Discover the Vendée

Automatic translation

The Vendée, a beach and cultural destination, perfect for family vacations


To visit the Vendée is to discover a multiple territory, in its geography as much as in its culture and the lifestyles of its inhabitants; Sometimes maritime, sometimes bocage, sometimes subject to the compromises necessary to live in harmony with the marsh areas, the Vendée is a rich department and quick to the wonder of those who pose a curious gaze on their vacation spot.

Adored by families, the Vendée coast, with its beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, its popular and lively seaside resorts which promise a multitude of nautical activities, is a treat all year round! The geography of the coasts is interesting, because beyond the simple maritime pleasures, there is the attraction to the north, the Marais Breton Vendéen and to the south, the Marais Poitevins, which adjoin the coast and allow the discovery of an atypical environment, rich in secular and fragile biodiversity at the same time.

Vendée in France

Map of the Vendée in France and the Loire Valley

A few figures and territorial facts to find your bearings: The Vendée is part of the greater Pays de la Loire region, but its heart still belongs to Poitou, which bears in its name the essence of part of the department: the marshes and areas wet. The Vendée is the second largest wetland in France, after the Camargue, which is to say if this environment is part of its identity card. The Vendée “ happily ” borders on several departments, which also have their role to play in influencing local cultures around these border areas:

  • In the North, the coasts continue in Loire-Atlantique
  • In the North-East, the department of Maine-et-Loire where the bocage extends
  • To the east, the large border area with Deux-Sèvres, which also hosts part of the Marais Poitevin
  • To the south, the Charente-Maritime which shares the Pertuis Bretons strait with the Vendée in the extension of its coasts

Landscapes of the Marais Poitevin

Landscapes of the Marais Poitevin in Mallezais

The Atlantic Ocean borders the West coast along a sunny seafront with more than 270km of coastline (around 150km of beaches)! The sea is a spearhead of Vendée tourism… At the economic level, with its large fishing and yachting ports, its companies in the nautical sector, major sporting events (such as the Vendée Globe)… And also at tourist level. There is a global and coherent vision which has been developing since the middle of the 20th century and which is intensifying today with the need for large spaces, nature and authenticity of holidaymakers. The Vendée beaches are among the most pleasant in France, they are bordered by dunes and preserved maritime forests (pines, oaks). They are wild and sometimes very difficult to access, the better to preserve them! On the contrary, certain beaches, adjacent to seaside resorts, are designed for families, with nautical and leisure centers, and large parking spaces. There is something for all tastes and desires in Vendée !

Coastline of St-Hilaire-de-Riez

Coastline of Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez

Question demography and distribution of the population, there are several economic and tourist poles, in Vendée the most important cities are the prefecture La Roche-sur-Yon, located on strategic commercial and transport axes and Sables d'Olonne, a large attractive and tourist town. The Vendée is one of the French departments with the greatest capacity for tourist beds, it welcomes up to 3 million visitors per year! In summer, the population of some coastal towns can be multiplied by 10 and on average, by 4 over the entire territory!

The rock on yon

La Roche-sur-Yon is the prefecture of Vendée

If the Vendée has undeniable natural and landscaped assets, essential for the development of tourism, it is also thanks to a marked political will to deploy culture, the arts and access to these riches, since the 1970s. museums, quality tourist and cultural sites such as Le Puy du Fou, the Historial de la Vendée, the castles to visit... Major sporting events linked to the ocean, a promotion of its gastronomy of the sea and the interior land, vineyards, but also a highlight of its island territories (the island of Noirmoutier and the island of Yeu). Out of each particularity, the Vendée has made an asset to make it irresistible… You can choose to stop at its beaches, but the Vendée is so much more for curious travelers who set out to explore it!

M oulins in Mouilleron-St-Germain

The mills at Mouilleron-Saint-Germain

The history of the Vendée

The Vendée, which was formerly much larger and was part of the whole of Bas-Poitou, has been a territory populated since the Neolithic, as evidenced by the remains found and the many megaliths, still planted in the ground everywhere (especially in the Talmondais). During Antiquity, the Pictons and the Celts settled in the coastal regions. Caesar arrives and agrees with the Pictons, in an alliance that makes the region prosperous. From the 4th century, Bas-Poitou became Christianized and structured to face the Viking invasions of the 8th century: the coast was the scene of violence which only ended with the cession of present-day Normandy.

Richard the Lionheart, Painting by Merry-Joseph Blondel Public domain In the Middle Ages, evangelization was continued, with the establishment of parishes and the construction of large religious structures such as abbeys. It is at this time that the problem of the marshes is taken in hand, the monks do a laborious and remarkable job to drain them. Agriculture is developing but also fishing, which is becoming the foundations of the region's economic growth. In parallel, the lords quarrel and succeed one another. Bas Poitou, constitutes the northern limit of the Grand Duchy of Aquitaine which passes under the English crown following the marriage of Aliénor d'Aquitaine with Henri de Plantagenêt. The couple and their son Richard the Lionheart love the region so much that they spend a lot of time there. Visit the Château de Talmont to find out more.

During the Hundred Years War, the Vendée was not spared by conflicts and although the nobles were the first targets, there was an oppressive atmosphere, coupled with the specter of the Plague which was wreaking havoc. It was only with the arrival of Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais (Château de Tiffauges) who was Joan of Arc's companion in arms, that the impetus for the reconquest was given. A period of prosperity follows, with the advent of the Salt Marshes in the 16th century, salt being a precious commodity at the time, because it allows food to be preserved. Fontenay le Comte, which was favored by King Louis XI, prospered and during the Renaissance, pomp and elegance signify an urban development that we can still admire today.

In the 16th century, religious conflicts seized the territory of the Vendée and its region, with the arrival of Calvinism and the Reformation. Violent reprisals are organized against the preachers, conflicts multiply until Henri de Navarre, then Henri IV king of France, brings peace and works to redress the region which has suffered from the clashes.

Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption Cathedral in Luçon Political and religious conflicts continued over the following centuries, leading to the destruction or dismantling of several castles and large residences in Vendée. Louis XIV continued the persecution of Protestants, still present and sometimes vindictive. With the Bishop of Luçon, who would become Cardinal de Richelieu, the region was taken back in hand. After a new period of relative calm and prosperity, it is the Revolution. In the 18th century, the Vendée took its current name.

It was during this period that the disapproval of part of the Vendéens rumbled, who remained faithful to the ideals of the royalists to form the Catholic and royal army. Religious and political disagreements give rise to the War of Vendée, a civil war that violently shakes the region, going so far as to take to task (on the Republican side) the children, women and the rest of the people who rise up, until in 1796 when the main actors of the royalist movement were arrested and shot. It was at the beginning of the 19th century, with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte and the signing of the Concordat of 1801 that the beginnings of peace seemed to have begun. Bonaparte seeks to appease the spirits by starting the reconstruction of the Vendée, by developing the channels of circulation and education. The troubles reappear after his restoration as Emperor, throughout the 19th century, La Vendée seems to remain cut in two in its ideals.

Photos @ Pierre-André-Leclercq - Maison-de-Georges-Clemenceau-CC-BY-SA-4.0 Then came the First World War and the 20th century, when the Vendeans engaged despite the last century which may have scalded and in any case divided their patriotic spirit. One of the figures of this conflict, originally from Vendée is Georges Clémenceau, you will learn more about it in his house in Saint-Vincent-sur-Jard. The Second World War is marked by the occupation and construction work of the Atlantic Wall. The liberation will also come from a local child: Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, and you will learn more at the Clémeneau-de-Lattre Museum in Mouilleron-Saint-Germain, his birthplace.

The department was attached to the Pays de la Loire in 1960. It was from the 1970s that the Vendée really flourished, with the development of the economy and in particular of tourism, well thought out and efficient. The enhancement of the rail and road transport network, the enhancement of seaside resorts, the growth of businesses, often family-owned and involved in exporting, make it a destination today, but also a pleasant and very promising place to live.

To learn all about the history of this department with its assertive and valiant character, visit the Historial de la Vendée in Lucs-sur-Boulogne.

Visit the Vendée

To help you organize your holidays in Vendée, we have prepared several chapters, a Travel Guide that is easy to consult and very comprehensive, so as not to miss anything and facilitate your wanderings. We have divided the territory into 5 entities, which more or less follow the map of the landscapes of the Vendée.

The towns on the seafront have been grouped together and divided to the north and south, to link them each to the wetland that concerns them. We brought together the towns of the heart of Vendée and the retro-littoral (these towns close to the sea, but also focused on the customs of the agricultural Vendée), then we gave a chapter to the towns of the South-East, which are closer to each other. of the cultural entity of Deux-Sèvres. Finally, the upper Vendéen bocage, rural and rustic, surprisingly animated by one of the most frequented tourist sites in France.

Map of Vendée

  • North Coast and Breton Vendée Marshes: Find here the islands of Noirmoutier and the island of Yeu, as well as Challans and some of the largest seaside resorts on the coast. Fine and warm sand, maritime forests, dune cordon… You will also discover the salt marshes of the Marais Breton Vendéen, a strong ecosystem of Vendée, a use by humans for centuries, of these a priori unfavorable environments.

  • South Coast and Poitevin Marshes: It is the same type of territory, but we are here in the south, in the Marais Poitevin, known for its luxuriance, its canals and bucolic boat trips... We follow the coast from beach to beach, for discover the very touristy, sparkling and jovial face of the Vendée littoral. Les Sables d'Olonne is the most lively point of our getaways. On the east side, you enter the wetlands of the marsh, giving pride of place to towns and villages which offer a vernacular heritage related to the landscapes.

  • Heart of Vendée: We start from La Roche-sur-Yon, the prefecture of Vendée and a dynamic city, propelled by Napoleon, well located and constantly evolving. To the east we approach the plain and the bocage and to the west, we discover charming towns, straddling the plain and the sea, endowed with a beautiful heritage.

  • The Vendée History and heritage: It is the calmest territory of the Vendée, pretty little towns full of character, a calm nature conducive to hiking, a territory also turned towards the Deux-Sèvres, with a foot in the Marais.

  • Haut Bocage Vendéen: In addition to the Puy du Fou, a real magnet for vacationers which has dramatically revitalized this rather landlocked region, you will find here the roots of the Vendée and pretty hikes in the bocage.


What to do in Vendée?

There are many activities to do in Vendée, there are more than 300 tourist sites. It is a plural and rich territory of a beautiful landscape quality. On the coastal outskirts, it is the temple of nautical activities : surfing of course, sailing, canoeing, stand up paddle, jet skiing, towed buoys... There are coastal nautical bases, but also leisure centers on the lakes, or water parks, for families who prefer to avoid the big waves that the coast sometimes offers and depending on the tides.

Fishing and fishing on foot are practicable in Vendée, it is a popular destination for finding shellfish and making the most of the delicacies offered by the sea. Shellfish farming is developed in Vendée, giving oysters their letters of nobility de Vendée… fishing ports like those of Sables d'Olonne or Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie are the ideal place to find fresh fish, in addition to the possibility of taking beautiful walks!

Ile d'Yeu small cove

The pretty little ports and coves on the Ile d'Yeu

Fishing on foot in Noirmoutier

Discover the joys of fishing on foot, like here in Noirmoutier

Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie the joys of the Beach

The joys of the Beach in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie

Visiting the tourist sites of Vendée is an opportunity to learn more about the history of this territory, but also craftsmanship and ancient know-how. There are Nature Reserves, to observe nature, birds... Parks and gardens to walk, in addition to the magnificent sandy beaches, or the rocky coasts to admire the colors of nature at dawn and dusk.

Golfers will find beautiful courses, with the sea or the Vendée plain as a backdrop. Hikers are also spoiled by the paths by the sea, those in the marshes or the bocage, the Vendée is a territory for walks, walks on foot, by bike, on horseback...

To find out more, read our article on the major tourist sites in Vendée, to have all the maps in hand and organize your stay in Vendée!