Serving as the capital of Vendee, La Roche-sur-Yon is clustered with architectural landmarks constructed during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. Throughout the centuries, it has been known as Napoleonville, Napoleon-sur-Yon and Napoleon-Vendee before being renamed La Roche-sur-Yon in 1870.
Things to do in La Roche-sur-Yon
Overlooking Place Napoleon in the heart of La Roche-sur-Yon is St. Louis Church, a 19th-century Neoclassical masterpiece fronted by monumental columns. It was designed by the French architect and engineer Simon Vallot, with highlights including its Corinthian capitals, medallion trompe-l’oeil and colourful stained glass windows.
If you have a sweet tooth, head to the Chocolate Museum Gelencser to learn about the process and history of chocolate production. Live chocolate-making demonstrations are held throughout the day, with plenty of opportunities to sample the finished product. You can challenge yourself with the touchscreen quizzes and play in the hands-on kitchen before purchasing handmade chocolates to take home.
A short drive from La Roche-sur-Yon is Les Jardins du Loriot, a five-hectare botanical park that draws on both Anglo and Asian traditions. There are impressive plantings of bamboo, rhododendrons and roses, as well as a water lily garden inspired by the paintings of Claude Monet. Not to miss are the Arts and Crafts-style gardens designed in the tradition of British landscape architect Gertrud Jekyll.
Getting around La Roche-sur-Yon
La Roche-sur-Yon is around an hour’s drive from Nantes and Nantes Atlantique Airport, which has flights to destinations across Europe and North Africa. Inter-city trains connect to the La Roche-sur-Yon railway station and buses travel throughout the city. The centre of La Roche-sur-Yon can easily be explored on foot.