Brittany Holiday Planning Guide
Known for its large number of megaliths, Brittany is famous for its 2,860 km (1,780 mi) of coastline and for its prehistoric menhirs (standing stones) and dolmens (stone tables)--sites that were used for burials and worship. You can see a large variety of seabirds while sightseeing along the ocean, as the region is home to colonies of cormorants, gulls, razorbills, northern gannets, common murres, and Atlantic puffins. The waters of Brittany attract marine animals like basking sharks, grey seals, leatherback turtles, dolphins, porpoises, jellyfish, crabs, and lobsters. This region is widely known for the Breton horse, a local breed of draft horse, and for the Brittany gun dog. The province also has its own breeds of cattle that you can witness at area farms and open-air museums during your Brittany holiday, some of which are on the brink of extinction, including: the Bretonne Pie Noir, the Froment du Léon, the Armorican, and the Nantaise. You’ll be able to explore a huge quantity of medieval buildings in Brittany, including numerous Romanesque and Gothic churches, castles, and the iconic half-timbered houses visible in many villages, towns, and cities.
Places to Visit in BrittanyVannes
: Perfect for a Brittany getaway, Vannes is a delightful harbor town boasting 2,000 years of history, which left behind medieval city gates and old timber-framed houses, as well as the iconic scenery of beaches and gardens.Brest
: Visitors in Brest should walk along the docks of the harbor, where the city comes to life and you can see colorful buoys, wooden boats under construction, and even schooner La Recouvrance and the Abeille-Flandres, one of the most powerful tugboats in the world.Perros-Guirec
: Active travelers will enjoy this seaside resort, which caters to those looking for exciting water and beach sports available at the sandy beaches that sit decorated with natural pink granite rocks.Rennes
: Also known as the "City of Art and History," Rennes offers a booming nightlife that is best experienced on Thursday nights on Rue Saint Michel Street (affectionately called "Street of Thirst" by college students and partygoers).Saint-Malo
g187104 Saint-Malo: Cobblestone streets wind through this city's popular Old Town that was once a haven for seafaring pirates, and its 14th-century Tour Solidor containing the Museum of Cape Horners is among the top Brittany things to do.Douarnenez
: Due to this commune's sunny weather and seaside location, the French and tourists alike flock here to relax on sandy beaches, stroll the marinas, and learn about the town's maritime history in the local museum.Paimpol
: In addition to a bustling port and picturesque beaches, this city offers a huge selection of restaurants, cafes, and bars, and many of the attractions play major themes from famous works like Guy Ropartz's Opera Le Pays and Théodore Botrel's song La Paimpolaise.Fougeres
: Housing one of the only three belfries in Brittany, this commune is popular for its weekend market as well as its famous attraction, Château de Fougères, a medieval fortress built on a granite ledge.Saint-Brieuc
: While this town is not as common on a Brittany itinerary, the local art scene is extensive and exciting, and music festivals take place often in summer.Dinard
: Known for its warm climate and beautiful beaches, Dinard represents a popular tourist destination with hundreds of villas to choose from and lots of romantic French charm.Morlaix
: Home to France's tallest lighthouse, this commune offers tons of entertaining activities like bowling, golf, horseback riding, surfing, and more in addition to gorgeous coastal scenery with walking paths.
Things to Do in Brittany
Popular Brittany Tourist AttractionsLes remparts de Saint-Malo
: Les remparts de Saint-Malo: Get to know Saint-Malo in one of the best ways possible, by walking the tops of the ramparts that encircle the town and offer lovely views of the coast. Grand Aquarium
: Grand Aquarium: A popular Brittany tourist attraction for families, this large aquarium takes the ultimate underwater exploration a step further with a 'Nautibus' ride, a simulated descent aboard a submarine.Oceanopolis
: Learn all about the ocean and biodiversity at this aquarium housing 10,000 marine animals--including a huge shark collection--across different environments and climates like temperate, polar, and tropical.Sentier des douaniers
: This easy-going trail follows the northern coastline, allowing visitors to walk through ancient fern patches, around towering cliffs, and among the pink granite boulders that decorate the area's beaches.Carnac stones
: The Megaliths of Carnac, the largest group of stones of their kind in the world, date back to the Neolithic period and form eleven long rows which visitors can explore on guided tours.Ile de Batz
: This small island town packs a punch for Brittany holiday seekers and features exotic gardens, picturesque beaches, old ruins, and a lighthouse that visitors can climb for panoramic views of the coast.La Pointe du Grouin
: Try to spot dolphins from this coastline, where a seaside path follows the cliffs along sandy beaches and leads down to a grotto during low tide.Fort La Latte
: Built in the 13th century, this granite castle on the Cap Frehel peninsula provides tourists entrance via bridge and features well-preserved towers and halls.Pointe du Raz
: Dubbed "the end of the world," the dramatic location is characterized by strong winds, crashing waves, and a breathtaking view over the Atlantic and fishing ports.Parc du Thabor
: This grand public park is comprised of a mixture of French and English gardens as well as a botanical section and vegetable gardens started by the monks of Saint-Melaine Abbey in the 18th century.
Planning a Brittany Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Brittany with Kids
There is no shortage of Brittany places to see that will keep the whole family entertained. From interesting beaches filled with large pink boulders to the intimidating shark tanks in local aquariums, there is something for every age. Perros-Guirec
are great places to start for beach vacations, where you can sunbathe and relax while the kids explore and experiment with various water sports. When you need a break from the sun, head to Saint-Malo or Rennes
for all-day shopping excursions and great local food. These large cities also offer lots of dining options for young, picky eaters. Finally, the region's history may fascinate kids with tales of pirates and large medieval castles to discover.
Things to Do in Brittany with Kids
Visit the best beaches at Sentier des douaniers
, a footpath along the coastline leading to stunning pieces of shoreline protected by tall cliffs like Cote de Granit Rose
. Kids can swim in the shallow waters or build towers with rocks on the beach, all while surrounded by gorgeous views. Get a taste of history and visit the Carnac stones
, ancient stones erected in eleven rows that have stood for thousands of years. Another piece of the past your kids can explore awaits at Port Museum (Port-Musee)
, a floating outdoor museum consisting of four ships. Your young explorers can climb aboard each boat to learn about European and Asian maritime history while viewing the crew's quarters, engine room, bridge, and much more.
If you have any animal lovers in your group, check out the aquariums. Oceanopolis
and Aquarium Marin De Tregastel
both offer amazing exhibits and up-close experiences with marine animals. Zoo de Pont-Scorff
houses more than 600 animals from all five continents. Get to know elephants, monkeys, panthers, rhinos, giraffes, and beautiful white lions, then catch a show featuring sea lions, parrots, and seabirds. Alternatively, the animals at Parc Animalier et Botanique de Branfere
roam freely. This botanical garden and zoo features more than 1,000 animals.
Adventure-seekers will want to experience the fun and thrills of La Recre des Trois Cures
, a theme park with slides, giant trampolines, and a 1900s merry-go-round. Boat rides, an aquatic water park, and the Great Eight roller coaster are excellent kid-friendly additions to a Brittany itinerary.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Brittany
If you are traveling outside of the high season (July and August) and are looking for a budget-friendly, large accommodation for the whole family, consider renting a summer home. Many of the French rent out their summer cottages when they are not using them for reasonable prices. If you spend the day out shopping, take the time to teach your kids some French and learn along with them. Locals are usually delighted to hear the kids try to speak the language, and some shopkeepers, especially in smaller boutiques, may even offer you lower prices for the effort.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Brittany
Cuisine of Brittany
Visitors cannot truly enjoy a Brittany trip without tasting the best regional food: shellfish. Try lobster, oysters, mussels, winkles, and scallops at seafood restaurants scattered about the region. The fishermen of Brest
are also known for bringing back varieties of Atlantic and northern fish.
If seafood is not your favorite, try another delicacy, the crepe--a pancake-like pastry eaten with a variety of toppings like fruit, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and many more options. Brittany's butter is also famous, so be sure to try it on your crepe.
Shopping in Brittany
Start your shopping excursion in Saint-Malo, which offers a treasure trove of shops, boutiques, and malls. Everything from sweets and biscuits to footwear and antiques are available. Dinan
features traditional outdoor markets with stall upon stall of produce, breads, pastries, flowers, and meats. Rennes
is another popular shopping destination, where visitors will find Alinea, a huge home store (similar to Ikea) selling furniture and decor. Around the city, look for boutiques and small shops selling homemade crafts or regional wares like jewelry for a unique souvenir.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Brittany
History of Brittany
As witnessed at Carnac stones
, Brittany's history stretches back to prehistoric times when Neolithic tribes inhabited the area. Little other traces remain besides the monolithic stones, and the next known inhabitants, the Celts, arrived in the 6th century and named the land Armor, meaning the land beside the sea.
Centuries later, after a brief capture by Julius Caesar, Celts brought Christianity to the area after fleeing Britain from Teutonic invaders. The land developed as a province and duchy of France with Rennes as the chief city. It later became a region of France after a treaty in 1532 during the reign of king Francis I.
However, in 1789, the National Constituent Assembly declared the abolition of feudal privileges, which stripped away the privileges of Brittany. Consequently, the region lost juridical existence, autonomy, and its Parliament, guaranteed since the Edict of Union of the 16th century.
In the 19th century, Brittany became further integrated into France culture, and the region developed an independent and self-sufficient reputation due to its economical growth and religious festivals.
The region was diminished after France divided into administrative regions, and Brittany then included only four of the original five sections. This removal of the Loire-Atlantique region that contained Nantes, a popular commercial city, has caused a lot of controversy among natives.
Brittany was also known as home to corsairs--French privateers and pirates--during the 17th and 18th centuries. Saint-Malo especially was infamous for pirate activity, and the corsairs often forced passing English ships to pay money and hand over their goods.
Landscape of Brittany
The most striking detail of Brittany's landscape is its contorted and jagged coastline, where its land edge juts out and plummets to create numerous peninsulas, bays, and estuaries. The view of the coast is so beautiful that several paths, like Sentier des douaniers
, have been created along the shore to allow visitors easy access. These paths lead visitors to dramatic overlooks and beaches as well, including Pointe du Raz
. Farther inland, twisting rivers wind through the patches of forest and small mountains. Even beginner-level hikers can easily trek the area's terrain without much trouble, but more adventurous travelers may want to experience local terrain by zipline or a thrilling rope course. Check out Parcours Aventure Vivons Perches
for this kind of exciting experience.
Holidays & Festivals in Brittany
Take your Brittany vacation during the middle of summer and enjoy the boisterous celebrations of The Festival of the Ramparts. Taking place in the medieval city of Dinan
, the festival is held every two years and features costumed actors, street entertainers, food stalls, dance floors, parades, and even medieval markets with homemade wares. Another festival, the Inter-Celtic Festival, celebrates the traditions and cultures of the Celtic nations with traditional music and dances. People from all over the world come to join the August festival in Lorient
If you visit during July, the Festival de Cornouaille in Quimper
lasts for nine days and highlights Breton music. Local and international performers and artists take to the streets with live shows and art exhibitions as well as delicious food stalls.
Brittany Travel Tips
Climate of Brittany
Brittany's climate is typically sunny and warm, although it does occasionally rain and that moisture creates the lovely green scenery the region boasts. While winter temperatures rarely drop low enough to create a frost, summertime can really heat up, so take light clothing to stay comfortable. Remember to always wear sunblock on the beaches.
Transportation in Brittany
Trains tend to be the best and most comfortable way to travel through Brittany and include local and tourist routes. If you prefer to travel by car, rent a vehicle or hire a driver for the day. In this region, motorway tolls are replaced by expressways that are free of charge. Be careful though, as all drivers are now required to follow several unique laws: carry a red warning triangle, adjust the dip of the headlights, and have a fluorescent safety jacket in the car itself, not in the trunk. If you are stopped by the police, you risk an immediate fine if you are not wearing the jacket when you exit the car.