14 must-do things to do in Ars-en-Ré

Visiter Ars-en-Ré

What are the best things to visit in Ars-en-Ré, one of France’s most beautiful villages?

Located in the north of the Île de Ré, between La Couarde-Sur-Mer and Saint-Clément-des-Baleines, come and visit Ars-en-Ré. You’ll be enchanted by the typical charm of Ars-en-Ré, with its small white houses with green shutters, and cobbled alleys lined with hollyhocks.

There’s no need for a car here. You can do everything on foot or by bike, if you want to get away from the village and go to the beach, for example. Or take a stroll through the salt marshes? Or maybe you’d prefer to wander through the hidden alleyways, stroll through the famous market, or stroll along the harbor watching the boats dock… The sweet life of vacation!

One thing’s for sure: you’re going to fall in love with this island village, where life is good. Ré la Blanche is just waiting for you! So, you’re wondering what to do in Ars-en-Ré? We’ll tell you all about it here!

1. Alleys

Les venelles

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Zzzz17

If there’s one thing that characterizes the Île de Ré, it’s the venelle. It’s a narrow street, usually paved, that links two streets or a cul-de-sac. Sheltered from the wind and bathed in sunlight, it’s often lined in spring and summer with hollyhocks, the star of the island.

Ars-en-Ré is no exception to the rule, with its many hidden alleyways, each more photogenic than the last.

2. Saint Etienne Church

Eglise Saint Etienne Ars en Ré

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Joaquin Ossorio Castillo

The Romanesque-Gothic church of Saint-Etienne is truly the village’s landmark. Or rather its steeple, recognizable from afar by its spire-like shape, painted black and white. And that’s exactly the point, as it was once used as a landmark by sailors arriving in the port of Ars-en-Ré.

So you’re looking for something to do in Ars-en-Ré? Head to the village center to visit the church or climb the bell tower, or simply take in the illuminations at dusk.

3. The Seneschal’s house

Maison du Sénéchal

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Melanie Lemahieu

If you visit Ars-en-Ré, you’ll be able to admire the Maison du Sénéchal. You’re bound to be intrigued by this 16th-century medieval building, the only one of its kind on the island. With its corbelled corner turret, busts and coat of arms, you won’t want to miss it!

4. The harbor

Port Ars en Ré

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Jpbazard

Completely refurbished, the harbor is a must if you’re visiting Ars-en-Ré. With 550 berths, the harbor is home to some of the world’s finest boats. You can watch them and dream of escape, from one of the many café and restaurant terraces in the port. You can also visit the former station of the Petit Train de Ré, dating from the late 19th century.

5. A boat trip

ile-de-re-bateau

Photo credit: Shutterstock – bensliman hassan

After a stroll along the quayside, why not take a boat trip?

Renting a boat in Ars-en-Ré allows you to explore the Ile de Ré and the surrounding area. You’ll have the opportunity to discover the landscape in a different way, as seen from the water. It’s the perfect way to round off your stay in Ars-en-Ré!

Find a boat to rent in Ars-en-Ré

6. Les Moulins

Moulins Ars en Ré

Photo credit: Instagram – christophedenis3

In the early 19th century, Ars-en-Ré had 17 mills, used to grind wheat imported from the mainland. Today, only 5 of these mills remain, and although they no longer have wings, their height and the roundness of their towers make them conspicuous in the landscape. They are now used as dwellings.

7. Martray redoubt

La redoute du Martray

Photo credit: Flickr – thierry llansades

If you visit Ars-en-Ré, you’ll hear about the Martray, the narrowest spot on the whole island. The Martray redoubt, also known as the Martray fort, was built in 1674 to block the road to invaders. It consists of a 50-metre square, and was built on the same model as the Rivedoux redoubt.

8. Foirouse fish lock

Looking for something to do in Ars-en-Ré? Then come and watch fishermen practicing an ancestral fishing technique at the Foirouse fish lock. At high tide, fish enter this horseshoe-shaped stone construction.

Then, at low tide, when the sea retreats, they become trapped and all the fishermen have to do is catch them. The island of Ré has a total of 14 locks, compared with 140 in the 19th century.

9. The Boutillon dam

Digue du Boutillon

Photo credit: Facebook – Destination Ile de Ré

Coastal defense is one of the island’s priorities, particularly in the Martray area, the narrowest on the island. In the 19th century, a seawall was built to prevent the separation of the territory during heavy storms.

Severely damaged in 2010 by storm Xynthia, it was completely rebuilt and completed in 2017. With a length of 716 meters, its curved shape makes it more resistant to the onslaught of a stormy sea.

10. The Fier d’Ars and its salt marshes

visiter Ars-en-Ré - Marais Salants

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Pierre Teyssot

The Fier d’Ars is an 800-hectare bay that’s a must-see (and protect) if you’re visiting Ars-en-Ré. It’s a natural area that runs along the coast and includes a variety of environments: salt marshes, soft marshes, aquaculture ponds, livestock meadows… It’s home to incredible flora and fauna, including a large number of migratory birds.

If you’re wondering what you can do in Ars-en-Ré, then get on your bike and discover the fascinating world of the Fiers salt marshes! A signposted route allows you to watch the salt workers at work.

11. The sauniers’ cooperative

visiter Ars-en-Ré - Fleur de Sel

Photo credit: Facebook – Destination Ile de Ré

The flagship product of the Ile de Ré is fleur de sel, which has been harvested in the salt marshes for centuries. This ancestral know-how is still practiced today by the sauniers, who decided to create the first sauniers’ cooperative in 1933.

This is where they store, prepare (sifting, drying, grinding), package and market salt. Looking for something to do in Ars-en-Ré? Head to the store before you leave, and bring back plenty of delicious souvenirs of the fleur de sel!

12. La Grange beach

visiter Ars-en-Ré - Plage de la Grange

Photo credit: Facebook – Destination Ile de Ré

What to do in Ars-en-Ré? Go to the beach, of course! After all, you’re on an island, so it’s definitely on the agenda. So head for the Plage de la Grange, for a dip or a tan, as you prefer.

13. Thalasso center

visiter Ars-en-Ré - Centre Thalasso Ars en Ré

Photo credit: Facebook – Côté Thalasso Ile de Ré

To relax and enjoy the benefits of the sea, the Côté Thalasso Ile de Ré thalassotherapy center is the perfect place! A truly relaxing break in Ars-en-Ré.

14. Ars market

The Ars market is certainly one of the most famous on the island. In high season, it’s open every morning. A convivial and colorful moment awaits you in its lively alleys and varied stalls. The back halls are dedicated to local gastronomy.

You’ll find fresh fish, local vegetables, cheeses, meats and island specialties. Outside, you’ll find clothes, jewelry, objects and art of all kinds, where you’re sure to find something to suit your taste!

How do I get to Ars-en-Ré?

Want to visit Ars-en-Ré and wondering how to get there? We’ll tell you all about it here!

By car

To get to the Ile de Ré by car and visit Ars-en-Ré, you’ll need to drive to La Rochelle (4h30 from Paris, 2h from Bordeaux). Then take the lovely 3-kilometer bridge that links the island to the mainland.

Then you’ll cross the length of the island for 25 kilometers to reach Ars. The duration can vary enormously depending on the time of day you arrive. We can only advise you to avoid Saturday, the departure and arrival day for rentals (if you can, of course)!

Please note: each crossing of the bridge is subject to payment of a fee (€16 for cars). So if you’re planning several crossings, opt for a multi-passage card, which will reduce the unit cost, on the dedicated website.

By train or plane, then by bus

If you decide to visit Ars-en-Ré by train or plane, the nearest train station and airport are in La Rochelle. To find the best price for your plane ticket, visit our partner website Skyscanner.

A daily shuttle service runs between the station, airport and Ile de Ré during the summer months. Use Transdev lines 3, 3A and 3E. Tickets cost €2 and can be purchased on board the coach.

By boat

For the fun of it (yes, since there’s now a bridge, it’s much easier), you can take a boat to the island from the La Rochelle pier. Only possible from April to the end of September, €23 round trip, or €11.5 one way.

Where to stay in Ars-en-Ré?

Ars-en-Ré offers a wide range of accommodation options. Several hotels are available, such as the Hôtel du Sénéchal. However, for those who prefer to live like a local, an Airbnb rental is quite possible.There are also a few campsites around Ars-en-Ré or even vacation villages.

In summer, however, the village is very busy, so be sure to book well in advance. With the help of a hotel comparator, you’ll find the cheapest rates, depending on your departure dates.

Now you know what to visit in Ars-en-Ré, so pack your bags for adventure!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Île de Ré,fr