Day trip in the book town of Bécherel
During my little discovery of Brittany, I found myself in the book town of Bécherel. While chatting to the taxi driver about my itinerary, he suggested I visit his hometown. This was unplanned, and sometimes the unplanned events are usually the best. This visit was definitely a good one.
Charming little book town
Bécherel is a small town situated between the capital of Brittany, Rennes, and Saint-Malo.
The first thing that I noticed was how peaceful it was. The main street was so empty and peaceful, it was unreal – mind you everything appears quiet as soon as you leave the main city. But as I carried on into the town centre, I realised that the taxi driver wasn’t wrong when he suggested I visit the area.
Wandering into the historic area, you realise why Bécherel has been listed as one of France’s ‘little town of character’ (Petites Cités de Caractère®). The town is a charming old medieval village. From Rue de la Filanderie to the main square called Place des Halles, you see a selection of stone and timber buildings making it a charming and picturesque square. The best way to discover the town’s beauty is by wandering around with a curious eye. Having said that, a detour by the Tourist Information Centre will save you time in finding the hidden places.
Bécherel, France’s first “book town”
As well as being known as a City of Art and History, Bécherel is primarily famous for books as the “Cite du Livre®” meaning village of books. Bécherel is France’s first book town but comes third in Europe behind the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye and Redu in Belgium. The first book town is in Jinbōchō, Tokyo. Since 1988, houses that once belonged to noble families and rich merchants have given way to bookstores that are opened all year round, making the small town a paradise for book lovers. The town is not to be confused with Bescherelle, a grammar book known to every french highschooler. You will be familiar with this book if you have studied French or grew up in France like me. When I first heard about the town, I thought the book was made there!
With the village map in hand, I went on exploring the 15 bookstores. The bookstores are colour coded by categories so it’s easy to locate the one that you are interested in. As I was more on an exploring set of mind, I decided to just choose at random. After visiting some of the stores, I stopped by Cafe Librairie Gwrizienn for a well-deserved cup of coffee. The bookstore also serves as a tea room. The shop owner was very nice. I visited Bécherel on a Wednesday and sadly some of the bookstores were closed. The majority of them are opened from Thursday to Sunday.
You might think “the books are in French and I don’t read French, why visit?”… Well, the town is worth a visit because it’s beautiful and peaceful. Having said that, the town is also a reference for flea markets, galleries, sculptors, painters, photographers, bookbinders, and calligraphers so there’s also something interesting to see there. As well as exploring the countryside on foot, you can also go by bike or horseback. On the way back to Dinan, I saw a group horseback riding and I was so jealous!
If you walk further out of the town, you will find the Château de Caradeuc which has a massive garden open to the public. It is said to be the Château de Versailles of Brittany. Unfortunately, I did not visit the castle I was worried about missing my bus back to Dinan.
If you have a day or even an afternoon to spare during your trip to Brittany, be sure to visit the book town of Bécherel. You will be surprised by the peacefulness and charm of this cute medieval town. Also, you will be well looked after by the multiple cats guarding the bookstores!
A quick guide to the book town of Bécherel
To learn more about the village of books, check out the Official Website of Bécherel (in French)
Flight: Choice of either airport of Rennes at 40 km or the smaller Dinard Pleurtuit at 50km. The best and easiest way to get to Bécherel is by car. If you are renting a car and driving from either airport, the drive will be about 40 minutes for both.
Bus: For those who do not drive like me, you can catch a bus from either Rennes, Dinard or Dinan. The return fare range from 5.40€ to 12.40€ depending on the area you board the bus. The bus to take is number 7 from the company Illenoo. You get off at the stop Bécherel Centre. If you travel through this route, please note that you have to take the bus at the same bus stop. I made the mistake of waiting at the opposite bus stop which resulting in me missing the bus thus waiting another hour for the next one!
Train: runs from Combourg or Rennes stations. More info via SNCF.
Where to eat
If you are feeling peckish, you can stop by Catherine and Frederic’s little shop La Creperie Bouquine to sample crepes, galettes, salads or other local specialties.
Alternatively, L’Oree du Parc, just outside Bécherel offers traditional and authentic Breton food.
Where to Stay
Bécherel offers a selection of small guesthouses and bed and breakfasts. La Porte de Saint-Michel offers 2 rooms that can accommodate up to 6 people in a charming house close to the church. The rate is 53€ for 1 a single occupant or 58€ for a double room.
Les Gites de Bécherel offers weekend to weekly accommodations from 140€to 300€ for a Monday-to-Friday stay for a studio. Biggest room can accommodate up to five people.
The book fair takes place on the first Sunday of each month from March to December. Booksellers set up stalls with secondhand and rare volumes. There are 15 bookshops in the village, with volumes in French, English and other languages. Events and performances taking place at Bécherel include the “Fête du Livre”, each Easter weekend, the Night of Books (August), “Lire en Fête” (October), Treasures of Bécherel (December).