La Rochelle is an 80,000-inhabitant French town located in the Charente-Maritime department (Poitou-Charentes). This is the prefecture of the department and the capital of Aunis, a former province of France. This harbour town and seaside resort overlooks the Atlantic coast. Ile de Ré, Ile d’Oléron and Ile de Madame constitute a natural barrier to storms. Three watched beaches - in summer - welcome over 6,000 bathers a day during the week-end: Chef de Baie, La Concurrence and Les Minimes.
A 10th century fishers’ village, La Rochelle became as of the 12th century the most important French harbour of the Atlantic. During the Middle Ages, the town reached its peak thanks to wine and salt. This is a fortified town holding numerous defence monuments amongst which the medieval towers in the Vieux-Port: the Tour de la Chaine, Tour de la Lanterne and Tour Saint-Nicolas. La Rochelle aquarium is one of the biggest European aquariums. You can discover about 12,000 Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Tropic animals. Around 800,000 people visit it each year. In July and August, you may also visit the aquarium by night.
Many museums may be visited all year long and tell the story of the town amongst others. The National History Museum is one of the most ancient museums of France and deals with science, history, travels and worldwide music. The Art and History Museum, called Musée d’Orbigny-Bernon, is dedicated to La Rochelle history such as the 1573-1628 period when Cardinal Richelieu besieged the town or WWII. The earthenware collection is part of the most rich in France. On the second floor, China, Japan and Far East arts can be discovered. The Maritime Museum created in 1988 gathers an eight-boat fleet heritage, two of which may be visited. The Perfume Bottle Museum presents over 1,000 perfume bottles made by glassblowers and artists coming from nine countries. The Scale-down Museum is specialised in décor production for shows. You can see cars, boats, trains, planes and the real know-how of miniaturists. Finally, the Automaton Museum, the most important of this kind in France, displays prestigious European figurines.
Another asset of the town is its numerous World Heritage monuments: town hall with a Gothic surrounding wall, Nicolas Venette house, Crussol d’Uzès Hostel with the Fine Arts Museum, Hugues Pontard Hostel and Dames Blanches cloister. Gaze at the several famous gates of the town: Porte Neuve, Porte Dauphine, Porte de Cougnes, Porte Royale and Porte Maubec. Stare at the so-called Grosse Horloge built during the 14th century. Originally, it separated the harbour from the town. Finally, visit the religious monuments like Saint-Louis cathedral, Saint-Sauveur church, Notre Dame church and the Protestant church.
Property prices have dropped since the summer 2008, date of the beginning of the real estate crisis. However, prices remain quite high. Indeed, the average property price for sale is €3,072/sq m in 2009 against €3,197/sq m for properties in France. If you are looking for an apartment in La Rochelle, you’d better invest in a 3-room or 4-room flat since they are much less expensive than studio-flats or 2-room apartments – about €2,700/sq m against €3,500/sq m. Newly built apartments are very expensive in La Rochelle, the average price being €4,500/sq m, whereas just buying in the area of the town will allow you to save money: prices there are about €3,970/sq m.
As regards houses for sale, you may find a 3-room property from €150,000 to €212,500 and a 4-room house from €190,000 to €259,000 in the town centre. If your budget is not limited and you can afford to spend more money, you may prefer to invest in remote parts of the town where prices are paradoxically higher. This corresponds to different facets of the town, remote parts offering beautiful scenery and woods while the town centre has other assets.
A buy-to-let may be an interesting investment as La Rochelle houses many students. Furthermore, 61.4% of people living in the town are tenants. Taking into account the national average of 39.8%, we can easily deduce that La Rochelle has a great buy-to-let potential. Rentals are about €13.36/sq m, here again above the national average of €12.82/sq m. Such a purchase should be fast profitable to you and you will not find it difficult to choose a tenant.
To get updated info about the property prices in the Charente Maritime departement, please browse our French Property Market Reports published in the News Section every month.
Culture, art and historical heritage: one of the charms of La Rochelle is without any doubt its archway streets. Gaze at its medieval town houses and discover its half-timbered and slate houses and sculpted stone facades such as the Hôtel de La Monnaie La Rochelle or Maison Henri II. All monuments, towers, churches and gates to be visited have been exposed previously.
Festivals: numerous music festivals are celebrated in the Poitou Charentes region and play an important role as touristy attraction and promotion of the culture. For instance, les Francofolies, created in 1985, occurs mid-July. It is part of the main national events of the French and French-speaking song. The festival welcomes about 122,000 visitors a week. The Film International Festival is an original festival since there is neither award nor panel of judges. It grew since its creation 35 years ago and still attracts many visitors. Finally, the Festival de la Fiction TV is the most recent one. This is the inevitable meeting for fiction lovers.
Climate and Weather: La Rochelle climate is essentially oceanic. Winter is mild and humid. Summer is sunny and dry, but temperature is temperate due to the sea breeze. The latter usually bring some wind during the afternoon. This is the ideal weather for sailing. The town is as sunny as the French Riviera and the sunniest town in the Atlantic coast, which makes it a privileged residential or holiday place.
Sport and activities: water sports, basket-ball, horse-riding, electronic darts, golf, marathon race, rally, rugby and tour of France, La Rochelle is not outdone with hobbies. This is the opportunity to discover the simple and relaxed lifestyle. There, people enjoy everyday life and the town offers a life quality. Admire the seafront scenery, the Marais Poitevin, preserved environments, wonderful views on the countryside, sandy beaches, cliffs and wild sites by horse, by foot or by boat!
Location – Transport links: La Rochelle is easily reachable by all means of transports. It is less than 3 hours from the French capital with the high-speed train. The railway station offers travels to Marseille, Paris, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes… La Rochelle-Ile de Ré airport serves several European destinations such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Munich, Madrid, Bologna and includes direct routes to Lyon, London, Birmingham, Southampton, Dublin and Edinburgh. The airport welcomed over 200,000 passengers in 2007. By car, La Rochelle is 467km From Paris, 650km from Lyon, 400km from Toulouse, 146km from Nantes, 825km from Marseille and 950km from Strasbourg. Finally, 24 bus lines serve La Rochelle and 17 other towns in the area. Equipped minibuses are in charge of people of reduced mobility.
Rental opportunities: La Rochelle is a touristy location where it may be interesting investing. As exposed previously, there are many tenants in the town, which may constitute a good buy-to-let investment. This popular holiday resort attracts lots of tourists thanks to its thriving economic centres and amazing landscapes.
Up and coming area: Beauregard is the name of the future quarter of La Rochelle, whose purpose is to create a eco-quarter. Life quality, reasonable consumption, inhabitants’ participation, respect of the cultural diversity, here are just some of the keywords of this project. Buildings should have a north-south orientation so as to take advantage of the solar energy and will be composed of environment-respectful materials.
Limestone is mainly used in the building materials of traditional properties in the area.
Farmhouses: originally they had an agricultural purpose and were thus built accordingly. They may have an opened or closed courtyard, a porch if the courtyard is closed, a pigeon house, one or more chimneys and an external stair if the courtyard is opened. Stone-made farmhouses often have outbuildings such as barns or stables. Beams and stones are usually exposed inside the house.
Maison de Maitre: they are charming massive properties located around a huge land. These bourgeoise houses offer an amazing view in the countryside but may also be situated in the town centre. Usually, they are ancient houses ie. built hundreds years ago. Maisons de maitre often have outbuildings such as cottage and detached lodge, chimneys, garage, swimming pool, attic…
Charentaise houses: they are rectangular and symmetrical-shaped properties holding no more than two floors. They are constructed of stones, which may be exposed both inside and outside the house. Charentaise houses often come with outbuildings, a garage, a closed courtyard, a land and a cellar. Some may need renovation but renovated houses are also on the property market.
Click here for more info about the Poitou-Charentes Architecture.
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