La Rochelle is not only the home of Stade Rochellais and O’Gara’s French abode but a great little city on the Bay of Biscay, perfect to enjoy a nice rugby weekend. Today we share some of our favourite things to do in La Rochelle, particularly for those heading to the Leinster Rugby Champions Cup match against Stade Rochelais this December:
THE OLD HARBOUR
La Rochelle’s history is one that is closely linked to fishing and the sea. Dating back to the 13th century, the harbour, Vieux Port, is the historic heart of the city and is flanked by two medieval towers that have seen many boats come and go over many centuries. The Saint Nicholas Tower, Tower of the Chain and Tour de la Lanterne lighthouse are the last remains of the medieval fortification of the city.
Vieux Port is a lovely place for a stroll and definitely the most iconic landmark in La Rochelle.
The Gabut former fishing district in La Rochelle is today one of the city’s trendiest and liveliest areas with its bright-coloured timber houses with a Scandinavian feel, as well as nice cafes and terraces. Some of the old port disused warehouses have also become a hot spot for graffiti artists, so head to the ‘Friche du Gabut’ to admire the city’s latest street art murals.
The Marche Central de La Rochelle opens daily from 8am until about 1.30pm but on Wednesdays and Saturdays it spills into neighbouring streets, as an even bigger market. Marche Central has an impressive array of fresh produce from fish and seafood to fruit, vegetables and regional specialities such as the famous baked cheesecake, as well as local cheeses and wines. The Central Market is a must-see, and taste!, for those who like good food and keen to discover the local flavours of this region. If you like oysters, you are in for a treat!
One of the biggest aquariums in France and one of the city’s top attractions, La Rochelle’s Aquarium is home to over 12000 marine animals. It is the perfect place to discover life underwater without leaving dry land and a great activity for a rainy day.
THE BUNKER OF LA ROCHELLE
Those interested in Military History should pay a visit to the Bunker Museum on Rue des Dames, where you will step into a piece of history that remained hidden for over 40 years. The bunker was secretly built for German soldiers in 1941 and has remained intact since the end of the Second World War. It was forgotten about for many years and only rediscovered in the 1980s by a property developer. It finally opened to the public as a museum in 2013.
La Rochelle is a much-loved Summer destination for the French but while you won’t be hitting its sandy beaches in December there is plenty of things to do.
Instead, you can get into the festive spirit at the traditional Marche de Noel, La Rochelle’s Christmas Market, where you can grab local hand made gifts or just enjoy the seasonal treats. It will kick start Christmas celebrations in the city on 10th December so it’s perfect timing!
These are some of our favourite things to do in La Rochelle but there are many more, including historic buildings in monuments such as the St Louis Cathedral, many historic churches, the Town Hall, etc…
We hope you find our suggestions about things to do in La Rochelle useful for your rugby weekend.
Leinster Rugby face Stade Rochelais on Sunday 10th December 2023. Find details about our Travel with the Team tour to La Rochelle and book your place here: LA ROCHELLE V LEINSTER RUGBY.
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