Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in western France, Les Sables-d’Olonne is a historic seaside town between La Rochelle and Saint-Nazaire. It’s the birthplace of the infamous pirate François l’Olonnais and provides the start and finishing point for the annual Vendée Globe Challenge, a solo yacht race considered the world’s toughest.
Things to do in Les Sables-d'Olonne
Spend your days lazing on one of Les Sables d’Olonnes’ sandy beaches or get active while kayaking, jet-skiing and sailing along the coast. If you prefer to stay dry, stroll around the old port to watch the fishing boats coming and going or admire the 17th-century Gothic architecture of the Notre Dame de Bon Port Church.
Art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss a visit to the Musée de l'Abbaye Sainte-Croix, which occupies a beautifully preserved 17th-century abbey. It’s dedicated to modern and contemporary art, with a focus on the works of the French painter Gaston Chaissac and the Romanian sculptor Victor Brauner. It also has several exhibits dedicated to the maritime history of Les Sables-d’Olonne and displays vintage posters of the resort town.
Want to walk down one of the world’s narrowest streets? Head to the Rue de l’Enfer, which is just 40 centimetres wide at ground level and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records. Also not to miss in Les Sables d’Olonnes is the atmospheric Quartier de la Penotte, which boasts beautiful houses decorated with seashell-made mosaics and colourful pebbles.
Getting around Les Sables-d'Olonne
Les Sables-d’Olonne is around 1.5 hours’ drive from Nantes and Nantes Atlantique Airport, which has flights to destinations across Europe and North Africa. Trains connect to d’Olonne to Paris and buses travel throughout the town. The centre of Les Sables-d’Olonne is compact enough to explore on foot.