish Café where Kevin and Mary will make you especially welcome if you mention this web site.
If you want a full French luncheon or superb dinner, then there are numerous restaurants on the Rue des Dames part of Quai Duperre – opposite the Grosse Horloge. Moule Mariners and chips to Pizzas. You can eat in the covered areas, outside the restaurants, at as reasonable prices as you will find anywhere in the town.
For superb food, prepared by some of the best chefs in France, you have to walk to the end of Quai Duperre/Rue des Dames and before you get to the tower, turn right into Rue St Jean de Perot a semi pedestrian precinct. There are superb restaurants all along this road. You will certainly need to book a table for evening meals during the season, particularly at weekends. This is where the rich and famous of La Rochelle come to eat out.
Property buying and selling in France- here
Sailing into La Rochelle
Coordinates: 01° 09' 00" W, 46° 09' 37" N
Info about boat facilities in La Rochelle
At 03.00 on Sunday 28th February 2010, a deep low tracking up Biscay from Spain and Portugal veered off to the East and came ashore some miles north of La Rochelle causing devastating flooding to the Charante Maritime area and drowning some 50 plus people before moderating and heading off towards Belgium and the Netherlands
The siege of La Rochelle - The three Musketeers story.....
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Modern Site Seeing in Town
Particularly if you are with children, the Aquarium is a good visit. To find it you walk along the Quai Duperré keeping the boats on the Vieux Port to your right – you pass the Bassin a Flot with the ‘yachts for sale’ pontoon on your right, into Quai Valin. Keep straight on across the road, towards the Basin des Grandes Yachts. These are the very expensive boats that are moored in La Rochelle. Across the road and you will see the Aquarium ahead of you. It has all the features you would expect including sharks and a rain forest.
Just past the front entrance of the Aquarium is the local marine ‘Marche des Puces’. It is full of 2nd hand boaty items, clothes, old charts, sea chests and sextants. Nice place to browse around if you are into the ‘sea and boats’.
The other must see is the Le Musée Maritime. From the Aquarium you just go back past the the Basin des Grandes Yachts to the road. Turn left and keep the basin on your left and you will come to the Bridge Gabut over the lock gates. From the Vieux port you walk between the Vieux Port and the Bassin a flot on your left – over the the little swing bridge across the lock – straight on to the Bassin des Grandes Yachts and you will see Gabut Bridge on your right.
For my sailing books and French canal guides please go to
With 3300 places in Les Minimes, 320 in the Vieux Port,
115 in Bassin du Havre,
65 in Port Neuf & 90 in the Bassin des Yachts - and a new extension in Les Minimes for another 350 boats, about to be built
has one of, if not the largest, Yacht Marina in Europe.
Coordinates: 01° 09' 00" W, 46° 09' 37" N
(which is the main marina close to the university and all the boat yards)
is well lit and available at all states of the tide except possibly low water very big springs.
The Capitainerie is open 24/7 - In summer go alongside the arrivals pontoon directly opposite the entrance to be allocated a berth from the little office. Other times go alongside and walk up to the main Capitainerie. There is a fuel dock if you leave the visitors pontoon to port, just below the Capitainerie but it works, self service, with French credit/bankers cards and you may need to seek help from the Capitainerie.
Les Minimes has more facilities than anywhere else in Europe, 4 travel lifts, 4 cranes, a dozen or so chandleries, engine repairs, sail lofts, marine electronics, life raft servicing etc etc... Many prices are better than the cut price UK shops! You can have your mast or boat transported to the Med or to UK by lorry from here -
UK to Med Routes
Biscay Log Book
These are the WW2 German Submarine Pens at La Rochelle
and were the 'Das Boot' location.
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has more yacht refit/repairs facilities in one place than anywhere else in Europe and most are very good and professional.
All repair and service facilities from an Optimist to a super yacht are available in the ports and marinas
Les Minimes has local cafes and restaurants, multi screen cinema and some shops but is a long walk, a bus ride or a water bus ride, to the wonderful restaurants, shops, bars and cafes of La Rochelle.
The Taste Vin will deliver the wines & spirits you order, to your boat in Les Minimes provided you know your pontoon number and berth. Mention this web site for a free sample!
A more convenient place for visiting yachts is
The Vieux Port
right in the centre of town. You can walk to the supermarket, shops, fish market from the Visitors Pontoons situated on the left as you enter by boat, between the twin towers. Christian is the Vieux Port HM and he speaks English. Just park up on the visitors pontoon and he will come and find you to 'book' you in. The cafes and restaurants are all around. Possibly the best sea food is at Andre's and most sailing folk end up in Fitzpatrick's just opposite on the front.
For detailed sailing info about La Rochelle - les Minimes - Port de Plaisance click here
I recommend these people - they have a yard in the travel lift area and are equipped to do all boat work including launching - hauling - in the owners absence, their workmanship is excellent, and most reasonably priced
They speak English
VIEUX PORT APPROACHES
Except at Low Water springs, you can get into the Vieux Port by following the channel. Do not 'hug' the port hand buoys, around low water, as they are laid on the 'top' of the slope of the channel.
Use the transit, day or night, of the two lighthouses lined up. Very simple and safe entrance in almost any conditions.
As you pass between the two Richelieu towers you will see the water bus and tourists boats on the left and just past them pontoons, two of which are marked visitors. Tie up or raft up, plug into the mains and go ashore and enjoy the the fruits of the sea and the wines of the district in the vast range of cafes and restaurants all around!
If you intend staying longer than a few days or a week, speak to Christian the port captain and he may find you a place in the 'Bassin a Flot' which you can lock in and out of 2 hours either side of high water. The Vieux Port office is just past the footbridge over the bassin a flot lock gates. Showers, loos etc are next door to the Aquarium and Christian will give you the entry code.
Interesting 2nd hand sailing goods shop 'Les Puces du Mer' at the far end of that dock. Real Aladdin's cave of charts, electronics, ropes, dinghies, outboards, masts, sails etc etc
Although this is the most popular 'parking place' for visiting yachts there is normally a space or two and it really is very convenient for everything in the town - if a little noisy sometimes - night life abounds in here - music and film festivals as well as international class restaurants and little side street cafes.
Larger or deep draft yachts can turn to starboard just before the two towers and head towards the Lock Gates to the Basin de Chalutiers and Lifting bridge. VHF channel 9
Bigger vessels will want to go into the Bassin De Chalutiers which has places for yachts between 17 & 90 metres LOA - it also accommodates some smaller yachts and catamarans. The Bassin Des Yachts has 4 metres depth and is available for yachts up to 14 metres and up to 12 metres beam.
The extension to the Les Minimes marina was finished at the end of 2014.
For detailed sailing info click here
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT BUYING HOUSES OR SELLING HOUSES and the inheritance laws that accompany purchase of property in France HERE
It is possible and very reasonable to winter afloat in the Basins or Les Minimes at half the summer prices!
Wintering hauled out is possible via the various yacht sales/management companies in the commercial area where the travel lifts are.
Christian, the Vieux Port captain, speaks excellent English as do many of the chandler and yacht management companies.
Fort Boyard - home of the game shows, is just across the bay
Getting to or from La Rochelle
The town web site in English is at:-
The Marina site in French is at:-
The La Rochelle Boat Show (2nd only to Paris but with the more boats afloat) is at:-
The Grand pavois :
A BRIEF HISTORY OF LA ROCHELLE
9th century La Rochelle appeared as a small village, where surrounding marsh inhabitants gathered
10th Century The town of La Rochelle founded – almost a natural harbour in a well protected corner of Biscay.
12th Century the most important commercial harbour serving western France
1137 Guillaume, 10 Duke of Aquitaine, made it a Freeport.
1230 The Knight Templers, who later became the British 'Free Masons', establish a fleet of merchant ships in La Rochelle. King Henry III gave them a licence to bring wine from La Rochelle to England.
15th Century La Rochelle is now the largest harbour on the Atlantic coast of France, trading mainly in wine and salt.
1585 The majority of the inhabitants became protestants with the Huguenots. La Rochelle becomes the greatest stronghold of the Huguenots in France and the centre of resistance.
The King Louis XIII is not amused.
1568 La Rochelle adopts Protestant ideas starting a period of prosperity.
1620s. The city enters into conflict with the central authority of the King Louis XIII. The Duc de Richelieu is sent to sort it out - with the musketeers.
June 1627 The English King Charles I sends his favourite commander, The Duke of Buckingham, with 80 ships and 6,000 men to help the La Rochelle rebels. They landed on the Isle de Rey, which was still loyal to the French King Louis, and tried to capture St Martin. Louis sent small ships with cannon and troops to reinforce the stronghold and eventually Buckingham lost so many soldiers he was forced to withdraw back to the UK leaving La Rochelle to defend itself.
September 10th 1627 French Royal troops approached La Rochelle and cannon shots were exchanged. This resulted into the Siege of La Rochelle. The Knight Templar are forced into hiding and some manage to escape via the cellars and tunnels under the town.
French engineers isolated La Rochelle with entrenchments 12 kilometres long, fortified by 11 forts and 18 redoubts. They also built with 4,000 workmen a 1,400 meters long seawall, to block the seaward access to the city. The wall was built on top of a foundation made of sunken hulks, filled with rubble.
September 1628 French artillery bombards the city. The English send another fleet to try to help and the ships bombard the royalist positions. The French fire their cannon at the English ships with great success and the English ships withdraw over the horizon
October 28, 1628 After seeing the English protestant ships retreat the city of La Rochelle surrenders, looses it’s Mayor – Jean Guitton and all it’s privileges including that of ‘Freeport’. The residents of La Rochelle had resisted for 14 months, under the leadership of the mayor Jean Guitton and with the gradually diminishing help from England. During the siege, the population of La Rochelle decreased from 27.000 to 5,000 due to casualties, famine and disease.
The Siege forms the background for The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas.
1670 La Rochelle constructs small rapid boats which served everywhere as scouts and which were called frigates. Their total length often attained thirty meters and the height, eight meters. The crew of these boats rarely surpassed thirty sailors. To assure their defence, the vessels were prepared with about fifty cannons.
1689 The persecution of the Huguenots culminated with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV and many Huguenots emigrated, founding cities like New Rochelle in the vicinity of New York.
1700s La Rochelle trades with the ‘New World’, dealing in the slaves from Africa, sugar from the Antilles and most importantly the fur trade from Canada to where more colonists emigrated than from any other single town in France. This was a period of high financial, artistic, cultural and architectural achievements for the city.
1789-1799 During the French revolution life was relatively peaceful in the city, especially in comparison with nearby places such as Rochefort, where the clergy was violently purged, and the Vendée area, where a counter-revolutionary uprising took place, leading to a bloody civil war between monarchists and republicans throughout 1793.
1864 The "Bassin à Flot" of the harbour of La Rochelle was the site for the maiden dive experiments, of the first mechanically-powered submarine in the World, Plongeur, commanded by Marie-Joseph-Camille Doré, a native of La Rochelle. The submarine was armed with a ram to hole the hull of enemy ships, and electrically fired torpedo, fixed at the end of a pole!
February 18, 1864 Plongeur was towed to La Pallice and dived to 9 meters. First mechanically powered submarine in the world!
WW11 During the Second World War, Germany established a submarine naval base at La Pallice, the new commercial port of La Rochelle. A German stronghold, La Rochelle was the last French city to be freed at the end of the War.
1939: when the German armies arrived, 'Mayor Léonce Vieljeux' was the city’s first resistance fighter. He opposed the posting up of Nazi propaganda and at the same time he was helping the engineers and workmen in his factory who belonged to the Alliance resistance network to find escape routes.
Sunday June 23rd 1940, the first German to come to him was a lieutenant carrying under his arm a swastika flag which we wanted to fly from the roof of the city hall. Léonce Vieljeux sent the reply that he was a colonel, and that he would not take orders from an inferior officer, even if he was from a victorious army.
September 22nd 1940 Léonce Vieljeux was relieved of his office of mayor, and expelled from the city in 1941. After returning to the city he sent to the Schirmeck concentration camp near to Strasbourg. He remained there from until September 1st 1944. when he was taken to the Struthof concentration camp.
Léonce Vieljeux, in his 80th year, was shot together with 300 men and 92 women at Struthof concentration camp
January 27th1945 His funeral service was held in the Protestant church, before a crowd of 3000 citizens of La Rochelle, of all religious persuasions
September 12th, 1944 to May 7th, 1945 The advancing Allied troops besieged the 20,000 Germans troops in La Rochelle, Isles de Rey and l’Oléron. After the main German capitulation on May 7th 1945 the Germans in La Rochelle, agree to surrender.
May 8th 1945. French troops entered La Rochelle.
The submarine naval base at La Pallice still exists and was used for the for the German television film ‘Das Boot’. The U-Boat scenes in the movie ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ were also shot in La Rochelle.
1980s. The important Atlantic fishing fleet is moved from the Old harbour to specially built facility at La Pallice allowing for development of yachting facilities near the centre of town.
June 24, 1982, JEAN-LOUP CHRÉTIEN, who was born and educated in La Rochelle, become France’s first man in space. A veteran of three space flights, Chrétien was the 10th Intercosmos cosmonaut, and spent a total of 43 days, 11 hours, 18 minutes, 42 seconds in space.
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