Gateway to India
In 1664 Port-Louis, named after Louis XIII, became the main base of the newly created Compagnie des Indes, the company that traded between France and India. The main reason for this decision was the port’s suitability as a location for boat building and the protection offered by its fort, known as La Citadelle.
Star of the show
The star-shaped fort, built in 1591, now houses the Musée de la Compagnie des Indes, where visitors can learn about the history of the company and see examples of its trading, as well as the Musée National de la Marine, which has a fascinating exhibition on sea rescues. There are wonderful views over Lorient and the coastline from the ramparts.
After the Revolution, sardine and tuna fishing and canning were the port’s main industries until the end of the 19th century when tourism took over. When you’ve take a walk around the small town centre and visited some of the artisans – there’s a glass blower, art galleries and even a lute maker – relax for a couple of hours on the sandy beach.
French speakers can follow a 2.5 mile (4km) trail around 21 sites in the town accompanied by a free leaflet from the tourist office. Keen walkers should head north along the 3.7 mile (6km) coastal path to Locmiquélic (at low tide); the main attraction here is the Réserve Ornithologique (bird reserve) but if you’re around on a Saturday evening head to Chez Mamm-Kounifl, a Café de Pays on the Route de Port-Louis, for one of their legendary Celtic rock concerts.
The easiest way to get to Port Louis is by Batobus, a 15-minute trip from Lorient. Leaving from Quai des Indes, flanked by smart 18th-century merchants’ houses, the ferry takes you past La Thalassa, a former oceanography vessel that is now a museum, and the vast concrete Base Keroman former German U-boat base.