Brittany is a very pretty region, situated in the most westerly point in Europe stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean. The name Brittany literally means ‘Little Britain’ and it was here that the Celtic peoples from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Cornwall sought asylum many years ago during the Dark Ages.
Vacations in Brittany are a good choice as there is something for everyone and you will want to come back for more. It is one of the most popular regions for people from the UK as it is near to the south coast of England.
But that alone is paltry reason for visiting the area; there is so much of interest, a wealth of prehistory, a legacy of a unique in independent culture, and a spirit of defiance.
Today, Brittany is divided into four departments: Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes d’Armor (Côtes du Nord until the 1990s), Morbihan, and Finistère.
But many Bretons, always a feisty bunch (and probably with just cause) routinely regard Nantes and Loire-Atlantique as part of Brittany, as indeed they were until the Vichy government hived off these two departments following the Second World War.
Places to visit in Brittany
Belle-Ile-en-Mer – ‘Beautiful Island at sea’, and very much just that! If you want a getaway form it all break Belle-Ile-en-Mer in Morbihan is ideal. This is where Monet created some of his paintings. Visit the needle rocks of Port Coton to see these rocky formations isolated in the beautiful turquoise waters.
Carnac – Here you will see the famous but strange unique standing stones of Carnac. There is also a beautiful family seaside resort and a state-of-the-art Thalassotherapy centre.
Domaine de Kerguéhennec – an 18th-century château, used nowadays as a sculpture park.
Golfe du Morbihan – or Gulf of Morbihan is a natural harbour, a paradise for boat trips and birdlife. There are many Megalithic monuments and stone circles to see which are fascinating.
Josselin – Something for everyone here including its beautiful castle, home to the Rohan family; a doll museum and some fantastic forest walks for those who seek the outdoor life.
Quiberon – Rugged coastline and beautiful sandy beaches; fishing villages where you can see the fishermen unload their daily catch; St-Pierre-Quiberon is where most things take place. Here you will find wonderful fish restaurants, chandler’s shops, art galleries, home deco boutiques and much more.
La Roche-Bernard – A fortified village built on water between Vannes and Nantes. It has a wonderful outdoor market on a Thursday where you can sample the local honey and excellent cuisine.
Armour Regional Nature Park – Beautiful conservation area with a huge variety of wildlife.
Concarneau – Here you can climb the ramparts of the Vile Close or visit the Musée de Pêche. For food lovers there is the wonderful criée (fish auction) or you can take a boat trip to the Îles de Glénan.
Le Conquet –You can follow the lighthouse trail which is along North Finistère’s Côte des Abers.
Douarnenez – Port-Rhu and the boat museum on Douamenez harbour are really worth seeing if you’re visiting Finistere.
Guimiliau – Here the little church is beautiful with its Renaissance sculpture.
Locronan – An historic village where you can see the lovely craft studios. One of our Best villages to visit in France.
Morlaix – You can walk across the viaduct to take in a fantastic view of this town.
Océanopolis – Here you can see one of Europe’s largest Aquariums.
Pointe du Raz – The coastal promontory where you can take in the dramatic coastal views of Brittany and watch the tides as they race past the Île de Sein.
Pont-Aven – Named after the river that runs through the village. Now famous because of the post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin who found this beautiful little place was an artist’s paradise. Lovely walks and appetising cuisine.
Quimper – Known as the cultural capital of Brittany. Very much a strong Breton feel in this beautiful Finistere town and the Festival de Cornouaille is a must to see if you visit in July every year.
Roscoff – An old harbour town, home to Onion Johnnies! In August each year they hold the Fête de l’ Oignon and you can enjoy onion tarts and the famous French onion soup. For music fans there is the equivalent to Glastonbury with the Les Vieilles Charrues.
St Pol-de-Léon – Named after one of the saints who found Brittany, Saint Paul Aurelian and has an imposing cathedral.
Côte d’Emeraude (The Emerald coast) – Here you will see a rugged stretch of coastline with breathtaking views. Many of these fantastic views were captured on canvas by the 19th-century artists.
Côte de Granit Rose – An unforgettable stretch of a dramatic russet granite coastline make this an outstanding area of Brittany. The beautiful pink rose-coloured granite is used as building material along this area and is in contrast to the grey stone in other areas of this region.
Dinan – A beautiful old town and the best way of seeing it is on foot. There are quaint cobbled streets from the old quarter that lead down to the pretty little port.
The buildings of Dinan are so picturesque with their lopsided buildings and colourful displays of flowers. There are many art galleries, craft shops and restaurants to explore and wonder at.
The setting of Dinan is exceptional, with most of this remarkable market town built on a hillside overlooking the river Rance. The bridge over the Rance was for many years the most northerly crossing point of the river.
This charming medieval town on the hilltop has many fine old buildings, some dating from the 13th century. The town retains a large section of the city walls, some stretches of which can be walked round.
Major historical interest lies in the Jacobins Theatre dating from 1224, the ostentatious St Malo’s Church, the Romanesque St Saviour’s Basilica, Duchess Anne’s Tower and the Château de Dinan itself.
The town is a delight to explore, with a maze of streets running south from the main market place, wherein lie a host of shops, bars, restaurants , which do nothing to detract from the town’s status as a town of Art and History.
There is an especially pleasing view of the river and its ancient bridge from the ramparts; just walk south from the market area, you’ll get there.
Île de Bréhat – A traffic free retreat for bicycling and walking. The area is so picturesque, and once you have seen this beautiful area you will realise why it deserves investigating.
Lamballe – This area is definitely worth a visit as the area is so beautiful with its old quarter of timbered buildings. If you are a horse lover you will want to visit the Haras National (the national stud) where you will see some of the Breton draught horses. There are guided tours from mid July until late August.
There is also a wonderful folk museum showing costumes, ceramics, tools and prehistoric items. You can also see works by the local artist Mathurin Méheut who also designed jewellery and wall paper as well as painting Breton fishing scenes and local life.
Paimpol – This is a working port with in-shore fishing and oyster farming. There is a lively and bery traditional French market every Tuesday where many visitors are not disappointed with the atmosphere and the handsome old buildings and shop fronts.
Cancale – This is Brittany’s oyster capital and if you want to sample their fruits de mer this is the place to dine, although you can sample oysters from the traders at the end of the sea wall.
Dinard – Once a small sea port but later discovered by the British and Americans who built beautiful seaside villas overlooking the fantastic bay. It remains today, a chic expensive resort and has strong links to Anglo-Saxon connections with an air link to London.
Fourgėres – This picturesque border town has fortifications built against attack from the east. A petit train called the Oriental Express will take you up the hill from the chateau.
Mont St Michel – This beautiful and famous fortified area is separated from the mainland by quick sands and tides. The Mount was originally an island in the sea and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can have a guided tour of the abbey which is often referred to as La Merveille or ‘the wonder’. Recent work has radically improved access to the retreat. Surely one of the Top 10 Places to Visit in France.
St Malo – This lovely town is best seen on arrival by sea. On this approach the St Malo waterfront is truly majestic. Most of the main attractions including the amazing walled town are within walking distance of the port’s terminals.
Vitré – A beautiful preserved medieval town with picturesque half-timbered houses and a formidable castle. The black and white Breton flag or the Gwenn ha du represent the ancient bishoprics of Upper and Lower Brittany France and can be seen flying everywhere in the area.