Located in the Bay of Biscay, the picturesque French port city of La Rochelle has been an important trading zone since the Middle Ages. The city's mainland is connected to the historic Île de Ré by the Pertuis d'Antioche strait, offering tourists the chance to visit the beaches and nature reserves of the island once home to dukes as well as famous monasteries. While the Romans transformed La Rochelle into a centre of salt production, it was during the era of Plantagenet Rule that many of the city's current churches were built. The discovery of the New World, coupled with the suitability of La Rochelle's Atlantic port, helped the city prosper – evidence of which can still be seen at the town's medieval port towers.
When you're in La Rochelle, head to the towers of the Lantern and the Chain, found in the 5000-berth Vieux Port. Take a stroll through the renaissance-era architecture of the Old Town, where you can sample traditional French seafood. Across the city, you'll find a selection of museums detailing the maritime and exploratory past of La Rochelle, while the Automata Museum highlights the history of puppetry in the region.
Day trips are a tourist favourite in La Rochelle. You can spend your day exploring nearby islands and beaches like Île de Ré, Châtelaillon or Île d'Aix – the place where Napoleon spent his final days. Boat trips to the iconic Fort Boyard island are also worth trying.