Tour de la Lanterne

Top choice in La Rochelle

Easily mistaken for an ornate church spire, the conical 15th-century Tour de la Lanterne is La Rochelle's beauty queen. It was so named because of its role as the harbour's lighthouse (lit by an enormous candle) and is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. It is sometimes referred to as Tour des Quatre Sergents in memory of four local sergeants, two of whom were held here for plotting to overthrow the newly reinstated monarchy before their execution in Paris in 1822.

From the 17th to 19th centuries, the robust cream-stone tower was a prison. Prisoners exercised on the 158 stone steps that spiral up to the lantern, from where stunning city views can be enjoyed today. On the way catch your breath on five different floors: some walls are decorated with nautical or militaristic pictures and English-language graffiti carved by English privateers held here during the 18th century. Don't miss the backgammon board carved in the 19th century by a prisoner into the wooden floorboards in room No 4.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby La Rochelle attractions

1. Tour de la Chaîne

0.17 MILES

To protect the harbour at night in times of war, an enormous chain was raised between the two 14th-century stone towers at the harbour entrance to La…

2. Tour St-Nicolas

0.23 MILES

The only tower to be decked out like a house, this 37m-high pentagonal stone tower has leaned slightly to one side ever since building was complete in…

3. Tour de la Grosse Horloge

0.24 MILES

The gateway to the old city, Tour de la Grosse Horloge is a steadfast Gothic-style clock tower with a 12th-century base and 18th-century top.

5. Aquarium La Rochelle

0.37 MILES

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…

6. Musée Maritime

0.47 MILES

In a series of boldly coloured, red, blue and yellow canopied hangars at the Bassin à Flot, the Maritime Museum evokes the history of La Rochelle port,…

7. Musée du Nouveau Monde

0.49 MILES

La Rochelle's role as a departure point for North America is interpreted at this museum, housed in an elegant courtyard-clad mansion built in 1750.

8. Musée des Beaux-Arts


La Rochelle's Museum of Fine Arts, housed inside a stunning neoclassical building, hosts an impressive collection of 15th- to 20th-century art.