You know you’re in good company when your holiday destination was favoured by luminaries like Zola, the Rothschilds, Picasso and Sarah Bernhardt. Royan might be lesser known than some of the French coasts most famous destinations, but it’s a city so special that the artist Corot nicknamed it ‘The Pearl of the Ocean’.
This famous seaside resort became the centre of attention during the nineteenth century with the popularity of therapeutic seaside bathing on the rise. Located in Charente-Maritime, between the Gironde estuary and the Atlantic Ocean, the city enjoys a privileged location where the five fine-sand beaches remain the heart of its appeal.
Royan has made the tragedies of history its strengths, evolving and adapting along with its residents. 85% destroyed by the Allied bombing in 1945, the city was rebuilt in a modernist style where the typical reinforced concrete of the fifties mingles with the magnificent Belle Epoque villas of Pontaillac.
Earning the deserving label ‘city of art and history’ in 2010, Royan has much more to offer for those willing to move beyond their beach towel. Stroll the seafront promenade, lose yourself in its streets, admire its architectural beauties and enjoy the abundance of culture and sports. Visit easily Royan from some of the best hotels for your stay – all selected by our local experts.
Transports in Royan
By air, you can land at Bordeaux-Mérignac airport (1h45 from Royan) or La Rochelle-Ile de Ré (1h drive). By train, Royan is the end of the line that connects Saintes, Angoulême and Niort (there are TGV connections for Bordeaux and Paris). By car, head to the A10 (Paris-Bordeaux), then take the N150. If you’re coming from the south of the city, follow the D730; and from the north, the D733. Our hoteliers recommend allowing a little extra time on the city’s ring road, especially in summer, when the town’s popularity is a little more than the road can handle. And for the most athletic, the bravest or perhaps just the most cycling-addicted, then there is no better way to arrive at Royan than via the Vélodyssée®, the French section of the Eurovéloroute No. 1 that links Norway to Portugal.
When to go to Royan
From May to October there is no better time to visit Royan. Thanks to a pleasant sea breeze the climate is warm, without being too hot. And with 2250 hours of sunshine every year, the Charente seaside resort can compete with the sunniest of its Mediterranean cousins. Although, bathers beware, the water temperature can’t quite compete with the Med’ except in August when it warms into the twenties.
For visitors who’d rather escape the summer crowds and see Royan in a different light, then low season, or even winter is the perfect time to enjoy the city to yourselves.
If enjoying the beaches of Royan is a must, then discovering the city and its treasures should be just as high on your to-do list. Take the advice of our hoteliers about the many things to do in Royan and look up at as the spectacular and vast concrete angles of the Notre-Dame cathedral, admire the elegant Belle-Epoque villas, take a stroll along the riverside or head to Grande Conche beach where the blockhouses of the Atlantic Wall provide shadow for the casting fisherman. All of those attractions are easy to reach thanks to our selection of well-located hotels in Royan.
ADMIRE THE BELLE-EPOQUE
Rendez-vous in the district of Pontaillac, one of the few neighbourhoods spared the bombing, where lines of sumptuous Belle Epoque villas still bask in their original glory. This chic and peaceful district, Pontaillac is also known for its wide and deep beach of fine sand protected by rocks and beautified with chic tents. Stop at the casino, or take a stroll on the boardwalk, either way you’re a winner.
Royan's majestic waterfront centres around the Grande Conche, a huge 2 km beach. Ideal for swimming and a paradise for morning joggers, dusk-to-dawn walkers, and the perfect spot for those want to learn to sail. Of course, you could always try your hand at water-skiing at the Conche de Pontaillac,or spend the day at one of the more intimate beaches of Foncillon, Chay or Pigeonnier.
TAKE A CRUISE
Heed the call of the open sea and embark on a cruise to discover the Gironde estuary and the historical and beautiful Cordouan lighthouse. The oldest of the French lighthouses still in operation, Cordouan’s history and grand architecture earned it the nickname “Versailles of the sea”. From the Royan marina, you can also take the ferry which joins Le Verdon on the other side of the estuary. The perfect starting point to explore the winelands of Bordeaux in Médoc.
Spread over 7.6 hectares, the Planet Exotica Park offers activities for young and old with a focus on exotic gardens, dinosaurs and the natural world. In the large tropical greenhouse and the desert greenhouse, an impressive collection of reptiles from around the world are waiting for you. Children will love the mini-farm, nature lovers will appreciate the orchid greenhouse, and the Japanese garden with its beautiful bonsai centenarians and olive tree of nearly 2000 years will win over even the most garden-sceptical.
DIVE INTO THE 1950s
After the bombings of April 17, 1945, 85% of Royan was no longer standing. Barely a month later, architect Claude Ferret is appointed to launch the reconstruction. “You have three years to rebuild everything,” the mayor tells him. “If you haven’t finished by then, you will be shot”. A joke; fortunately. Because it took two decades to complete the new face of the city. And what a face it is, with concrete, iron, glass, modern lines and geometric designs that established Royan as one of the most distinctive cities in France.
While the culinary heart of Royan is perhaps best experienced at the seafood market, our hoteliers insist you do no not miss the “parachute”, Royan’s central market which owes its name to its dramatic 1950’s architecture. Melons and asparagus, salted lamb and Chalais veal, Pineau and Cognacs, saffron and salt, caviar and goat cheeses as well as famous oysters, plump shrimps, and the smokey deliciousness of Bouchot mussels cooked under pine needles. Royan’s cuisine is a celebration of the best of surf and turf.
Named after the beach it overlooks, this restaurant is much more than a place to sit and admire the view. It is defined as "an invigorating break with the ocean for decoration". On the terrace or in the panoramic room, the ocean is also part of the menu. The oyster bar deserves a special mention at this oceanfront gem.
Les Filets Bleus
Just steps from the Notre-Dame church, this traditional restaurant offers a 100% homemade and seasonal menu promoting seafood and local produce. In addition to the hearty flavors, the appeal is in the décor which is tastefully reminiscent of the deck of a boat. Makes sense that we are right by the ocean. A Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’ restaurant.
The name of a reclusive and elegant bird, this restaurant located near the train station of Royan, is equally distinguished by its beautiful character. The cuisine is as traditional as it is inventive cuisine and as much a feast for the palate as it is the eyes. Expect nothing less than fresh and seasonal.
The promised ‘surprising culinary experience’ at this restaurant play second to the unobstructed views of the Atlantic in this Pontaillac restaurant. On the menu, a bistronomic and trendy cuisine that will make you fall in love with local flavours as much as it will invite you to travel.
Le Petit Bouchon
Take a seat on the large terrace of this restaurant facing the marina. If you prefer something a little more retro, then head inside. In the kitchen, Antoine has only one creed, "spoil his customers". Colorful dishes, varied flavors, the Petit Bouchon is one to discover.