The beautiful seaside-port that is La Rochelle is packed with restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs and everything in between, and I can’t say after 7 months that I have been to even half of them. I have, however, scouted out the most eye-catching, friendly & cosy places, many of which became frequent escapes for me & my notebook on afternoons off. I hope that this little travel guide will be useful to someone visiting the town, will entertain you, or will encourage you to go to La Rochelle!
The first is a café which you can’t miss due to its bright, pop-art inspired displays and multi-coloured macarons. It is a ‘cannelé’ specialist, Bordeaux’s regional batter-like cake, and you get a mini one with every coffee that you order. You can find it just off Place de Verdun (the bus station) on the way to the port. It’s not cheap, but it has a very funky interior and does hot chocolate with mountains of chantilly too!
The next café is quite possibly my favourite, or joint favourite of all. Tucked above the magnificent high-ceilings of the “Café Merling” shop which sells an unbelievable array of products including jams, teas, olive oil, chocolates, mugs, coffee, drinks, specialist ingredients, you might not know it was there at all. But if you head upstairs, you will discover a group of comfy seats & sofas in front of a huge semi-circular window and soft mellow jazz tunes floating in the background. You might have to wait for a seat, but usually I got lucky! It’s just off the market place on Rue Gambetta.
Late in my stay, it became warm enough to sit outside in the evening & enjoy the sunshine. My friend Kelly & me found that, at the Plage des Minimes (the other end of town), we could ave a nice apéritif (red wine & crackers) which doesn’t break the bank – around 2.60euros. It’s called the ‘Reef Café’ and only opens in the spring/summer season. It’s a really great place to sit and watch the sun set!
This is also my top cafe of La Rochelle. It isn’t in the centre, it’s also by the beach at the other end of town (Plage des Minimes) but it’s well worth a trip, especially if you want a beach afternoon anyway! Les Blés d’Or (golden wheat) is a boulangerie, with a café inside. It is my absolute favourite combination of the best breads & patisserie I have found in this town, also serving good coffee AND providing wifi. What more could you want from a place? It is also open Sundays (closes Tuesdays instead) so it became my favourite Sunday afternoon retreat. This cake was called something like “fraises de neige” – snowy strawberries.
If it’s an afternoon of junking out on wifi, sofas, donuts or muffins & a choice of luxurious hot chocolates (my favourite ‘noisette’ flavour) then the ‘Sweet Shoppe’ is perfect. It’s really friendly, & they let you stay as long as you like. It was sort of like my extended living room. A little out of town, near the Mediatheque.
Finally, this is somewhere I only went to once, but was told I must for the view. The Aquarium cafe & restaurant is actually on the roof of La Rochelle’s amazing aquarium, and I had breakfast there with my parents while watching over the port & towers from above.
There are actually quite a few other cafés that I love still… and I can’t share them all, but if you’re an obsessive café connoisseur like myself, then you must try Le Jardin (street between the Marché & Place de Verdun) which does incredible hot chocolate “à l’ancienne”.
I will restrain myself a little now – I expect you’re getting the picture of the place! I hope you enjoyed my little La Rochelle guide. I’m writing this on the ferry back across the channel, and trying not to think about how much I’m going to miss it.