The countryside of the surrounding Charente-Maritime is very rural and full of history. All along the coast and in the forests you will find Roman architecture. The highlights are :
The beautiful Roman church at the charming village of Talmont that is further up the estuary on a small peninsula. Visit by boat, roundtrip from the Port by night or day, or a drive of 20 minutes.
A ferry service operates across to the Médoc, the Côtes de Blaye and Côtes de Bourg vineyards. Other boat trips are also available from the port, one interesting trip goes to the Cordouan lighthouse, in the middle of the estuary, one of the oldest and tallest.
The town of Saintes, found by the Romans around 20 BC, and called then Mediolanum Santonum, and its borders were almost the same as today. The Arch of Germanicus, is worth a visit as are the ruins of the Gallic arena (Roman amphitheatre) on the left bank of the Charente. Also worth a visit The Abbaye-aux-Dames, and the other churches: the Église Saint-Eutrope and the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre.
The city of Cognac, where you can see the delightful medieval quarter of "Vieux Cognac" running from the Tours Saint-Jacques, alongside the river, up to the Saint-Léger church. The area contains many unusual buildings, built between the 15th and 18th centuries, situated on narrow cobbled streets. Many buildings contain sculptures of the salamander (of Francis I), as well as gargoyles and richly decorated facades.
At the cities of Cognac and Jarnac you can visit the world-famous Cognac distilleries of Cointreau, Remy-Martin, Martell and Royer. Jarnac is the birthplace of François Mitterrand, former French president...
Rochefort is a notable example of seventeenth-century "ville nouvelle" or new town, which means its design and building resulted from a political decree. Here you can see the old "Corderie Royale" (once the longest building in Europe), closed in 1867. Also the Arsenal at Rochefort, closed in 1926, damaged by fire in 1944 and now restored, where the frigate Hermione, who sailed La Fayette to the former British colonies of America, has been rebuilt according the maritime tradition. Also here is the home of author Pierre Loti, and you can visit his oniric townhouse featuring a gothic dining room and Turkish living room.
Further up the coast is La Rochelle. The main feature of La Rochelle is the "Vieux Port" ("Old Harbour"), which is at the heart of the city, picturesque and lined with seafood restaurants. The city walls are open to an evening promenade. The old town has been well preserved. From the harbour, boating trips can be taken to the Île d'Aix and Fort Boyard. Nearby Île de Ré is a short drive to the North. Founded in the 10th Century La Rochelle became an important harbour in the 12th century. During the Renaissance La Rochelle became a centre for the Huguenots (French protestants), however many emigrated from here to escape from France after King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685.