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UNESCO-listed Cordouan Lighthouse

Tower of Cordouan Lighthouse

The Lighthouse of Cordouan rises up on a shallow rocky plateau in the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Gironde estuary in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. In 2021 it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status as a “masterpiece of maritime signalling” in use from the 17th century to this day. It’s a majestic nod to the days of nautical know-how…

Lighthouse of Cordouan

Cordouan Lighthouse off the coast of Royan, Charente-Maritime

The lighthouse was completed in 1611. It’s the oldest lighthouse in Europe, the oldest French lighthouse in activity and the only lighthouse at sea still open to the public in France. Over the centuries it has had many nicknames”the king of lighthouses”, the “lighthouse of kings” and the “Versailles of the Seas.”

Originally commissioned by Henry III of France in 1584, it took almost 30 years to complete. Built in white limestone dressed blocks to a height of 67 metres above sea level. It was originally designed by engineer Louis de Foix. The monumental tower is decorated with pillars, columns and gargoyles, inspired by the ancient architecture of Greece and Rome There is a ‘King’s apartment’ on the 1st floor though no royal ever stayed here. The letters LMT are a tribute to Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette. A beautiful stone and metal staircase runs through the centre. There is a chapel on the second floor with stained glass windows, unique in lighthouse history. The wood panelled watch room and engineer’s apartment are like something from a Jules Verne story. Cordouan lighthouse was remodelled by engineer Joseph Teulère in the late 18th century. The architecture was inspired by ancient Greek and Roman style as well as Renaissance. It became a listed Historic Monument in 1862.

Climb the 311 stairs to get a great view over the Gironde Estuary, the Médoc beaches and the Atlantic Ocean.

How to visit Cordouan lighthouse

Take a 30-minute boat ride from the port of Royan to visit the lighthouse 7km from the coast.

What to see and do in Royan

What to see nearby

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Ile d’Aix, pedestrianised island that feels like the Carbibbean in Charente-Maritime
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