Historical capital of Ile de Ré
Organized around its port and protected by its fortified ramparts, it is an essential holiday and walking destination for locals and all visitors to the Île de Ré.
Here, alleys and alleys conceal many treasures of the Retais heritage: the half-timbered house of the Vinaterie (16th century), the Renaissance style Hôtel de Clerjotte or the Citadel which saw prisoners pass by on their way to the prison.
A lively city centre with historic residences, terraces to chat on, a port where fishermen and boaters meet in a friendly atmosphere.
The history of Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Historical, economic and administrative capital of the Ile de Ré, Saint Martin seems to have been a village in the 10th century, containing the port as an urban centre populated since the Middle Ages by craftsmen, traders 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 centre of various desires. A first 3-month siege in 1627 by the Duke of Buckingham led Vauban to erect the fortifications and citadel between 1681 and 1685 while developing the port and waterfront. The city was attacked again by an Anglo-Dutch fleet in 1696, destroying many houses and damaging the church.
A period of prosperity followed in the 18th century when beautiful bourgeois residences were built, in winding and narrow streets, sheltered from the wind.
From 1874 to 1938, Saint-Martin became the meeting place for convicts before their journey to New Caledonia and especially French Guiana.
Today, a must-see place with a rich historical past, the town of 2700 inhabitants is organised around its port, numerous restaurants, terraces and bistros and its shopping streets with decoration, ready-to-wear and souvenir shops.
A magnificent star of fortifications built at the end of the 17th century by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, then King Louis XIV's engineer, the village has kept 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 (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 enclosure of Saint-Martin-de-Ré was built between 1681 and 1685. To the northeast, it is based on a vast citadel, a military city transformed into a prison in the 19th century. This site, a masterpiece of 17th century military architecture
and the creative genius of Louis XIV's most famous engineer, Marshal Vauban, is today magnificently preserved in its unplanned glacis setting.
Lined with restaurants and lively terraces, protected by the ramparts and a dike at the entrance, it consists of a stranding harbour and a flood basin regulated by a lock.
In the heart of the village, of which it remains the flagship 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 spaces all year round, 52 of which are reserved for visiting boaters, the Bureau du Port has all the essential services to facilitate a stopover in Saint-Martin-de-Ré (showers, fuel station, laundry, disabled and baby areas, technical services for repairs and refit, weather, wifi, etc.).
The Ernest Cognacq Museum, art and history of the Île de Ré
Located in a contemporary building, the museum offers an interpretation of the highlights that have shaped the island's identity; alternately, an island of privilege and independence, a land of passage and trade, an island of fortifications, an island of peasants and sailors, a place of confinement or vacation. The museum also retraces the past of the Martinese city, which became the antechamber of the colonial convicts from 1873 onwards, a compulsory passage for prisoners sentenced to convicts in French Guiana and New Caledonia.
On the ground floor of the Hôtel de Clerjotte, a Gothic building, the museum's thematic collections are on display: marine objects and ship models, fine arts and part of its ceramic collection.
The Observatory Bell Tower
From the top of its 117 steps, the Clocher Observatoire offers a unique panoramic view of the walled city but also of the Île de Ré.
The monumental clock, the bells in action and the view are a delight for any visitor. The viewpoint is superb at night. The summit of Saint-Martin then unveils a magical universe on the heritage treasures of the Cité Vauban where gargoyles and statues converse in silence.
The Target Beach
Saint-Martin-de-Ré has a beach supervised by lifeguards throughout the summer, certified "Approach to Swimming Water Quality", a standard created by the Ministry of Ecology and which certifies the active monitoring of water cleanliness. For an even more comfortable swim, the city of Saint-Martin-de-Ré offers showers, toilets and bathrooms (+33 (0)5 46 09 38 90) and access for people with motor disabilities in high season. For the last three years, the waters of the Target Beach have been of "excellent quality" with a *** rating.
Over the seasons, the covered market of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, on the port, offers you fresh products from local producers.
In summer, when you return from the beach, the market also welcomes you every afternoon. Every evening in July and August, stroll around the harbour and enjoy the night market.
The Anes in panties
The tradition of 100% Ile de Ré passion
An emblem of the island of Ré: Donkeys in panties, a must visit!
Come and meet them in the pleasant Parc de la Barbette, next to the port of Saint-Martin de Ré.
Régis Léau and his team offer donkey rides in panties on a marked course of about 400m.
Amazing encounters for the greatest joy of children from 3 years old and older!
A Rhetaise tradition that comes from far away:
In the past, donkeys were used to do agricultural work, transport salt or transport from one village to another. He was an integral part of the people of the Ile de Ré. To protect donkeys from flies and mosquitoes, the idea has just been put forward to make them wear these panties, cut from recycled fabrics.