Historic capital of the Île de Ré, Saint-Martin-de-Ré is a village with incomparable maritime charm and an essential site to visit.  

Organized around its port and protected by its fortified ramparts, it is a must-visit place for vacationing and walking for locals and all visitors to the Île de Ré.

Here, alleys and alleys conceal many treasures of the Rétais heritage: the half-timbered house of the Vinaterie (XNUMXthrd century), the Hôtel de Clerjotte in the Renaissance style or the Citadel which saw prisoners pass through on their way to prison.

A bustling town center with houses steeped in history, terraces for chatting, a port where fishermen and yachtsmen rub shoulders in a good mood.

The history of Saint-Martin-de-Ré

Historical, economic and administrative capital of the Ile de Ré, Saint Martin seems to constitute a village in the Xrd century, containing the port as an urban core populated from the Middle Ages by craftsmen, merchants and merchants who exported wine, salt and imported cereals and wood.

The commercial and strategic importance of Saint-Martin-de-Ré places the village at the center of various desires. A first siege of 3 months in 1627 by the Duke of Buckingham leads Vauban to erect between 1681 and 1685 the fortifications and the citadel while developing the port and the seafront. The city will be attacked again by an Anglo-Dutch fleet in 1696 destroying many houses and damaging the church.

A period of prosperity followed in the XNUMXthrd century or were built beautiful bourgeois residences, in winding and narrow streets, sheltered from the wind.

From 1874 to 1938, Saint-Martin became the gathering place for convicts before their transport to New Caledonia and especially Guyana.

Today an essential place to visit with a rich historical past, the town of 2700 inhabitants is organized around its port, numerous restaurants, terraces and bistros and its shopping streets with decoration, ready-to-wear and souvenirs.

Fortifications of Vauban

A Historical Heritage

 The Vauban Fortifications

Magnificent star of fortifications built at the end of the XNUMXth centuryrd by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, then engineer to King Louis XIV, the village has managed to keep its walls and buildings intact. The city had to be able to shelter the entire population of the island in the event of an enemy attack. Thanks to this work, the city of Saint-Martin-de-Ré was classified, in July 2008, as a World Heritage Site by Unesco (along with 11 other major sites).

Unique in its dimensions, a semi-circle with a radius of 1,5 km and more than 14 km of linear ramparts, the urban wall of Saint-Martin-de-Ré was built between 1681 and 1685. It is leans to the northeast on a vast citadel, a military city transformed into a prison in the XNUMXrd century. This site, a masterpiece of XNUMXth century military architecturerd century and the creative genius of Louis XIV's most famous engineer, Marshal Vauban, is today magnificently preserved in its setting of non-urbanized glacis.


Saint-Martin-de-Ré prison

The Prison and the Citadel of Saint-Martin-de-Ré

Approaching Saint-Martin, the silhouettes of the citadel and the prison emerge in the distance. The citadel of Saint-Martin-de-Ré is a military structure built at the end of the XNUMXth centuryrd century in order to protect the Île de Ré. It is one of the main historical monuments of the town of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, today a penitentiary. With 485 places for prisoners, it is the largest central prison in France. It obviously does not visit.

The Port

Lined with restaurants and lively terraces, protected by ramparts and a dyke at the entrance, it consists of a beaching haven and a wet basin regulated by a lock.
In the heart of the village, of which it remains the key element, it effectively shelters fishing and pleasure boats and is a very popular stopover for boaters who appreciate the proximity of the various services and nightlife.
Managing 220 berths year-round, including 52 reserved for passing yachtsmen, the Port Office has all the essential services to facilitate a stopover in Saint-Martin-de-Ré (showers, fuel station, laundromat, handicapped area and babies, technical services for repairs and fairing, weather, wifi, etc,…).

The Ernest Cognacq Museum, art and history of the Île de Ré

Located in a contemporary building, the museum offers a reading of the highlights that shaped the identity of the island; in turn, island of privileges and independence, land of passage and commercial exchanges, island of fortifications, island of peasants and sailors, place of confinement or vacation. The museum also retraces the past of the Martinese city which, from 1873, became the antechamber of the colonial prisons, an obligatory passage for prisoners sentenced to the prisons of Guyana and New Caledonia.

On the ground floor of the Hôtel de Clerjotte, a Gothic building, the thematic collections of the museum are exhibited: marine objects and ship models, Fine Arts as well as part of its ceramic collection.

The Observatory Bell Tower

The Observatory Bell Tower offers a unique panorama over the fortified town but also over the Île de Ré.
The monumental clock, the bells in action and the view are a delight for any visitor. The view is superb at night. The summit of Saint-Martin then reveals a magical universe of the rich heritage of the Cité Vauban where gargoyles and statues converse in silence.

Target Beach

Saint-Martin-de-Ré has a beach supervised by lifeguards throughout the summer, certified "Bathing Water Quality Approach", a standard created by the Ministry of Ecology and which attests to the monitoring activates the cleanliness of the water. For even more comfortable swimming, the town of Saint-Martin-de-Ré provides you with showers, toilets and bathing cabins (+33 (0)5 46 09 38 90) and access for people with motor disabilities in high season. For the past three years, the waters of Plage de la Cible have been of "excellent quality" with a *** classification.