Its long sandy beaches have made this the most famous beach in the province of Vendee and the sailing capital of the area. Here you can enjoy great hot air balloon rides. Les Sables d'Olonne is also a docking port for more than 1,000 vessels. The town has strong arguments that would seduce anyone into visiting, such as: a huge expanse of white sand, pine forests around, areas where you can enjoy a massage and thalassotherapy techniques, a casino, and several golf courses. The promenade along the beach separates the city is very busy year round because Les Sables d'Olonne is one of the favorite destinations of the French for their holidays. Street performers, cafes, terraces and lots of people coming and going at all times. The hustle and bustle spreads quickly!
The large beach of Sables is Les Sables d'Olonne's main beach. It's more than 3 kilometres long, and has been considered for centuries as one of the most beautiful beaches of Europe and the Coast of Light. You can admire the fine golden sand and deep blue water that only this view can hold. The beach has handicap access, and in summer it has daily life guard services. It's part of the "clean beaches" operation, providing beach goers with ashtrays to prevent contamination. On this beach there's the "Base de Mer y la Punta Plage" where you can take a trip on the sea or take part in a sports competition. Along the beach there are restaurants and bars to have a drink or bite to eat overlooking the ocean. During the summer evenings, the baordwalk is reserved for pedestrians and street artists. Every winter from 2008 until April 2012, the promenade was subject to an ambitious program of public space beautification: a new traffic plan prioritized pedestrians and cyclists, spacious terraces and commercial animation endowing green areas, and lampposts that surprise the public for resembling the mast of a sailboat.
Le Puits d'Enfer is a natural curiosity and one of the most iconic and mysterious symbols on the coast of Sables d'Olonne. To get there you just follow the walk from the Tourist Office for about 15 minutes. Then, about 5 minutes after you've walked past the Institute of Maritime Sports you should see "Le Puits d'Enfer." It's actually a deep hole in a rock that is about 30 meters deep, and the sea touches it during high tide, generating a thud sound, hence its name. During storms, the show can be impressive by the noise and by the waves breaking on its rocky walls. It's the tremendous result of erosion from water and wind, and the source of many legends that evoke ghosts of marine or curious ve came over the account ... Would you dare go near it?
This imposing tower is located in the historical district of Chaume. It is the ancient defensive tower of the castle of Santa Clara, which was transformed into a beacon during the eighteenth century. During World War II, it also served as a watchtower, having been used by the Germans to monitor the Atlantic Wall. The lighthouse became automated in 1994, and has a range of nearly 20 miles. Arundel Tower now houses the Sea and Fishing Museum, helping to explain its history. Traditional tools are also displayed throughout the museum. It is open daily from 10.30 to 12.30 and 15 to 18.30, from April to September. The most impressive thing about this monument is the view of the city and its surroundings from the top of the tower.
The port of Sables d'Olonne has two parts: the port Olona and the Quai Garnier. Garnier Quai is the most traditional, it has a fishing port and a marina. There are typical boats surrounded by seabirds searching for fish. In season, there's an auction on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 am that you can attend by reservation at the Tourist Office (the rest of the day, it's not directly accessible to the public). Port Olona is the modern marina, and since 1989 has been a point of departure and arrival of the Vendée Globe. There are modern private boats, almost all white, that go out to sea during the day. If you arrive early in the morning, you can also see tankers approaching the city to refuel, across the harbour. It's a lively place, surrounded by shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy after a boat trip.
Penotte Island is one of the unique areas of Sables d'Olonne. It is made up of a set of streets whose facades, doors and display panels are all decorated with mosaics made out of shells. This was started in 1997 by local artist named Danièle Arnaud Aubin. They are a continuation of the works can be seen in the museum of the city mollusk. The most striking street is in the center of the Penotte island, between the street and the Palais Travot. The mosaics are inspired by mythology (as Poseidon), in the navy (various ships passed by here) and animals like cats or whales. For these mosaics, they have used all sorts of shells, from the shells of oysters to scallops or nacre. Personally, the ones I liked the most were the mosaics of animals, but the whole neighborhood is splendid. I highly recommended visiting here for an experience that is out of the ordinary.
The Sables d'Olonne salt marshes (or, Les Salines) are a part of the city's heritage. You can visit the marshes on foot, by boat or canoe. The boat tour is guided and it lasts about two hours, including explanations about the profession of salt and salt extraction from the salt mines. With the tour you can also learn more about the ways that smugglers worked there, or just about the flora and fauna in the marshes. Surely you'll be able to see herons, swans, crabs and mullet (a type of fish). From April 1st until September 30th it's advisable to book a reservation. Canoes can be rented daily from 9.30 am to 7 pm, on an hourly or half day. You can finish the day purchasing local goods in the store, as extracted from salt marshes or delicious sweets.
This contemporary art museum is in a 17th century abbey, the Abbey of the Holy Cross, once inhabited by Benedictine monks. Founded in 1963, the museum aims to disseminate modern and contemporary art. It has almost 200 exhibitions. The two main backgrounds hold works by Gaston Chaissac and Victor Brauner. The latter was a surrealist artist ve painted fabrics on a wooden support, drawing mythological themes or Mother's Day. Chaissac, meanwhile, was an inventive painter of diverse techniques, including paintings and calligrams. On the top floor, there's an ethnological collection about Sables d'Olonne which unites antique publications praising the climate of the city. What I liked were the calligrams, with their underlying relationship between poetry and painting.
The thalassotherapy center of Sables d'Olonne is just steps from the beach in Tanchet as well as being next to the zoo and water sports institute. From here you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the artificial lake and the sea. It's an accessible stop for all of those ve want treatments that last from 2-6 days, with the possibility of staying in the Mercure, next to the spa. You can enjoy a treatment, space or sports and leisure facilities. The center's facilities include a heated indoor seawater pool at 30°C, sauna, jacuzzi, hammam and fitness room. The restaurant offers dishes made with fresh and organic products, while the bar serves traditional drinks. The spa has disabled access, and children under 16 years stay free in parents' room.
The Institut Sports Océanis a public institution that manages all the nautical equipment in Sables d'Olonne. The venue is just off Tanchet beach, along Grande Plage. In the vicinity there is a spa and the zoo. The institute offers all kinds of water sports, from individual lessons to workshops or rentals. It consists of three parts: a building, the seashore and the end of the beach. The building is ideal for children ve can surf on the artificial lake. The sea shore is occupied by catamarans and kayaks. Finally, at the end of the beach there are things such as football, handball and beach volleyball tournaments. The Maritime Sports Institute training center also monitors the Loire-Atlantic sailing, and holds seminars and courses during school terms. I was impressed by the size of the structure: the centralization of these activities does not neglect the quality of teaching!
The Vendée Globe race is not a normal competition, it is the race of races! It's a non-stop sailing race around the world without assistance, reserved only for solo sailors. Great stories have been written about this competition as it grows in international prestige. Those ve are successful in the race gain the respect of the maritime world and the general public. Year after year, the Vendée Globe has built his legend and exalted participants to glory. Since Titouan Lamazou won in 1989-1990, the fame of the competition has increased year on year. If you have an adventurous spirit, you cannot miss this great race which sets sail from Les Sables d'Olone where you can enjoy the pleasure of the Atlantic Ocean.
I love this casino, with a white exterior that reminds me of the architecture in Louisiana. It is located in Les Sables D'Olonne, near the zoo. The casino has 140 slot machines, gaming tables, and traditional games like roulette, blackjack, and Texas Hold'em ... there's a cozy bar where they sometimes organise concerts.
I like this bar a lot, with its Irish-inspired decor. There are 5-6 tables outside, opposite the fishing port of Les Sables d'Olonne. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, they organise oyster tastings with a glass of Muscadet, with several price points available. The bar is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8-1 pm, and until 2 on weekends.
L'Amateur is a small, cozy bar that often organises theme nights and karaoke. A young couple took over the bar recently, and transformed it. They offer tapas, nibbles, ice cream ... and be sure to try one of the delicious cocktails! You can also stop here to have a coffee overlooking the port. I love the yellow and purple facade.
The conference centre, in the centre of Les Sables d'Olonne, houses the tourist office, the casino, and conference facilities. I love the tasteful, modern decor, all in steel and glass. Fairs, exhibitions, cocktail events, concerts, shows, and tastings all take place here. There's an auditorium with capacity for 800 people. In addition, the centre is close to the beach.
La Piscine du Remblai is on the main beach of Sables d'Olonne. Its main attraction: a seawater pool, part indoor, part out, making it suitable for all year. There's a 25-m lap pool, another pool for classes and activities, a large jacuzzi, a spa zone (with temperatures of 29C), a hammam ... for lunch, there's a small area where they serve salads and cocktails, and you can enter the pool area for less than 6 euros.
The novelty of the Mothe Achard, this strange giant garden where you can find giant pumpkins, and follow a nice path through plants, vegetables, and many other surprises! Warning: the garden is open every day in summer, but only in the afternoon from September. Admission is €7, and €3.50 for children, making for a good, relaxing afternoon with discoveries for them.
Sables Zoo is 5 minutes from Tanchet beach, next to the thalasso-therapy centre and the maritime nautical sports centre. It's an exotic green space away from the sand dunes. A few years ago, the zoo was named an "ecozoo" for its commitment to the environment, which promotes public awareness for ecosystems. The tours are themed based on respect for the environment and the preservation of green spaces (not toxic). Another function is the conservation of endangered species. This commitment is already present at the entrance of the park, where they sell organic popcorn so that visitors can help feed the animals. I loved the lemurs, the red pandas and the otters (there are ever fewer in French rivers). The zoo is open from February to early November, from 9:30 am to 7:00 pm in high season.
Les Sables d'Olonne is not only famous for its large majestic monuments, but also for the amount of things to do and see in Les Sables-d'Olonne. Its geographical location and layout allows you to fully enjoy the outdoors whether you are doing activities or having a quiet family day. This mid-sized city on the western coast of France also has a nice port.
Trying to figure out what to do in Les Sables d'Olonne? We recommend water sports such as sailing or jet skiing. Families might want to visit Zoo des Sables. For those who prefer other places to visit in Les Sables d'Olonne, try out the Moulin des Gourmands, the Museum du Coquillage, or the Musee de l'Abbaye Sainte-Croix. These are three important attractions in Les Sables d'Olonne that say a lot about its history.
Les Sables d'Olonne also offers great restaurants. Do not forget to try some typical dishes of the city, especially dishes with eel and pike. A stroll along the waterfront, watching the sailboats bobbing in the swell, is a nice way to work up an appetite.
On Minube you'll find other stuff to do in Les Sables d'Olonne that are recommended by tourists who have already been to this wonderful city. Do not forget to also share your trip with us when you get back. Photos are welcomed! For more Les Sables d'Olonne activities and Les Sables d'Olonne attractions consult the Minube page.