beautiful villages


Ile de Re, a little piece of heaven on the French Atlantic coast is home to many beautiful villages. There are ten villages on the Island, each with a unique soul and character.  Some of the villages on Île de Ré are lively with buzzing city centers while others are very peaceful with long sandy beaches. 

Île de Ré is not a huge Island and if you have a few days, you can visit all ten villages and discover their uniqueness. However, some villages are more beautiful and interesting than others and in this article, I’ll make you discover them. So if you’re time limited and want to make sure you visit the top spots on the Island, follow my list of the most beautiful villages in Île de Ré.

If you’re going to the Island for a day trip from La Rochelle, check out my article about how to spend one day in Île de Ré.

*If you need more recommendations for places to visit in the SW of France, join my Traveling in the Southwest of France group.

Beautiful villages in Île de Ré you shouldn’t miss

La Flotte – an ancient port with the most beautiful market

Île de Ré prides itself on having three out of its ten villages formally labeled as “the most beautiful villages in France” (Les plus beaux villages de France). One of these three stunning villages is La Flotte.

La Flotte is located on the northern coast of the Island and it’s the first village you’ll pass by after crossing the bridge from La Rochelle. The charming village has a rich history dating back to the middle ages. It was a busy port during the 13th century playing an important role in the salt trade on the Island. 

La Flote - one of the most beautiful villages in France
La Flotte – Lost in Bordeaux

What’s not to miss in La Flotte:

The market

La Flotte is home to one of the best markets in Île de Ré. Built as a medieval-inspired market, it’s a perfect place to try some of the regional specialties just before you leave the Island. The market is located at Place du Marche and is open daily throughout the year. 

The medieval market of La Flotte in Ile de Re
The medieval market of La Flotte – Lost in Bordeaux

The historic center:

La Flotte has a bustling historic center with plenty of nice restaurants and beach fashion boutiques. Take a stroll through the narrow paved street and absorb the atmosphere and the architecture of this beautiful town. The village has a beautiful little church, L’église Sainte Catherine that’s also worth a visit.

The Port 

From the old center, you can continue to the port with its beautiful green lighthouse. In the past, La Flotte was a commercial port and nowadays shelters many touristic boats. From the port, you can do a nice walk along the Promenade du Front du Mer.

The port of La Flotte - one of the most beautiful villages in Ile de Re
The port of La Flotte – Lost in Bordeaux

If the weather’s getting hot, head to the small beach located right next to the city center, Plage de l’Arnerault

Recommended hotel in La Flotte:

Hôtel & SPA Le Richelieu is a great Spa hotel located within 10m from the beach. The hotel is perfectly located next to the port and the market. 

Saint Martin de Ré – the main village of Ile de Re

Saint Martin de Ré is a lively port town with beautiful half-timbered houses and historic landmarks. Like its neighbor La Flotte, Saint Martin de Re is labeled as one of the most beautiful villages in France. 

The village is considered the unofficial capital of Île de Ré thanks to its rich history and economic development. And while it’s not the biggest village on the Island, it’s definitely the most important and liveliest of them all. It’s not hard to see why this village is so loved by both locals and tourists.

Saint Martin de Re - the most beloved village in Ile de Re
Saint Martin de Re – Lost in Bordeaux

Saint Martin was an important military port and you can still see its star shape fortifications and its beautiful citadel. This historic monument was built by Vauban, a French military architect, at the end of the 17th century. It is one of the 12 famous Vauban fortified towns some of which are located in the Southwest of France. 

Blaye in Gironde is another example of a Vauban fortified town, see more details about it my article about the most beautiful villages around Bordeaux

In 2008, Saint Martin de Ré was classified as a Unesco world heritage. 

What not to miss in Saint Martin de Ré

The old center

Saint Martin de Ré has a very busy center with lots of restaurants and boutiques, especially around the port where a lot of seafood restaurants and coffee places are located. It’s a perfect spot for lunch. Be sure to be there early to get a spot on one of the terrace cafés. 

Saint Martin de Re - one of the most beautiful villages in Ile de Re
The center of Saint Martin de Re – Lost in Bordeaux

Many houses date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. During that time the village saw great financial growth with many salt and wine merchants moving into the town center. Take a stroll in the historic center and discover the interesting mix of architectural styles. Don’t miss the colorful house and historic buildings such as Eglise Saint-Martin with its bell tower and panoramic terrace.

The beautiful houses in Saint Martin de Re
The center of Saint Martin de Re – Lost in Bordeaux

Springtime is particularly beautiful in Saint Martin de Ré with many houses decorated with typical flowers from Charentes Maritimes. The most prominent one is the stunning hollyhock flower which you can find in abundance in the region. 

The port 

This is the main port of the island and where most of the sea excursions are leaving from. If you’re staying on the island, taking a cruise is one of the best activities you can do here. You can take a cruise to the magical île d’Aix or just a boat trip with a tour around Fort Boyard. 

A boat trip to Fort Boyard from Ile de Re
Fort Boyard – Lost in Bordeaux

You can book your tickets online.

Eat Ice Cream

Another thing this town is known for is ice cream! One of the best ice cream shops here is called La Martinière. It was established in 1970 and is still considered the best ice cream on the Island La Martinière closes during the winter season. 

Recommended hotel in Saint Martin de Ré:
La Martinoise Garden is a charming 4-star guest house in the center of Saint Martin de Re. Book here.

If you’re traveling with a big family, here’s a great villa with 5 rooms close to the center of Saint Martin de Ré.

Ars en Ré – the best place to discover the salt marshes

The third village in Île de Ré to be labeled as one of the “Plus beaux villages de France” is Ars en Ré. It’s a very tranquil village, especially in comparison to Saint Martin de Re and La Flotte.Ars en Ré is located on the South-west coast of the Island, about 30 minutes drive from the Pont de l’île de Ré. However, the village (as well as the route there) is remarkably beautiful and well worth the drive.

La Route du Sel - Ile de Re
The salt route next to Ars en Re – Lost in Bordeaux

Ars en Ré is perfectly situated between the ocean and the salt marshes of Fier d’Ars. If you’re interested to discover how salt is being produced in Ile de Re, this is the perfect place to start your discovery tour. 

Cycle paths are spread along the salt marshes and the port so biking is the best way to discover it. You can also do it walking but I’m a friend that the monotonic scenery might get boring at some point. 

If you have a few days on the Island, Ars en Re is a great point to start discovering the western part of the Ile de Re. 

What’s not to miss in Ars en Ré

The church

The most famous monument in Ars en Ré is its church, Église Saint-Étienne built in the 15th century. The church has a black and white bell tower that is seen from every corner of the village. In the past, the belltower used to guide boats sailing toward the Island. Hence its unique colors. 

Église Saint-Étienne in Ars en Re
Église Saint-Étienne in Ars en Re – Lost in Bordeaux

The port and the little center

Ars en Re has a very cute little town center and port with a few nice restaurants. It’s a great place to stop for lunch.

The port of Ars en Re - a perfect spot for Lunch
The port of Ars en Re – Lost in Bordeaux

After you finish eating, the center is also where you can rent a bike for your trip. We rented our at Beach Bikes in the center, but there are several shops that all seem good. Most bike rental shops are open from April to November. 

Here’s a map of all the cycling routes on the Island.

The market

Ars en Ré is also home to one of the best markets in Ile de Ré. In the summer, the market takes place in the town center every day, whereas the rest of the year it takes place only on Tuesday and Friday mornings. 

If you’re visiting in the winter, market days are the better days to visit this lovely village.

Loix – an Island with in an Island

Look closely at the map of Île de Ré and you’ll notice that Loix is actually an Island within an Island. Most of the village is surrounded by the ocean, making it a 14km coast in total. The southern part of Loix is surrounded by the salt marshes of Île de Ré.

 salt marshes of Île de Ré near Loix
Salt marshes near Loix – Lost in Bordeaux

The peninsula is connected to the rest of the Island by two main cycling paths. One path takes you along the coast from the east side, which is one of the most beautiful paths on the Island. 

The second path is called “La Route du Sel”. This one goes through the salt marshes and leads to the salt eco-museum. 

What’s not to miss in Loix:

Pointe du Grouin – a calm beach on the northeastern part of the peninsula. If you’re looking for a calm, kids-friendly beach, this is a great option. 

Pointe du Grouin - a calm beach in Loix
Pointe du Grouin in Loix – Lost in Bordeaux

Loix has a cute town center with a few coffee places. It also hosts a cute little market that takes place daily during school break and the summer. 

One of the most interesting parts of Loix is the village artisanal. Plenty of merchants and craftsmen open their workshops and boutiques for people to visit. Among the most interesting ones to visit in the soap producer (savonerie Atisanae de re) and l’Abeille en Ré (honey farm).

La Couarde sur Mer – a calm village in a prime location

La Couarde sur Mer is another charming village on the southern coast of Île de Ré. It’s one of the more prosperous villages on the Island thanks to a variety of economic activities like oyster, salt, and wine production. 

Couarde sur Mer - a great stop for a drink
Couarde sur Mer – Lost in Bordeaux

The village has a very cute center with restaurants, bars, and a big carousel for kids. It’s not as lively as other villages on this list but it has one of the best markets on the Islands.

What’s not to miss in La Couarde sur Mer 

La Couarde sur Mer has one of the best coastlines on the Island – a strip of more than 5km of sandy beaches. You can enjoy a variety of water activities such as surfing, jet skiing, SUP, and more.

Another perfect activity offered here is yoga on the beach. The classes take place on Plage des Anneries in July and August. See all the details here.

Recommended hotel in la Couarde sur mer

This beautiful B&B with its beautiful garden is located within a few minutes walk from the beach of la Couarde sur Mer. It’s a perfect place for those looking for a calm vacation.

Le Bois Plage en Ré – the village with the best beaches

Le Bois Plage en Ré is the most popular village in the southern part of Ile de Re, mostly thanks to its amazing beaches. The village has a long 6km of sandy beaches which are perfect for families. 

The beach at Le Bois Plage en Ré - Ile de Re
Plage des Gollandières – Lost in Bordeaux

Le Bois Plage en Ré is known for its summer market taking place in the center of the town. It’s a perfect place to equip yourself with local delicacies before going to the beach. 

What’s not to miss in Le Bois Plage en Ré

The town center is not as beautiful as in other villages on this list but it’s a very lively and kids-friendly village with plenty of restaurants. The market is definitely a must.

The market of Le Bois Plage en Ré
The martket of Le Bois Plage en Ré – Lost in Bordeaux

From inland, the village is surrounded by woods and vineyards. That’s where the Cooperative wine cellar is located. The cooperative includes about 60 wine producers, whose vineyards cover around 600 hectares (7% of the total territory of the Island). You can visit the cooperative in July and August. See details here.

Where to stay in  Le Bois Plage en Ré

If you like camping sites, Interlude located next to the Gros Jonc beach is a great one. If you prefer to stay in a hotel, Les Bois Flottais is a very cozy hotel located between the beach and the city center.

How to get to Ile De Ré

To get to Ile de Re you first need to get to the main city nearby, La Rochelle. La Rochelle has an airport and one of the biggest train stations in the region so you have quite a few ways to get here.

You can find all the ways to get to La Rochelle here

From La Rochelle, you can take a bus ( 3/3E), which stops at the train station and the city center. This is the cheapest way to get here, the ticket price is only 2.5 euros. 

See the timetable here

If you’re traveling by car you’ll have to pay the environmental tax to cross the bridge. The fee is 16 euros in the high season (mid-June to mid-September) and 8 euros in the low season. 

You can also take a boat from the port of La Rochelle to get to the Ile de Ré- see all the details here.

Take a boat from La Rochelle to Ile de Re
The port of La Rochelle – Lost in Bordeaux

How to get from village to village in Ile de Ré

Even if you decide to come to Ile de Re by car, you can easily leave it in the parking. The best way to move around the Island is by bike. There are bike rental shops in every village and in many camping sites as well. 

Some of the shops will even bring the bikes to your hotel. 

The second option is the free shuttle that circulates around the Island. From April the subtle serves three villages: La Flotte, Loix, and Sainte-Marie-de-Ré. In the high season, July- August, the shuttle goes through all 10 villages of Ile de Re. See all the details here.

Here are other articles about amazing places in the Charentes you might like to read when planning your trip to Ile de Re:

Where to eat at La Rochelle
What to do in Cognac
Discover the French capital of comics and street art – Angouleme
Aubeterre sur Dronne – the most beautiful village in Charente

You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:

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*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂 

Aubeterre sur Dronne is a small village located in the Charente department in the southwest of France. Aubeterre is labeled as one of France’s most beautiful villages and has a lot to offer, historic monuments, pretty houses, art galleries, and lively restaurants and coffee places. The town is located on the meeting point of the Charente, Gironde, and Dordogne departments which makes it a perfect day trip from many cities in the region such as Bordeaux, Cognac, Angouleme, Perigueux, Bergerac, or Saint Emilion. In this article, I’ll tell you why Auberette is worth traveling to and what you are expected to see in and around this beautiful village. 

Aubeterre sur Dronne was founded in the 13th century on one of the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela. Most of the village is built from a white stone typical to many cities and villages in the Charente department. The town feels a bit like an amphitheater with plenty of hanging galleries decorated with a lot of flowers and greenery. Auberrete is situated on the Dronne river and spreads over a hilltop and valley. The two levels are connected by pretty narrow streets with beautiful houses and breathtaking viewpoints on the valley. The town has several interesting monuments, with the most important being the underground church, Eglise souterrain Saint-Jean. 

Eglise souterrain Saint-Jean - Aubeterre sur Dronne
Eglise souterrain Saint-Jean – by Lost in Bordeaux

If you need more information about traveling in these regions or any other part of the southwest join my group “Travel in the southwest of France” on Facebook. You can find plenty of other ideas for day trips from Bordeaux in my article about the best day trips from Bordeaux.

What to see in Aubeterre sur Dronne 

While Aubeterre is quite a small village there are a lot of nice streets and places you should not miss on your day trip there. Start your tour of the village on Place Ludovic Trarieux, named after the influential French politician,  Ludovic Trarieux, who was born there in 1840. Trarieux was the founder of the Ligue Francaise pour la défense des droits de l’homme (The Human Rights League of France). This is the liveliest spot in town with several coffee places, restaurants, and boutiques located around the square. For a light lunch, Crêperie de la Source is a cute little restaurant with an amazing view. From here continue to the Eglise souterrain Saint-Jean, the most famous monument in the town. 

If there’s one thing that should not be missed in Aubeterre sur Dronne it’s the remarkable monolithic church. The Saint-Jean underground church was carved from one cliff during the 7th century and was considerably enlarged during the 12th century by a community of Benedictine monks. It has a unique form and measures 20 meters high from the interior. The church has a relic pit, a necropolis with 160 stone coffins, and 18 meters high galleries all carved from the same stone. You can visit the site daily throughout the year – see the details here

Eglise souterrain Saint-Jean - Aubeterre sur Dronne
Eglise souterrain Saint-Jean by Lost in Bordeaux

 From the church start descending to the lower part on the charming Rue Barbichon with its pretty view on the valley. For here turn right to Rue Barbecane where you’ll arrive at Place Merkes Merval, an old washing place. This is a beautiful spot where you can admire the many hanging balconies of Aubeterre. Continue up the street to the main square. If you’re interested in art, don’t miss Espace Ludovic Trarieux on your right as well as Antiquités du Tourniquet, a beautiful antique shop on your left. 

Place Merkes Merval - Aubeterre sur Dronne
Place Merkes Merval – by Lost in Bordeaux

From here you can start discovering the western part of the village with its steep and beautiful streets and several historic houses. Don’t miss the Saint Jaques church, a collegiate that was demolished in the 16th century during the wars of Religions. Its remarkable facade is the only original part left from the church that was later rebuilt in the 18th century. Its facade is a real piece of art with arches and sculpted capitals. 

eglise saint-jacques aubeterre sur dronne
Eglise Saint-Jacques – by lost in Bordeaux

Go to the beach 

If you’re visiting on a hot day, you can finish your day trip on the Aubeterre beach! To get to the beach, pass the bridge to cross the river and turn right. The facilities on the beach include toilets, showers, a kids’ play area, and a restaurant. The beach is located at the Camping base de loisirs d’aubeterre sur dronne that also offers many water activities like kayaking and SUPs. See more details here

What to see around Aubeterre sur Dronne

Aubeterre sur Dronne is a great base to discover other parts of the Southwest of France. Here’s the list of the best places to visit around Aubeterre-sur-Dronne:

Angouleme – the capital of the Charente department is located about 50km north to Aubeterre and is totally worth the visit when in the region. Apart from its beautiful architecture, the city is known as the French capital of street art with tens of murals spread all over the city. Read my article about how to discover the street art scene in Angouleme before heading there. 

memoire du xxeme ciel - street art Angouleme

Cognac – the most famous town in this region is Cognac, obviously thanks to the world-renowned spirit produced there. Cognac is located a bit farther north, about 70 km from Aubeterre but it’s a very interesting place to visit, especially if you want to see how Cognac is made. Read all the details in my article about Cognac.

Villebois-Lavalette – much closer to Aubeterre you can find Chateau de Villebois-Lavalette, a thousand-year-old castle that went through a massive restoration project and can now be visited. The chateau is located in a nice little town (Villebois-Lavalette) with a great covered market.

Riberac – Also very close to Auberette you can find the charming town of Riberac which is located in the Dordogne department. The town that shares the same river with Aubeterre is known for its excellent weekly market every Friday morning. 

Where to stay in Aubeterre sur Dronne 

If you’re planning to go to this region for a few days there are plenty of hotels and guest houses around the town. If you want to stay in the village itself the Grange Bleuet is a recommended place.  See more hotels in Aubeterre sur Dronne here

Where to park in  Aubeterre sur Dronne 

There are two big free parking spaces in Aubeterre sur Dronne. The central one is located just in front of the tourist office on Place du Champ de Foire. If there’s no space there, you can go higher to the northern parking lot next to Chemin du Cimetière. 

If you’re looking for more ideas for day trips in the Bordeaux region here are a few other articles you might want to read:
The best beaches around Bordeaux
Day trips around Bordeaux – wine, beaches and villages 
10 day trips from Bordeaux by Public transport
A weekend in Medoc – Bordeaux wine tours
What to do and eat in Saint Emilion

You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:

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