11 must-do things to do in Vendée

Visiter la Vendée : que faire et que voir en Vendée ?

Would you like to visit the Vendée beyond its sandy beaches? Here are the must-sees in this department with its rich cultural and natural heritage!

The Vendée is one of Europe’s favorite destinations. Located on the west coast of France, it’s best known for its pleasant temperatures, the Atlantic Ocean that borders it and its sandy beaches. But there’s much more to the Vendée than that. This land has a thousand surprises in store for you, from magical landscapes to cultural discoveries.

Whether you prefer sport, heritage or relaxation, you’ll find activities to suit every taste! If you’re wondering what to do in the Vendée, here’s our selection of choice must-sees that will make you want to come back again and again!

1. The island of Noirmoutier

Visiter l'île de Noirmoutier en Vendée

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Altitude Drone

The island of Noirmoutier is a must when you want to visit the Vendée. To get there, you can either take the Noirmoutier bridge, or choose the Gois passage. This legendary route is only accessible at low tide. It links Beauvoir-sur-Mer to Noirmoutier over a distance of just over four kilometers. You can pass through by car, on foot or by bike. Take advantage of the opportunity to go shellfishing (subject to quotas)! But be careful not to be caught out by the rising sea or fog.

What to do in Vendée when you arrive on the island of Noirmoutier? For nature lovers, the Polder de Sébastopol nature reserve is not to be missed. You can also discover oyster farming, salt marshes, mills, various ports, the Château de Noirmoutier and fishermen’s houses. And don’t forget the fine sandy beaches! The Ile de Noirmoutier website offers an itinerary for a one-day tour of the island.

2. Le Puy du Fou

Visiter le Puy du Fou en Vendée

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Alexey Gorshenin

Le Puy du Fou is a theme park, or leisure park, now renowned the world over for the quality of its shows, including the famous Cinéscénie. La Cinéscénie is a grandiose night-time show featuring over 2,500 actors in a 23-hectare green setting. The various scenes combine stage acting, 3D video mapping, water jets, music… The adventure of the Puy du Fou park began with the Cinéscénie: the puyfolais (the village inhabitants) put on a night-time show from scratch to inform visitors about the history of the Vendée. The show received rave reviews from the audience. They followed this up with daytime shows.

The park’s objective: to create emotion in its spectators, as each performance and universe unfolds. Whether it’s Vikings, the circus games of a Roman governor, chivalry or flamenco, each creation is unique and transports you with it into an incredible world! If you’re wondering what to do in Vendée, make sure Puy du Fou has a place on your itinerary!

3. Salt marshes

Marais salants, Noirmoutier, Vendée

Photo credit: Shutterstock / LOUIS-MICHEL DESERT

You can’t visit the Vendée without making a detour to one of its famous salt marshes. Salt harvesting began in the 7th century and continues to this day. It generally takes place from mid-June to mid-September. However, the salt workers get to work as early as March to clean up their marshes and rehabilitate them after the winter, so that the sea can bring them the white gold.

You’ll find salt marshes in different parts of the Vendée coast. During the tourist season, salt-marsh farmers often offer tours to share their know-how.

4. Tiffauges castle

Visiter le château de Tiffauges en Vendée

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Marine69

If you love history and wonder what to do in the Vendée, the Château de Tiffauges is the answer. Its most famous owner is Gilles de Rais, Joan of Arc’s comrade-in-arms. His feats of arms brought him fame and recognition, only to have him beheaded after tarnishing Tiffauges with criminal acts. His story has been linked to Charles Perrault’s fairy tale Bluebeard. This nickname has been attributed to the château de Tiffauges.

During the guided tour, the history of this character is recounted. You can also attend various shows (including equestrian and singing performances) and try your hand at archery. Tiffauges is also renowned for its war machines, which you can admire during organized demonstrations.

If you’re heading to the Vendée in winter, be sure to visit Tiffauges for its Christmas market, one of the best-known in the Vendée!

5. Les Sables-d’Olonne

Visiter les Sables-d'Olonne en Vendée

Photo credit: Shutterstock / paul prescott

It’s almost impossible to visit the Vendée without stopping off at Les Sables-d’Olonne. You can chill out on the beach, take surfing lessons or discover the Ile Penotte district. Just a stone’s throw from the main beach, the walls of the houses in these picturesque alleyways are covered with shell frescoes. They are the work of Sablaise artist Danièle Arnaud-Aubin, nicknamed the « Dame aux coquillages ». End your stroll with a sweet treat from the Pétales de roses ice cream parlour: a real treat!

6. Yeu Island

Visiter l'Île d'Yeu en Vendée

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Pierre-Olivier

Yeu Island is sure to make your day. It starts with a boat trip from Port Fromentine. You’ll discover its two faces: one part of the island is sandy, while the other is rocky. It’s a veritable paradise for hikers, with seventy-two kilometers of marked itineraries!

To get around, you can choose between cycling and walking. A bus service runs around the island from April to November. Between swimming, water sports, hiking and visits to Port Joinville, the Fort de Pierre levée and the château, you’ll find this little island a real change of scene!

7. The Corniche Vendéenne

Trou du diable, Vendée

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Céline E.

Located between Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez and Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, the Corniche Vendéenne stretches for three kilometers. You can stroll along it, discovering the sea and the rocky coastline. Observe the flora and fauna, the sandy coves and the sea! The path is very well laid out and accessible to both cyclists and pedestrians.

Stop for a moment at the Trou du diable (Devil’s Hole), also known as the Marmite du diable (Devil’s Pot), to admire the bubbling water. This grotto is said to be either the work of the devil, who kicked the bucket after losing a deal, or his prison… A little further out to sea, you’ll see five rocks protruding from the water. They’re called the five pineaux or the five monks. They are said to guard the devil’s prison.

8. Historial de la Vendée

Historial de la Vendée

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Rimagne

If you’re wondering what to do in the Vendée to understand its rich history, visit L’Historial de la Vendée. It’s located inland, in Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne. This museum retraces the history of the Vendée, from prehistory to the present day. An original, playful museography provides visitors with a wealth of information, particularly on the Vendée War.

You can round off your visit with the Vendée Memorial, designed as a tribute to the five hundred and sixty-four villagers massacred in 1794.

9. The Poitevin marshes

marais poitevin, Vendée

Photo credit: Shutterstock / litchi cyril photographe

The northern part of the Marais Poitevin is in the Vendée. France’s second-largest wetland area, you can take a boat or bike ride through this Green Venice. You can discover its incredible wildlife (migratory birds are particularly fond of this area). Relax on the water, in a place where time seems to stand still. There’s no doubt that a visit to the Vendée is a must!

10. Nieul-sur-l’Autise and its Abbey

Nieul-sur-l’Autise, Vendée

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Selbymay

If you’re in the south of the department and wondering what to do in Vendée, stop off at Nieul-sur-l’Autise. Nieul-sur-l’Autise is a village classified as a « Petite cité de caractère ». It’s also home to the Abbey, designated a royal abbey by Eleanor of Aquitaine when she was Queen of France. Shows and events bring this incredible place to life, and its Romanesque cloister is the only one in the west of France to have been completely preserved.

11. A boat trip

Faire du bateau en Vendée

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Thomas Pajot

If you’re visiting the Vendée coast, there’s one step you shouldn’t miss: renting a boat!

In fact, there are some very nice excursions to be made by boat, such as the Marais Poitevin or an excursion to Les Sables d’Olonne. So it would be a shame not to take advantage of them during your vacation in the Vendée.

How to get to Vendée

The Vendée is particularly accessible by all means of transport.

The plane

There are two airports within a 30-minute drive of the Vendée: La Rochelle – île de Ré and Nantes Atlantique. To find the most suitable flights for your departure city, compare them with Ulysse! Once you’re there, the best thing to do is rent a car as soon as you arrive at the airport, so you can enjoy your stay on your own.

The train

To visit the Vendée, you can come by train. The TGV stations in Vendée are La Roche-sur-Yon and Les Sables-d’Olonne. Other towns served by TER include Saint-Gilles-Croix-De-Vie, Challans, Luçon and Montaigu.

The car

If you’re planning to travel around the Vendée to discover all our must-sees, the car remains the most practical means of locomotion. The best cities to visit are La Roche-sur-Yon and Nantes.

If you’re taking your car, don’t forget to bring your bikes! The 1,150 kilometers of cycle paths are one of the Vendée’s great assets.

Where to stay in Vendée?

If you’d like to cover the whole of the Vendée region, accommodation in the middle of the département is a practical choice. You’ll be able to visit in a « star » pattern. The big advantage of this tactic is that it’s easy to find accommodation – although it’s advisable to book in advance, especially during the tourist season.

However, most visitors want to enjoy the sea. If this is also your case, book your accommodation well in advance, especially if you want to go between April and September.

The Vendée is very well equipped, whether in terms of rentals, campsites or B&Bs. There’s something to suit every taste and budget. Prices vary greatly depending on the tourist season. So, to make sure you book the best hotel at the best price, don’t hesitate to use a hotel comparator!

Now you have all the information you need to visit the Vendée region in style!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Vendée