As one of France’s most important Atlantic seaports and the capital of the Charente-Maritime department, La Rochelle’s maritime history takes center stage at the city’s museums. But there are plenty of other museums of interest too.
La Rochelle’s Maritime Museum is comprised of eight remarkably restored vessels docked at the south end of the Port des Minimes. Visitors can step on board and explore three of them – an old tugboat, called the Saint-Gilles; a fishing trawler, the Angoumois; and a 1960’s meteorological ship, the France I. On board, the fascinating exhibits include maps, charts and artifacts from La Rochelle’s seafaring history. You can also peek into the living quarters, engine room and helm or enjoy cocktails and tapas at the on-board bar on the France 1. The other ships – including the ketch in which Bernard Moitessier sailed around the world and a 1906 dredger – can be admired from the waterfront.
Back in the 18th century, La Rochelle was one of the main ports of emigration to America, serving as the gateway to the ‘New World’ for many Europeans. The New World Museum (Musee du Nouveau-Monde) offers a fascinating look at this period in history with exhibitions devoted to the discovery and exploration of the Americas, the French participation in the Gold Rush, the slave ships, and the relationship between the New World settlers and the American Indians. The vast collection includes thought-provoking paintings, antique furnishings, ancient maritime maps, letters, and personal effects.
La Rochelle’s Aquarium is renowned as one of the most impressive in Europe, but wildlife enthusiasts should also pay a visit to the city’s Natural History Museum. Housed in a striking 19th-century building, the museum’s star attraction is its huge taxidermy collection, which contains a veritable zoo of exotic animals, among them tigers, zebra, gorillas, bison, anteaters, and giraffes. Other highlights include the anthropology exhibitions, which also has a section on primitive religions, shamanism, and sacred rituals, as well as an eclectic collection of ancient weapons, tribal clothing, and even a shrunken head. The beautiful Botanical Gardens (Jardin des Plantes) that adjoin the museum are also worth a visit.
La Rochelle’s Automata Museum is devoted to the city’s long tradition of puppetry and model miniatures, and the sizeable museum is brimming with curiosities. Elaborate scale models, automated model scenes, and elaborate motorised train sets offer an interactive experience, while the collection of life-size puppets include some impressive antiques as well as some slightly creepy clowns!
The Fine Arts Museum (Musée des Beaux-Arts) is La Rochelle’s principal art museum. It is housed in the Hôtel de Crussol d’Uzès, a striking neo-classical palace at the heart of the city’s historic center. The small collection focuses on 15th to 20th century art, with notable paintings by local artists Eugène Fromentin and William Bouguereau, as well as some stunning paintings of La Rochelle’s port by Albert Marquet and Paul Signac. Be aware that signage and descriptions are only available in French.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.