One of the most historically important seaports on the European Atlantic coast, La Rochelle has become one of France's best-kept secrets. Despite its architectural heritage, its diversity of museums, its warm and sunny weather and its unique atmosphere, La Rochelle is a hugely under-rated resort that largely escapes the tourist hordes. The city became a major power thanks to French maritime trade with the New World. Built on a rocky ledge on the marshy Atlantic coastline, at its peak La Rochelle was easily the busiest and most important French port. Even today, La Rochelle is principally a port city, rather than a tourist town, with a fishing port, a commercial port, a sailing marina and a ferry port.
The older parts of La Rochelle are a real pleasure to explore on foot, either by strolling through the Old Harbour, which is lined with seafood restaurants, or by wandering into the historical centre to see the unique architecture, including medieval buildings, Renaissance houses and 18th century residences. Throughout the older parts of La Rochelle you can see evidence of the wealth that trade with the New World brought to the city - it is hard to miss the noble town mansions which belonged to ship owners.