Brittany is a breath of fresh air! Striking out on France’s northwestern peninsula, it boasts a glorious mix of uninterrupted coastline, fascinating Celtic heritage and unspoilt countryside.
Life is for enjoying in Brittany and you see this time and time again as you make your way through the region. The pace of life is relaxed and life is for savouring. Breton culture thrives, from dual-language signage in French and Breton to traditional dance and Breton music. Distinguished by a strong cultural identity, the Bretons are passionate and welcoming. The locals put this unique spirit down to being Breizh, the Breton word for Brittany.
"Be Breizh" is an invitation to get to know the real Brittany and to discover its wonders; it’s an invitation to feel invigorated and transformed by Brittany’s energy. The rich and diverse centuries-old culture has been passed down and embraced through the generations. The result? An unforgettable place to visit. What are you waiting for? Go on, be Breizh! Brittany is easily accessible by TGV from Paris with Rennes or Nantes as gateways (2h trip).
Start your Brittany tour in Saint-Malo (2h59 trip from Paris) for some rejuvenating sea air. Stroll through the cobbled streets of Saint-Malo’s old town and take in the magnificent houses and imposing fortifications, testimony to Saint-Malo’s fascinating seafaring past. A tour of the ramparts offers splendid ocean’s views and you might even be around at the time of the high tides, considered to be among the most spectacular in Europe. This is Brittany at its best!
Our tip: Drop anchor at the spice shop of Olivier Roellinger, a great cook and traveller, then move on to Maître Bordier’s cheese shop to taste his famous seaweed butter.
Saint-Malo > Rennes > Vannes
Take the train to Rennes, capital city of Brittany (52 min trip). Lose yourself among streets lined with higgledy-piggledy half-timbered houses or watch the world go by from a café that spills out onto the magnificent Place de l’Opéra. On Saturdays, Rennes hosts one of France’s biggest markets and be sure to take a guided tour of the parliament building which has played an important role in the history of Brittany. Not far from the historic centre is the cultural hub, Les Champs Libres, a fine example of modern and distinctive architecture. After a day of exploring, you can relax in the beautifully peaceful Jardin du Thabor park.
On the 3rd day, catch the morning train to the fortified town of Vannes (56 min trip) located on the Morbihan Gulf. In Breton, Morbihan means “little sea” but the name “little paradise” would suit the island-studded Gulf just as well.
For an unforgettable experience, take a cruise on a sailing boat; stop off on Gavrinis Island to visit its Neolithic cairn or on the Ile aux Moines for a stroll through the streets of this flowery little fishing harbour. In Vannes harbour, taste crêpes or seafood at the À l’Aise Breizh Café, where the chef has developed modern versions of traditional Breton dishes.
Our tip: For those who wish to see the largest collection of megaliths (prehistoric standing stones) in the world, take a train to Auray and a SNCF coach to Carnac in a mere 1h trip.
Vannes > Quimper
Take an early TGV to Quimper (1h trip) where Breton culture is at its liveliest and visit the cathedral of Saint-Corentin, one of the greatest triumphs of Gothic art. For souvenirs, cross the river and visit the HB Henriot earthenware factory for its delicate bowls and plates, decorated with artistic hand-made paintings.
Brittany loves a good knees-up. Maybe it’s because of the region’s Celtic roots but whatever it is, the Breton craic is alive and the proof is in the myriad festivals. There are music festivals that attract huge headlining acts like Vieilles Charrues in Carhaix Plouguer (2h33 trip from Rennes) and La Route du Rock in Saint-Malo, not to mention the weird and wonderful food festivals that take place throughout the region. For a taste of the real Brittany though, look for a fest-noz, a traditional festival where people of all ages come together to eat, drink, dance and be merry, Breton-style!
Brittany’s cuisine is another thing that sets it apart from the rest of France. It’s the home of the pancake – galettes are savoury pancakes while crêpes are sweet – and then there is the seafood... Towering seafood platters are laden with glorious shellfish while the catch of the day can be enjoyed overlooking the very boat that it came in on. For those with a sweet tooth, don’t miss the salted butter caramel in all its guises or the buttery, sugary delight, kouign amann. When it comes to drinks, be sure to stock up on artisan cider or local beers.