Entrance of the Aquarium of La Rochelle, France in summer.

© Jean-Luc Ichard/Getty Images/iStock

Aquarium La Rochelle

Top choice in La Rochelle

La Rochelle's state-of-the-art, family-friendly aquarium is home to 12,000 marine animals and 600 different species. Visits begin by descending in a clunky old 'submarine' to the ocean floor, where you're greeted by the pouting fish of the North Atlantic and serenaded by the sound of crashing waves and classical music. After this you swim through the oceans and seas of the world learning about all its diverse lifeforms. One floor up is the magical Galerie des Lumières (Gallery of Lights).

Other highlights include the huge open-ocean aquarium full of UFO-like rays and fearsome sharks, the fluro-coloured jellyfish waving tentacles in time to the classical music that wafts through the aquarium, the jungle area with its tree-level walkways and ponds full of teeth-gnashing piranhas, the elegantly dancing seahorses, timid turtles and the bizarre half-newt, total-fish mudskippers. The aim is to educate visitors on the wonders of the world's waters and the threats our oceans face. You will learn how sea cucumbers spit their guts out when frightened and then just grow another set, and – here's one that all parents can relate to – how the poor mother octopus becomes so tired at the mere thought of bringing up her precious brood that she dies of exhaustion the moment they hatch out!

Allow a minimum of two hours to visit and consider an audioguide (adult/child €3/2). In high season buy tickets in advance online to avoid queuing.

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