Fabulously French

French Regions: Brittany

A region of bustling city centres, ancient communes, historical wonders and exquisite shorelines, Brittany is a northern treasure.

Region capital: Rennes

Cartoon-esque houses in medieval design that have come to typify northern French architecture form Rennes old quarter. The asymmetric, tightly-packed, often leaning buildings seem to want to squeeze as much into one plot as possible, giving a sense of quirk to the capital. Buskers in Rennes tend to go traditional, performing French street music with an array of brass instruments, avoiding acoustic mainstream covers. The Saturday market at Place des Lices is the second largest in the country and is where locals like to do their shopping given the quality of the locally sourced food.

Portes Mordelaises, the old city entrance, is a medieval structure built atop a third century wall, highlighting France’s extensive heritage. The neoclassical Cathedral differs from the Gothic cathedrals of the neighbouring towns, most notably Rouen. Rennes’ towering 19th design offers columns and rounded archways as opposed to gargoyles and pointed arches.

Cities

A birds-eye view of St Malo, with its neat layout, appears as if a toy town, walled off from reality. In fact, the port city only expanded beyond the ancient walls in 1968.

Founded by the Gauls in the 1st Century, this quaint town is packed with things to do. Spend the day exploring the beach, even venturing to Petite Bé and Grand Bé, several islands a short distance away. Fishing boats are dotted intermittently, about to bring the days catch back to local markets and restaurants.

The town made a point of mimicking the buildings destroyed in the war when they were rebuilt, so many of the charming old-style establishments remain as they did for centuries prior. The 12th century cathedral is still intact, too, with its spire extending into the skyline.

Nantes has much more of a city-feel than St Malo. There are a few ways to get around the city. Cycling is most popular, and rentals are easily accessible. Giant mechanical elephant is another. It’s part of the extraordinary Machines of the Isles of Nantes where enormous mechanical beasts and a grand carousel form an artistic project.

The 13th century Château des Ducs Bretagne, the final castle on the Loire River is located in the in the centre of Nantes, equipped with moat and perfectly-pruned greenery. It seems juxtaposed to the 19th century and onward architecture of the surrounding cityscape. Other notable attractions include Le Lieu Unique, a contemporary artistic centre, and the 18th century Royal Square which houses several museums.

Nature

The 425,000 acre Amorique Regional Park in north western Brittany is enough of a reason in itself to visit the region. Encompassed in this massive park is sandy coastline, with Atlantic waters that lap the bay, ancient mountain ranges, lakes, countryside and more. It’s an incredibly diverse landscape that provides around 500km of trails for you to explore.

The Côte de Granite Rose, or Pink Granite Coast, is named so because of the beautiful colour of the rocks that make up 30km of this coastline. The Pink Granite Coast sees millennial pink stone meet deep turquoise waters, with easy walks along the coastline that allow you to take it all in. At the right time of year the sunset casts an even pinker hue on the scene, giving you the full effect of its beauty.

Activity

Parc du Radôme is conveniently located on the Pink Granite Coast. Stop there after your days walk along the waterside. The eclectic park features a number of things to do. The Cité des Télécoms has 3D films, optical illusions, games, exhibitions and more. There’s also a planetarium that gives young and old, alike, an insight into the stars in a 360° dome. Finally, there’s Gaul Village where you’ll find unique activities inspired by the ancient Gauls. Pirate boats, a labyrinth, catapult make up only part of the Village.

Release your inner wild child at Saint-Cast outdoor adventure park. There’s eleven different trails amongst the trees, many at dizzying heights. Manoeuvre your way through 140 obstacles across 3 hectares of forestry. This park is perfect for families. Young ones can play it safe, zip-wired 80cm off the ground, with more intense trails for older kids and adults.

 

Photo credit: Cite des Telecoms

Gastronomy

Far Breton is a local, flan-style dessert with dried fruits, often prunes, where the top is slightly blackened. It’s perfect for a pit-stop after a day of sight-seeing. You’ll find it in across Brittany in authentic and independent bakeries.

Cidre Breton Brut Traditionnel is a local dry cider from 6 different apple varieties in Brittany. It is foggy in appearance as it’s only partially filtered. Brewed in Guenrouët, north of Nantes, this cider has made a name for itself across the continent.

 

Photo credit: Merle ja Joonas

For Families

Poul-Fetan Village is a formerly abandoned commune which is now used as a historical site where families can come to learn about life in Brittany in the 19th century. Actors in costume and a host of activities bring the affair to life.

Brittany’s coastlines are favoured for water sports. Spend the day at a surf lesson, with classes for all ages, or head out on a boat trip. Even if you’re not at the beach, Brittany’s lakes and rivers also invite activity. From renting canoes to paddle boarding to just going for a swim, get yourself in the water!

 

Photo credit: Avel-Breizh

For Couples

Hideaway in an eccentric accommodation option. Les Ormes has everything from wooden barrels and tree houses, to bubbles extended in the heights, even a raft-house that rests romantically on a serene lake.

Dance with the fairies at La Roche-aux-Fées. Legend tells that this enchanted stone walkway, deep in the woodland, is home to fairies, so where better to add a little magic to your relationship? When it’s quiet you feel almost cut off from the rest of the world. According to folklore, if you and your beau count the same number of stones in the passageway, you’re guaranteed lifelong happiness.

 

Photo credit: Francisco Gonzalez

Getting There

Head to France on our Newhaven-Dieppe crossing and when you arrive you’re 4 ½ hours’ drive from Brittany. Our Dunkirk and Calais ports are around 6 ½ hours from Brittany, too, so you can also hop on a short ferry from Dover to access to the region.

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