Things To Do In Brittany, France: A Journey Through Scenic Landscapes, And Authentic Culture.

Last Updated on 06/04/2024 by secretmoona

Discover the top things to do in Brittany, France, with our comprehensive travel guide.

Nestled in the northwest corner of France, Brittany is a region renowned for its stunning coastline, rich history, and vibrant culture. From medieval towns to picturesque beaches, has it all. Before diving into some places to see, here are the top experiences that make Brittany a must-visit destination.

A collage showcasing scenic views of a marina and a historic cathedral under clear blue skies—inviting exploration in Brittany, France.

History of Brittany, France

Brittany is one of the 13 administrative regions of France. The regional capital is Rennes. The region comprises 4 departments: Finistère (29), Cotes d’Armor (22), Morbihan (56), and Ile-et-Villaine (35). Loire Atlantique (44) is also part of historic Brittany, and its prefecture, Nantes, was the capital of the Dukes of Brittany. Although the department is no longer officially part of Brittany, it is now part of the Pays de la Loire. Let’s explore the best of Brittany with our comprehensive guide to things to do in Brittany, France.

Brittany is a region in France with a large peninsula that separates the Channel from the Atlantic Ocean. Its coastline is over 2,800 km long and has nearly 800 islands and islets with some of the most stunning beaches in France. The climate is oceanic, with regular drizzles. The region is mainly rural and has a lot of greenery. From the rugged cliffs of the Pink Granite Coast to the pristine sands of Belle-Île-en-Mer, there are many beautiful spots to relax, swim, or enjoy water sports.

A charming house next to a body of water in Brittany France

Did you know:

  • Jacques Cartier, a native of St Malo, is considered the founder of Quebec.
  • René Laennec, born in Quimper, is known for inventing the stethoscope. 
  • Nantes was part of Brittany until 1941 when the city was moved to the region of Loire-Atlantique. 
  • The fastest tides in Europe are in Brittany, so it’s essential to be careful.

Where is Bretagne? Map of the Brittany Region

Brittany (French: Bretagne, Breton: Breizh) is a region in northwestern France, about a 4-5 hour drive from Paris. If you prefer to travel by train, a ride from Paris to Rennes takes about 2.5 hours. The region has a unique identity shaped mainly by its Celtic roots. With its incredible coastline and turquoise waters, Brittany is sometimes mistaken for a place further south. The vibrant city of Rennes serves as the region’s capital.

France Map of Brittany

Map of Brittany in France

Things to Do in Brittany France

Carnac Megaliths

Step back in time thousands of years by visiting the enigmatic Carnac Megaliths, one of the world’s most extensive Neolithic sites. Admire the lines of upright stones, which are thought to have been constructed for religious or ceremonial motivations, and engage yourself in the rich history of Brittany.

Île de Bréhat

Escape to the idyllic Île de Bréhat, a car-free island paradise known for its stunning natural beauty and colourful Mediterranean-style houses. Explore the island’s lush botanical gardens, picturesque lighthouses, and scenic coastal paths or simply relax on its tranquil beaches and enjoy the serenity of island life.

Brittany’s Festivals and Events

Discover Brittany’s rich cultural scene through its many lively festivals and events. From traditional Breton folk festivals that celebrate music, dance, and folklore to international events such as the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, there is always something exciting happening in Brittany throughout the year.
The Douarnenez Maritime Festival is an event that brings together traditional sailing ships from all over the world. It takes place in July and is considered one of the best attractions of its kind. Another popular event is the Route du Rhum, a transatlantic single-handed yacht race that happens every four years in November. The race starts in Saint-Malo, Brittany and finishes in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.

Brittany Towns with Coastal Charms

Saint-Malo

Scenic view of the historic walled city of St Malo in France, with the sea surrounding the fortified town.

Saint-Malo is a fortified port city on the Brittany region’s northern coast, where the Rance River meets the sea. It is just over an hour’s drive from Rennes and has a significant historical background. The coastal town of Saint-Malo was founded in the 6th century by a monk named Maclou after being settled by the Gallics and the Romans in the past. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Saint-Malo played a crucial role as a major harbour for sailors, traders, and corsairs authorised by the French crown to engage with enemy ships.

Saint-Malo is widely known for its impressive medieval walls, making it one of France’s most remarkable walled cities. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the city gates and along the medieval ramparts to explore its history. The fortifications also extend to two offshore small islands: Fort National and Grand Bé. Fort National, designed by Vauban, was a defensive structure to protect the port. Grand Bé, on the other hand, is the grave site of the renowned author François-René de Chateaubriand. You can access both islands by foot during low tide.

The old town of Saint-Malo can be found inside the city walls, known as Intra Muros. Despite being heavily damaged by Allied bombing and German arson during WW2, the granite buildings and the Saint-Malo Cathedral (Saint-Vincent Cathedral of Saint-Malo) have been rebuilt post-war. Nowadays, the old city is filled with beautiful hotels and restaurants, and La Demeure de Corsaire is a museum hosted in a gorgeous mansion that details the city’s history.

Although not technically located in Brittany but neighbouring Normandy, the Mont St. Michel is a popular tourist destination just 45 minutes from Saint-Malo. Dominating the landscape with its imposing silhouette, Mont Saint-Michel is an architectural marvel that captivates visitors with its medieval grandeur. Explore the winding streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and marvel at the stunning views from the abbey perched atop the rocky island. Visitors can book a tour to explore the famous island, but it is best to avoid visiting during the summer school holidays, as the fortified town is suffering from over-tourism. Most of the buildings on the island are protected national monuments in France. It is the second most visited landmark in France after the Eiffel Tower!

Book a stay in Saint-Malo through Booking.com / Agoda

Quimper

Scenery at Quimper, a town and capital of the Finistere department of Brittany in Northwestern France
Credit photo – Achim Prill from Getty Images

The medieval city of Quimper is situated in the Finistère department of Brittany, although it is not directly by the sea. The Odet River serves the town, and its estuary is only a few kilometres away. Quimper’s historic centre is filled with charming half-timbered houses reminiscent of the medieval period, giving the town a unique atmosphere. 

The ramparts, streets such as Rue Kéréon, Place du Beurre, or Rue du Guéodet, and Quimper alleys invite you to journey through time. A large part of the historic city centre is exclusively reserved for pedestrians, making it a pleasant experience to stroll past the many shops, boutiques, bars, and restaurants. 

During your getaway to Quimper, check out the Gothic-style cathedral and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper. The Quimper Cathedral is an impressive structure with two spires overlooking the town, featuring a stunning exterior and interior. Meanwhile, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper, also known as the Museum of Fine Arts of Quimper, hosts thousands of artworks, including 1,200 paintings, 2,000 drawings and 12,000 prints.

Book your stay in Quimper through Booking.com / Agoda

Dinard

A house on a hill with trees and a boat in the water, Dinard - Brittany France

Dinard is a charming seaside resort near St-Malo along the Côte d’Emeraude worth visiting. During the summer, the town is famous for its blue-and-white-striped tents and beach cabins on the ​​Écluse beach. Additionally, it has many restaurants, snack bars, and bars to enjoy.

Apart from relaxing and sunbathing on the sandy beaches, there are also hiking trails to explore the coasts. The “Sentier des Douaniers” or “Customs Path” is a coastal walking path that runs along the cliffs, passing near stunning villas and mansions. The Promenade de Clair-de-Lune, which translates to “moonlight promenade,” is another shorter trail along the seafront. It offers the best vantage point to observe the Emerald Coast, offshore Forts, and even Saint-Malo. Moreover, the Promenade du Clair-de-Lune is protected from the prevailing winds, making the walk even more pleasant.

Dinard has more than 400 Belle Epoque villas built in a style inspired by English villas. The town is known for its well-preserved architecture, and many of these magnificent villas are situated along the Promenade du Clair-de-Lune and the Sentier des Douaniers. The most famous villa is “Les Roches Brunes,” which dominates the bay and the Emerald Coast and has become a true emblem of Dinard over time.

Brittany is home to the Cannes Film Festival in the South of France and hosts the British Film Festival of Dinard, which usually takes place at the end of September/early October. Dinard also hosts the International Classical Music Festival in July.

Book your hotel in Dinard through Booking.com / Agoda

Quaint Towns and Villages in Brittany

Dinan

Located just south of Saint-Malo, about a 30-minute drive, the charming medieval town of Dinan makes a quick and easy day trip from Saint-Malo. The historic town is renowned for its 3km (1.8 miles) of city walls that encircle it. In the 14th century, Dinan was used as a seat of power by the Dukes of Brittany, who erected the impressive granite Château de la Duchesse Anne/Château de Dinan (Dinan Castle) atop a hill overlooking the town. 

The castle became a museum in the early 1900s. Information about the castle can be found along the ramparts. Additionally, a lovely garden overlooks the lower part of the town and the Rance River.

The old town of Dinan is often regarded as one of France’s most attractive, with its half-timbered houses and narrow cobblestone streets. Anyone wanting to steep into history would like to wander the streets of Rue du Jerzual and admire the different architectural styles developed in the town throughout the centuries. 

Visit the Basilique Saint-Sauveur, a Gothic masterpiece, and walk along the medieval ramparts for panoramic views of the town and the river below. I also recommend climbing the 158 steps of Dinan’s Clock Tower for the best views in town. Built in the 15th century, the tower is over 40 metres tall and offers a great view of the small town. 

Breathtaking view of Dinan, a town in Brittany, France, from atop a hill, showcasing a picturesque river.

Situated along the Rance River, the Port of Dinan is one of the most picturesque areas in town. It boasts a range of charming crêperies, riverside restaurants, and the iconic bridge – Le Vieux Pont. While there, you can take a stroll along the riverside promenades or enjoy a boat ride up the canal with La Compagnie Corsaire, one of the top things to do in the area. On the opposite side of the river, you can admire the Viaduc de Dinan. This arched viaduct-style road bridge opened in 1852 and is designated a Historical Monument.

The liveliest places to grab a drink or two are at Place des Merciers and Rue de la Cordonnerie, famously known as Thirsty Street due to its many bars.

Book your stay in Dinan through Booking.com / Agoda

St Gourdan / Auray

A serene riverside town in Brittany, France, with traditional architecture during twilight.

Located in the heart of Morbihan, between Lorient and Vannes, Auray is a charming town in southern Brittany worth visiting. Its renowned port of Saint-Goustan, picturesque architecture, and two distinct parts make it a unique destination. The town centre is situated in the upper part, while the lower part boasts the old town and the stunning port. The city centre is small but lively, featuring beautiful buildings and streets perfect for leisure. The Town Hall and its 18th-century belfry, the pretty square (Place de la République), and numerous alleys and streets with exquisite houses are some highlights. Rue du Chateau, lined with lovely residences and art galleries, leads to the lower part of town. Saint-Goustan port used to be a trading port, but now it’s a picturesque spot with a charming bridge. Walking through the cobbled streets of Auray-Saint-Goustan is like stepping back in time to several centuries ago.

Book your stay in Auray through Booking.com / Agoda

Vannes 

A green and white half-timbered house with flowers in pots in Vannes, Brittany France

Vannes is a charming medieval city famous for its colourful timber houses, cobblestone squares, and incredible city walls with fortified gates. The town was established as a Gallic settlement, and the walls were constructed towards the end of the Roman Empire. Over the centuries of the Middle Ages, the fortifications were expanded, including the Château de l’Hermine, once the residence of the Dukes of Brittany.

Vannes is situated on the Gulf of Morbihan and is well-known for its fresh seafood, which can be savoured at numerous restaurants along the Port de Vannes. The port also features a long tree-lined esplanade that is ideal for strolling. From here, visitors can take a boat to the nearby islands.

When visiting Vannes Old Town, you can explore inside the city walls and discover notable structures such as the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Vannes, a Gothic cathedral built in the 11th century, and the Château Gaillard, a 15th-century medieval townhouse that now serves as an archaeological museum. The old town of Vannes is home to a quirky icon of the city – a 15th-century granite statue of ‘Vannes and his wife‘ which overlooks the streets. Keep an eye out for this statue while wandering the streets of Vannes Old Town, particularly at Place Valencia.

Find accommodation in Vannes through Booking.com / Agoda

Rennes

Half-timbered buildings of historic Rennes, Brittany Northen France, against clear blue sky
Credit photo: Rixie

The Brittany region’s capital city is Rennes, known for its art and history. It was once a significant part of the Duchy of Brittany. Rennes is famous for its medieval old town, which boasts colourful half-timbered houses leaning against each other. Unfortunately, a great fire destroyed most of the historic centre in 1720 and was later rebuilt in a modern style. Rennes is also home to the stunning Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes, constructed in the 12th century and has been a national heritage site since 1906.

Rennes is an animated and lively city with a thriving art scene. It regularly hosts music festivals and street art events. The town has several museums, such as Le Musée des Beaux-Arts, which opened in 1794, and the Museum of Brittany, which houses a vast collection of cultural treasures, including over 2,300 pieces of photography, historical items, archaeology, and decorative arts. The Museum of Brittany is located within a cultural centre known as Les Champs Libres, which also features the Library of Rennes Métropole, the Espace des Sciences, and the Cantine Numérique Rennaise.

Rennes has several parks to unwind and relax, such as the Tabor Gardens or Parc du Thabor in the city centre. Parc du Thabor is known for its beautiful landscaping and themed gardens, including a rose garden.

Find your accommodation in Rennes at Booking.com / Agoda

Brittany’s Culinary Delights 

Eating And Drinking In Brittany

Drinking in Brittany

Many regions in France have their own unique alcoholic beverages that they pair with their local cuisine. In Brittany, the popular drink is cider, which is available in two varieties: sweet cider, typically served with desserts such as crêpes, and dry or brut cider, commonly paired with savoury dishes like galettes, hearty dishes, or seafood (oysters, mussels, and lobster). Other variations, such as cidre blanc and cidre rose, are also gaining popularity.

Eating in Brittany

The most famous food from Brittany is crêpes and galettes. Crêpes are made with wheat flour and milk and have a sweet filling such as sugar or Nutella, while the Breton galette is made with buckwheat flour and contains a savoury filling such as eggs, creamy cheese, meat, fish, or vegetables. You can find skilled artisans showcasing their expertise in creating these delicacies in the charming crêperies that line the streets of towns like Saint-Malo and Dinan. They won’t be like any crepes you have eaten anywhere else in France!

Seafood is another delicacy found in most plates. Freshly caught in the Atlantic Ocean, the offerings are endless, from oysters in Cancale to mussels and lobsters. Coastal towns such as Saint-Malo and Concarneau boast bustling fish markets where you can buy directly from the fishermen’s daily haul. A trip to the Brittany region is incomplete without savouring Moules Frites (mussels with fries).

A vibrant mix of delicious food from Brittany France, perfect for foodies to explore.

Cheeses of Brittany

While salted butter is the most renowned dairy product in Brittany, the region is also known for its fine cheeses. One can find a variety of “tommes”, each with a distinct maturation and flavour. For instance, Tome de Rhuys is a raw cow’s milk cheese with a fruity taste. Saint-Paulin, on the other hand, is a firm and creamy cheese with a nutty and milky flavour. Another famous cheese is Merzer, a light cheese with less lactose than regular cheese.

Desserts of Brittany

You can find many more desserts and sweet delicacies in the Brittany region that are not crêpes. Brittany is known for its delicious desserts. One of the classic desserts is the kouign amann, a pastry made with butter and sugar caramelised to give it a crunchy texture. Another popular dessert is the far Breton, similar to a flan with a custard base made with eggs and milk. It also contains fruits such as prunes that have been soaked in Armagnac. Sablés Bretons are small cookies that are a speciality of Brittany. These crumbly shortbread treats are made with Breton butter and make the perfect snack.

Map of Bretagne showing various locations in Brittany France

Outdoorsy Things to Do in Brittany, France  

Exploring the Brocéliande Forest

Brittany is known for its charming towns and delicious crepes and for offering numerous coastal hiking opportunities. One of the top hiking destinations is the Brocéliande Forest, which is linked with the legend of King Arthur. Walking in this forest is like stepping back to the Middle Ages of Camelot, the knights of the Round Table, Merlin, and Lancelot. Located in Paimpont near Saint-Malo, the forest is also known as Forêt de Paimpont (Paimpont Forest). Walking around the forest, you will encounter hidden chapels, mystical lakes, the fountain of youth, and the legendary Tomb of Merlin. Hiking the Brocéliande Forest is a unique way to connect with nature while experiencing a different aspect of Brittany’s landscapes.

Coastal Hiking Trails

A hiking path leading to a body of water - St Gildas, Brittany France

Another popular hiking trail is along the scenic coasts of Brittany, which offer breathtaking sea views. From the rugged cliffs of Cap Fréhel to the serene beauty of the Gulf of Morbihan, the Brittany trails have something to offer all hikers, regardless of their skill level. The GR34, known as the “Customs Path”, follows the coastline from Mont-Saint-Michel to Saint-Nazaire and provides beautiful walks while offering panoramic vistas of the Brittany region’s dramatic seascapes. Many of the sections can be taken for short or longer hikes.

Sports activities 

Of course, if you prefer water sports and beach activities, you will be spoiled for choice, too. Brittany’s Atlantic coastline offers plenty of options, from surfing on the beaches of Quiberon and diving on the island of Groix to sailing in the Gulf of Morbihan. Kayaking along the Pink Granite Coast or windsurfing in the Baie de Douarnenez provides an exhilarating experience. Swimming in the sea is a must (of course, during the summer months!).

Practical Information for Travellers in the Brittany Region 

How to Get to the Brittany Region

Boat docked in Brittany France

By train:

There is an excellent train connection to the major cities in Brittany. However, reaching the smaller towns and villages might require an additional bus or car service. There are direct services from Paris to the major cities such as Rennes, Brest, and Quimper, as well as other parts of France. Selected trains from Charles de Gaulle Airport also go to Brittany. To reach Brittany from London, for example, you can take the Eurostar and then catch the TGV from Paris Gare Montparnasse to Rennes and beyond.

By plane:

There are several airports in Brittany that you can travel to. The main airports are Rennes and Nantes, although there are smaller ones, such as Brest, St-Malo-Dinard, and Lorient-Lann-Bihoué. 

By boat/ferry:

There are ferry routes from Ireland or the United Kingdom to Brittany via Plymouth and Dover.

By bus

Public transport is fine in Brittany as it offers a wide range of networks. Illenoo is a great option for trips within Rennes and the Ile-et-Vilaine department. For those who want to explore the Cotes d’Armor region and Saint-Malo, Tibus and Keolis are the perfect choices, while Keolis is ideal for the Morbihan area.

By car:

One of the best ways to explore Brittany’s smaller towns and villages is by car. Renting a car provides the flexibility to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and scenic routes. Travel by highway from Paris to Le Mans, then to Rennes, and from Rennes, travel towards Brest, Vannes, or Quimper. These routes are dual carriageways; therefore, there are fewer toll roads. We recommend booking with DiscoverCars in advance for a more comprehensive selection of vehicles and locations. When choosing your car, select a manageable one, as some villages’ roads can be narrow. In addition to car rental companies, carpooling is also available with BlaBlaCar. Check out the Brittany tourism website for more information.

Best Times to Visit Brittany

A bunch of beautiful pink Hydrangea flowers blooming together, creating a vibrant and colourful display.

The climate in the Brittany region varies and offers distinct experiences throughout the year. In summer (June to August), the weather is warm, perfect for exploring the coastal trails and enjoying outdoor activities. It is advisable to carry clothing in layers and a raincoat to be prepared for any weather changes. Spring (April to May) is when the landscapes bloom, while autumn (September to October) unveils an array of vibrant colours. Winter (November to March) offers a quieter experience with the charm of cosy villages and festive markets. However, it can be chilly and wet at times. Consider the season that aligns with your preferred activities, keeping in mind that Brittany’s beauty is always present, no matter the month.

Useful resources: 

  • Brittany Tourism is the official tourism website for the Brittany region, which provides information on all the villages, towns, and cities within the region. 
  • Destination Rennes is the official tourism website for the region’s capital city, Rennes. It offers information about the city, including cultural events.

Thank you for reading our guide to the best things to do in Brittany, France. As you can see, the region of Brittany is a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, providing a diverse range of landscapes to explore. You can visit picturesque towns such as the medieval Dinan or coastal towns that offer uninterrupted views of the sea. Moreover, Brittany is an excellent area for seafood enthusiasts. Don’t hesitate to explore, Bon voyage!


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Travel Tips and Resources 🧳

Here are some of my favourite travel tips and resources.

  • 🛫Flights: I’m all about snapping the best deals when booking flights. Therefore, I use Google Flights and Skyscanner to get the best deals each time. I also use AirHelp to receive compensation for delayed and cancelled flights.
  • 🚆Trains: I love using Trainline and Omio to book trains within Europe.
  • 🛏 Accommodations: Booking.com, Agoda, and Trivago are my favourite sites for great hotels and private home deals. They offer many hotels, including luxury accommodations and private homes.
  • 🚙 Car Rentals: Renting a car is ideal when travelling to remote destinations. For these, I love renting cars through Discover Cars. They offer some great options for affordable rentals, and their customer service is one the best.
  • 🎟Tours and Experiences: Visiting a new place also means getting to experience and do many things. I usually book tours via GetYourGuide or TripAdvisor. If you like doing things solo, WeGoTrip offers audio tours and excursions.
  • 💳 Travel Insurance: Travelling without proper travel insurance is not recommended. I always travel with one. Use VisitorsCoverage to compare and get the best travel insurance policy for you.

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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

6 thoughts on “Things To Do In Brittany, France: A Journey Through Scenic Landscapes, And Authentic Culture.

  1. I have always wanted to visit both Brittany and Normandy. There’s so much history there! Saint-Malo in particular for its WWII connection. And so much good food comes from this region! Thanks for the comprehensive guide!

  2. Oh wow! I didn’t know Brittany was so gorgeous. Thank you so much for all the great info – this is going to help a lot with planning.

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