Saint-Martin-de-Ré is one of the most known and touristy villages of the island. Fortified by Vauban, it makes the île de Ré proud and its star-shape outer wall, part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 2008, it is known the world over. If you come by car, we recommend you leave it on one of the free outside parking. Saint-Martin is best discovered by foot.
Let’s start with Village centre. The town hall stands proudly on the Place de la République. This square has borne many other names according to the moments in history, as can be seen in the stone wall corner of the square, the list reads: place Nationale, place royale de Louis XV…
Then explore the streets and alleyways of the village which slope gently down to the port. After the bustling shopping rue de Sully and rue Jean Jaurès you will discover the hidden and flowered alleyways, far from the crowd and noise even in the summertime. Observe the half-timbered houses and the famous red shutters house (the house of the Vinatière, an island curiosity!) in the rue Mérindot and try to count the wells along your walk!
Take the time to enter the church of Saint-Martin and climb to the top of the church tower (as you climb the stairs take a minute to admire the 3 ancient bells. Be sure to climb before they ring!) Your effort will be rewarded by an unimpeded view of the port, the Bois-Plage fields and even the île de Ré bridge.
Stroll on the picturesque little port of Saint-Martin while savouring an ice-cream from La Martinière, the famous ice-cream maker of the island and observe the never-ending ballet of the fishing boats and the pleasure boats. Walk on to the « îlot » (the islet) and its very fine restaurants and breathe the fresh sea air from the top of the ramparts.
Make a stop at the musée Ernest Cognacq to learn about the history of our beautiful island and its inhabitants.
Then, keep on walking towards La Barbette, the spacious and nice park of Saint-Martin which faces the sea until you reach the Citadelle. Fortified by Vauban to fight back the attempts of British invasions, the Citadelle was then used to gather the convicts who were being sent to the penal colony, before becoming a prison, which it still is.
A few hundred metres from there, the lovely little cove of the plage de La Cible is waiting for you for a moment of farniente and bathing. In the summer time, the town library sets a wood cabin just overlooking the beach and allows you to freely borrow some books. That’s one more reason to bask peacefully in the sun!