Reservations 877·97·CRAFT  (877·972·7238)

La Rochelle, France

La Rochelle, on the southwest coast of France, serves as capital of the Charente-Maritime department. A harbor town noted for its fishing and trade since the 1100s, La Rochelle is the quintessential European harbor city. Its Vieux Port (old harbor) is guarded by massive fortifications dating from the Middle Ages when the city was a Huguenot Protestant enclave within Catholic France and a trading partner with northern Europe.  In 1628, Cardinal Richelieu succeeded in gaining control over La Rochelle through force, destroying some of the old city's ramparts in the process. La Rochelle subsequently became a major trading port with North America, and early French settlers set sail to the New World from La Rochelle. Fortunately, the city escaped the ravages of World War II and, thus, much of its historical architecture remains, including the Towers of Saint-Nicholas and Chaine (14th century) that guard the harbor entrance as well as an old lighthouse that also once served as a naval prison. The historic center features buildings made from local white limestone, which captures the summer evening light and makes the buildings seem to glow.  Cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses add to the sense of timeless charm. Today, La Rochelle remains an important deepwater commercial port as well as having the largest yachting marina in France, with room for some 3,500 yachts.