Brittany in western France has so much to offer visitors who want to explore thousands of years of history, see stunning coastal landscapes, and discover beautiful little islands. Whether you want to relax on a golden sandy beach, visit ancient ruins and medieval villages, or go cycling alongside the sea, we will help you experience the best of Brittany!
We have traveled extensively through Brittany, so we’re very happy to share our favorite places of interest with you.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you plan your trip to Brittany, we invite you to take a look at some of our self-drive tours of Brittany.
Saint Malo in Brittany is a port city that has a rich history and has one of the nicest beaches in France. The town is popular with travelers who enjoyed the book 'All the light we cannot see' by Anthony Doerr, which was set in St Malo in World War II. If you're on a tour with France Just For You, we can plan a self-guided walking tour of St Malo for you which takes you to the places featured in the book.
The cobbled streets of this walled citadel are steeped in history, as are the high granite city walls that enclose the old town. In World War II, the town was under siege by the Germans, and going further back, it was occupied by privateers (pirates approved by the king). It is worth simply strolling around the old town and enjoying its charm.
Then you can make your way to Plage du Môle, one of the best sandy beaches on the Emerald Coast (Côte d'Emeraude in French). Situated on the English channel, this beach is great for swimming and doesn't get too windy. The summer lifeguard station means it's safe and popular with families. And for lunch, try some Breton delicacies like oysters and crepes - these are served in many of Saint Malo's restaurants and markets.
You can combine Saint Malo with a trip to Mont Saint Michel Abbey, which is less than an hour’s drive away in Normandy.
Find out more about St Malo in our blog post on How to Spend a Day in St Malo.
Enjoy more of the Emerald Coast as you drive between Saint Malo and Cancale, a lovely little port in the northeast of Brittany famous for its oysters.
Cancale oysters have been famous since Roman times, popular among the soldiers of Julius Caesar, and with King Louis XIV much later. Cancale is officially a 'Site remaquable du goût' (a place of exceptional taste!) due to the exceptional flavor of its oysters.
If you head to the pier from the town's harbor, you can see 4.5 square miles of oyster beds. There are a few oyster stalls on the seafront, and there are also various restaurants in town where you can try the famous 'oversized' oysters.
Dinan is a lovely medieval town above the Rance river. Like Saint Malo, the town is surrounded by city walls and has some interesting architecture. This ranges from medieval to early Renaissance buildings and half-timbered houses on the Rue du Jerzual, to the impressive Château de Dinan, with its dungeon, fortifications and towers dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries.
We also recommend visiting the Saint-Sauveur Basiliica, which shows an interesting blend of different architectural styles. You can enjoy panoramic views of the town from the Clock Tower. And those interested in trains may enjoy a visit to the Railway Museum, which has model railways, signal boxes and posters.
It’s also possible to take a boat trip along the Rance river to Saint-Malo - very nice when the weather’s fine.
The old town of Vannes is between Nantes and Brest by the Gulf of Morbihan. This historic walled town surrounds the 13th-century, Italian Renaissance-style Saint Pierre Cathedral. Inside the cathedral, there are some beautiful 17th-century tapestries.
There's a nice view of the cathedral and the Constable Tower from the Parc de la Garenne. The medieval gates, towers and fortifications were built between the 3rd and 17th centuries. You can learn more about the heritage of Vannes at the Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie in the center of the old town. It is housed in Chateau Gaillard and its collections include paintings and archeological artefacts.
The Gulf of Morbihan is a pretty, protected bay in southern Brittany filled with gorgeous little islands with beautiful scenery. One of the largest islands is the Île aux Moines - you can take a day-trip there by boat from Port Blanc. The crossing only takes a few minutes. The island is around 3.5 miles long and nearly 2 miles wide, with a population of about 600 people - though the island is very busy in the summer.
It's a lovely place to spend a day exploring the countryside, relaxing on the beach or strolling along the streets in the north of the island, admiring the traditional Breton houses. There is a coastal path where you can go for a walk or hire a bike by the port and go cycling.
There are also some interesting neolithic sites, including 'cromlech de Kergonan', a series of 24 stones in the center of the island, and the dolmen at Pen Hap in the south.
The word Carnac comes from the Celtic word ‘carn’, which means ‘stone monument’. It’s on Quiberon Bay and has some fantastic Neolithic sites. These include the "Circuit des Alignements", consisting of circles and rows of stones up to 20 feet high, and a small chapel that sits on top of the Tumulus Saint-Michel monument.
The Musée de Préhistoire is an exceptional museum on prehistory in Carnac - one of the best in Europe. You’ll find archeological objects that have been uncovered at sites in this area. The collection shows the evolution of humans from 450,000 BC, covering the Stone Age, the Neolithic period, up to the Gallo-Roman epoch, which ended in the 5th century AD.
Côte de Granit Rose
The beautiful Pink Granite Coast runs from Perros-Guirec to the natural harbor town of Ploumanac'h.
It has stunning weather-beaten rock formations, some higher than 60ft, known as the Rochers de Ploumanac'h. You can see these between Trestraou and Saint-Guirec. Some of them resemble familiar shapes, such as a rabbit, a witch and even Napoleon’s hat.
There’s a nice 5-mile hiking trail, the Sentier des Douaniers, which has marvellous views of the rocks at Ploumanac'h and of the pink granite coast. It goes along the coast, crosses the moors and ends at Ploumanac'h port.
Also along the Sentier des Douaniers is the sandy Saint-Guirec beach, ideal for swimming as the sea here is calm.
For more sandy beaches and watersports, you can visit a family resort that’s popular with the locals, at Perros-Guirec.
The old town of Trébeurden, also on the coast, is worth a visit for its handicrafts shops, traditional Breton farmers market, and excellent gourmet restaurants. Try one of the region’s specialties, buckwheat pancakes, at one of the local crêperies. There are also plenty of seafood restaurants to choose from, and a Michelin-star restaurant, Manoir de Lan-Kerellec.
Plougrescant also has some magnificent coastal rocky landscapes - look out for the Maison entre deux Rochers (the House between Two Rocks)!
Pont-Aven is a famous village in the Finistère department of Brittany known for its artists and its biscuits! Its name comes from the river that runs through it. It is most well-known for its association with post-Impressionist French painter Paul Gauguin, who arrived there in 1886. There he established the 'Ecole de Pont-Aven', a new style of painting.
The Museum of Pont-Aven has many paintings on display by artists who adopted the Ecole de Pont-Aven style. If you come on a tour with France Just For You, we'll suggest a self-guided walking tour route which will take you in Gauguin's footsteps and show you some of the sites that he portrayed in his paintings. Alternatively, you can go to the town's tourist office and pick up a map which marks the Painter's Trail.
If you're in Brittany in early August, try to be in Pont-Aven for the Fête des Fleurs d'Ajonc (Festival of Gorse Flowers). It's an ideal opportunity to see the locals dressed in traditional Breton clothes, listen to Breton bagpipe music and see (and maybe learn!) a traditional Breton dance.
As for the famous buttery biscuits (known as Galettes de Pont-Aven), you can buy some and experience their unique flavor at one of the local biscuit shops.
Locronan is the only village in the Finistère region that features in the list of 'the most beautiful villages in France'. Locronan is a beautiful, charming, well-preserved town. It has been named as a "Petite Cité de Caractère" (Small City of Character) because of its impressive Renaissance houses and magnificent church dating back to the 1400s. Most of the houses in the town were built using local granite and have traditional slate roofs.
The attractive cobble-stone Place de l'Eglise is a good starting point to explore the village. It's surrounded by ancient buildings, including a vaulted church, and has an ancient well in the center.
There are a few small shops and cafes around the square. From here it is easy to explore the rest of centre of the village as streets depart in all directions: to the left of the church follow the loop formed by Rue des Charrettes and Rue du Four and opposite stroll along the narrow road called Venelle Toul Prichen.
Locronan tourist office has a suggested route for you to follow as you explore the village. Or if you're on on a self drive tour of Brittany with us, we'll make sure you know all the must-sees.
Fougères is in a beautiful location, surrounded by lush forests and fields. Its main attraction is the Château de Fougères, a fortress with thirteen towers, built between the 12th-15th centuries.
If you visit the castle, expect to be immersed in spectacles representing life in the region during the Middle Ages.
You’ll also notice a quaint, medieval ambiance in the walled old town, with its half-timbered houses near the Place du Marchix.
Other places of interest include Saint-Sulpice church, with its stunning Gothic interior, the Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville) that dates back to the 14th century and the Shoe Museum, which was once a shoe factory.
This off-the-beaten-path village in Morbihan department has been named a ‘Petite Cité de Caractère’ (Small City of Character) one of the "Plus Beaux Villages" (Most Beautiful Villages in France) and a "Village Fleuris" ("Village in Bloom" or "Flowery Village") because of the pretty flowers you’ll see around the town.
Enjoy a stroll around the village's charming streets and discover old stone and half-timbered houses adorned with flowers, and local artist workshops.
The Château de Rochefort-en-Terre is surrounded by a park and resembles medieval castle. But actually, it only dates back to the 17th century, when it was used as a horse stables, and was restored in the 20th century. American painter Alfred Klotz bought the castle in 1907 and spent a fortune on the renovations. You can't go inside the château, but you can admire the outside while walking through the park.
La Vallée des Saints
La Vallée des Saints is a project that aims to create 1,000 statues of Breton saints sculpted from granite from the Armorican peninsula.
Armorica was the name given to this area (now Brittany) during ancient times. It means "place in front of the sea" in Gaulish, the ancient Celtic language spoken in this region at the time. The hundreds of statues at the Quénéquillec site at Carnoët represent the Christian evangelisation of ancient Armorica.
They're also a reflection of the faith of the Breton people. The main aim of La Vallée des Saints is to pass on the values that the locals hold dear. It's an unusual and fascinating place to visit!
The Pleyben Parish close (Enclos paroissial de Pleyben) is a cathedral complex in Pleyben. It includes the Saint-Germain church, a funeral chapel, a triumphal arch, and the calvary.
The building has two impressive bell towers, one known as the Saint Germain, built in the Renaissance style with a domed lantern at the top, and the other with a spire in the Gothic style. You can find out more about Pleyben Parish close here.
La Presqu'île de Crozon
The Crozon Peninsula is right at the tip of the middle of Brittany. The sea here is very clear with some of the best beaches in Brittany. We recommend a visit to the gorgeous Landevennec Abbey, where you’ll see the ruins of a medieval Benedictine monastery and a beautiful sea backdrop.
If you have time...
We don’t include Dinard in our self-drive itineraries, but it has a nice port and it’s good for luxury shopping.
Roscoff is a nice place to explore if you’re arriving in Brittany by ferry from Plymouth, UK or Cork, Ireland. It has a very nice harbor, interesting historic houses that belonged to shopowners in the past, and a beautiful Gothic church.
Île de Batz
In the summer, there are regular ferries from Roscoff to the Île de Batz. It's a nice island to visit if you're staying in the Roscoff region, with sandy beaches, pretty seaside scenery, and an exotic garden. We don't typically include Roscoff and Île de Batz in our itineraries as it's very far out of the way if you then want to visit other parts of France. If you want to explore Brittany's islands, we prefer Ile aux Moines in the Morbihan Gulf or Ile de Bréhat, which are both easy to visit in a day from the mainland.