Our Editorial team's advice
Saint-Martin-de-Ré is the largest town on the Ile de Ré, an island just off the coast of La Rochelle in the department of Charente-Maritime in the région of Poitou-Charentes in the west of France. The historic town was given UNESCO Word Heritage status several years ago thanks to its citadel which was built to strengthen its fortifications following an attack by the British in the 17th century. Still standing today, these were built by Louis XIV's engineer, Vauban. Today Sif you travel to Saint-Martin-de-Ré you will find it remains a small town with a population of several thousand whose days of fishing are largely over but which continues to attract a great number of tourists from home and abroad all year round.
By far the most interesting part of the town to visit is the citadel and its ramparts which you can do guided tours of an even walk on. The fortifications are now a World Heritage site and are unique in France. For a great view of the town and the rest of the island, there are two viewpoints you should visit. The first is from the bell tower of the Eglise Saint-Martin and the other is from the top of the Phare des Baleines (literally 'Lighthouse of Whales'). The latter houses a small museum about the edifice which was constructed in the mid-19th century. The port, which was once a busy fishing facility, is now more of a marina used for pleasure boats although there are still some fishermen who sell their catch on the quays every morning.
The main museum in the town is housed in the Hôtel de Clerjotte and is named after the gentleman who founded the former Parisian department store La Samaritaine, Ernest Cognacq. Housed in the museum is a collection once belonging to a local scholar, Théodore Phelipott. There is also a history of the island as well as decorative objects and some temporary exhibitions all year round. Just by the church is the birthplace of Cognacq which can also be visited. There are several markets that take place daily in Saint-Martin-de-Ré and various festivals, exhibitions and antique fairs throughout the year. But one must not forget the real asset of the town, its beach, where, during the summer holidays kids can enjoy donkey rides along the sand.
- + Lots of history
- + Easy access
- + Good climate
- + The donkeys in breeches, a small folkloric touch
- - Crowded in school holidays
St-Martin-de-Ré : view all photos
To think about
Getting to Saint-Martin-de-Ré is possible by both car and ferry. There is a bridge which starts just outside La Rochelle on the mainland and which ends at the south the Ile de Ré from where you will have to drive north to Saint-Martin-de-Ré. Alternatively there are ferry services starting from both La Rochelle and La-Tranche-sur-Mer right at the north of the Bay of Biscay which serve the town (although these are passenger only ferries. There are several other trips that can be taken on ferry from the island including to the neighbouring Ile d'Aix and Ile d'Oléron as well as the famous Fort Boyard.
The town is a very popular tourist destination for both the French and foreign tourists to the region. If you are able to visit outside of the school holidays this would be ideal as it can get fairly busy when the kids are around. Just with any highly touristic destination, some restaurants will try and take advantage of unsuspecting visitors so try and get recommendations from people in the know before you head over.
While there are various specialities from the region, such as cognac, Marenne oysters and mojhette (a type of bean grown in the marshes) the town and island itself does not have any particular culinary star. Perhaps the most famous product is the 'Fleur de sel de l'Ile de Ré', a slightly pink, crunchy salt which is used mainly as a topping rather than a cooking ingredient. Of course, being an island, the sea food is fresh and of good quality and the many restaurants in the town and around the island reflects this.
To bring back
As with the cuisine, the island and town are not particularly well-known for a specific product or export. The best souvenir you can bring back is some fleur de sel which can be used to improve your dished back home. Aside from this you'll surely find some local produce that you may like to buy as a souvenir, but it is unlikely to be something you couldn't find elsewhere in France.
These indicators are used as a set of criteria to predict overall weather conditions in St-Martin-de-Ré . The different indicators are there to help you prepare for your trip to St-Martin-de-Ré so you can make plans based on the weather forecast, whether it be a trip to the beach, walking, visiting attractions and museums or winter sports... Here you'll find a precise, overall weather score for each week in St-Martin-de-Ré , which takes into account temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds.
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Maximum temperature not to exceed 16°C, the perceived temperature is <30°.
Bad weather indicators
Showers - averaging between 2.5mm and 3.5mm per day.
Cloudy with sunny intervals (40% to 60% cloud cover).
Sea temperature between 18°C and 20°C. Wind speed between 7 mph and 18 mph.
Moderate to strong winds (between 12mph and 18mph).
Slight feeling of discomfort due air humidity registering higher than 65%.
Ile de France
The Loire region