Long a chic seaside resort, much of whose beautiful Belle Époque architecture was lost during WWII and replaced by 1950s modernist style. The result today is an attractive mix of old and new…
Take in the views
Stroll around town to appreciate the architecture and the lovely views. The Chemin Douanier (customs walk) will reward you with vistas of sandy beaches, secluded bays and Belle Époque mansions. Follow the shoreline path from the port, then head up to Grande-Côte via Vaux-sur-Mer and Saint-Palais-sur-Mer. You can also cycle the coastal park through attractive pine forest, or take a boat ride out to the 67m-high Phare de Cordouan, one of France’s oldest lighthouses. Climb the 300 or so steps to the top for breath-taking views.
Head into town
With its striking shell-shaped 1950s hall, Royan’s market is one of Charente-Maritime’s best. It’s open daily from 7am-1pm – get there before 10am to see it at its liveliest.
You’ll either love or hate Royan’s main church, l’Eglise Notre-Dame. Unlike the region’s famous Romanesque style, this church is defiantly modernist and built in concrete between 1952 and 1956 to replace the original church destroyed during Allied bombing. The nave is as high as Notre-Dame de Paris, and stained glass windows recount the story of Royan.
Les Jardins du Monde have more than seven hectares in which to enjoy plants and garden styles from all over the world, including a Japanese garden, a labyrinth and orchid collections. Children will love the butterfly house, bamboo maze and Pedalos. www.jardins-du-monde.com
Avenue des Congrès
+33 (0)5 46 23 00 00; www.royan-tourisme.com
LA CÔTE SAUVAGE
If you feel like really getting away from it all, head for the Côte Sauvage, just north of Royan. With endless beaches of fine, white sand, crashing waves framed by dunes and maritime pine forests (and no villages or towns in sight), this protected stretch of coast is simply beautiful. Beaches here aren’t patrolled by lifeguards, and tides and currents are dangerous and unpredictable. It’s popular with surfers, there are cycle paths and it’s also possible to go horse-riding.