Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, Brittany boasts an endless array of simply stunning cities and towns to explore. The spring and summer months in particular, are the perfect time to see the whole of Brittany burst into life. We’ve explored the Celtic side of Brittany before, but there is much more to discover in this beautiful part of France.
So if you’re heading to Northern France for a short break or an extended vacation, the following five inspiring cities should make your must-see list:
While Nantes may technically no longer be a part of Brittany – at least in an official capacity – the former regional capital is one of the undisputed highlights of Northern France. Bursting at the seams with history and unique local culture, Nantes is home to arguably the most breath-taking chateau in the region – Château des ducs de Bretagne. Along with extraordinary architecture, Nantes is also a renowned gastronomic mecca, serving up the kind of fresh local seafood you will not taste anywhere else.
Speaking of gastronomic delights, Rennes takes the undisputed title of foodie-heaven for this particular part of France. You only need to head to the Place de Lices, one of the biggest outdoor markets in France to see just how seriously locals take their food. Along with all the traditional delicacies and locally-grown ingredients you could wish for, the market also brings together rich and diverse cuisines from all over the world. Breton culture and medieval heritage really come to life in the historic centre of the city, where it’s worth indulging in a horse-drawn carriage ride to take in the sights at a leisurely pace.
Said by many to be the true heart and soul of Brittany, Quimper is perhaps most famous for its historic old town and imposing cathedral. Pottery also represents an important part of the cultural landscape in Quimper, as does the annual Cornouaille festival where everything Breton is celebrated with enormous pomp and pride. And as you’d expect, there’s also much to be said for the unique local cuisine, like crepes, cider and oysters – something of a standard across most of Brittany’s beautiful towns and cities!
Saint Malo is a regional hotspot that needs no introduction. Often the starting point for so many adventures across Northern France, the cobbled streets that line the ancient walled town make for unforgettable afternoons getting well and truly lost. Wonderful restaurants spill out onto the streets, art lovers will be in their element with endless galleries and the opportunity to visit the lighthouse or take a trip to the two neighbouring islands at low tide should not be overlooked. Every turn represents a picture postcard shot of exactly how you dreamed Brittany would be. Brittany ferries sail into St Malo from Portsmouth making it an ideal starting point for exploring the region.
Last but not least, Vannes is another ancient city guarded on all sides by high medieval walls. The harbourside area in particular makes for a wonderful morning or afternoon stroll, while boat trips out into the Gulf of Morbihan never fail to stir the senses. There are no less than 42 incredible islands to explore a short distance from Vannes, along with the iconic Château Gaillard and so much more. Enjoy the catch of the day, or local oysters right from the gulf, with an open view of the bay and you’ll know you made the right choice to visit!