It was a near-perfect day on the rugged coast – blue sea and enough breeze to offset the heat of the flaming sun hung high up in the cloudless sky. The beach may have been a little overcrowded, but it wasn’t long before we were in the water.
Visiting Brittany, located in the northwest region of France, was a warm reprieve from Ireland. Every inch of the rugged coastline, dotted with the most unusual lighthouses we have ever seen, was tourist-friendly and constant sunshine made us appreciate every single detail.
There is no doubt, certain places can leave a mark on us; our fascination with Brittany remained long after we dropped off a rented car and landed back in Ireland.
We started our journey in Nantes and drove to the Clohars-Carnoët region, where the cutest Airbnb house with a tiny garden, not too far from the beach, was waiting for us.
As soon as we swerved off the main road, we gazed out at the ocean and then back at each other, happily beaming and giggling. Not knowing what beauty the next bay and coastal stretch were hiding, made us drive for hours and hours, it was just too pretty to leave.
A Wee Guide to Some of the Best Things to See and Do in Brittany, France
Our escape to sunny France at the end of the summer was a spontaneous one! Within hours, we booked our flights and accommodation and only then started researching more about the region and mainly relied on the official site for Brittany Tourism.
This was our first time in the area, and after a week on the road, we realised, sure enough, not the last one.
In this blog post, we want to share our love for the northwest part of France. Our escape to France was all about half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, sunsets and family time.
We started our journey in Nantes, followed by visits to Vannes, Lorient, Pontorson, Mont-Saint-Michel and Rennes.
Even though we managed to drive too many kilometres in such a short period, we had the best road trip ever. Below we share some of the places worth visiting.
Road trip highlights
If you are looking for a beautiful place to visit in France that’s rich with natural beauty and incredible views, add Brittany to your travel wish list. One thing we learned while traversing through the neighbouring county – there’s no definitive answer or formula that defines a great travel experience.
Visiting famous tourist attractions can be a dream come trough moment for many but the kindness of people, feeling at home while on the road and feeling the thrill of the open road ranks pretty high on our list too.
- Medieval Dinan Town and incredible ramparts & fresh and organic local produce
- Breakfast in Quimper and half-timbered houses & stunning sunsets over a Golfe de Morbihan
- Visiting Brittanie’s capital city-Rennes & meeting friendly locals
- Practising slow travel & savouring every single moment
- Learning to be in a moment & appreciating life as a whole
Encounter beautiful sights in Clohars-Carnoët
It is impossible to skip this part of Brittany as it is loaded with unmissable sights, soft dunes, perfect creeks, beautifully unspoiled beaches and sleepy little villages where you can watch locals carrying out their daily chores and wave goodbye to fishers going off to catch fish.
To the south of Quimperlé, nestling between Lorient and Concarneau, the pretty little town of Clohars-Carnoët is a veritable model of the traditional Breton village well-known for the beauty of the harbours of Le Pouldu and Doëlan.
The pretty little harbour with its emerald waters, 2 colourful lighthouses, authentic thatched cottages and multicoloured boats is an unmissable spot to explore in southern Finistère.
By fresh fish off the boat | Come down here between 2 pm and 5 pm most afternoons and you can buy fish fresh off the boats.
Explore coastal hiking paths | there are plenty of pats that follow the shores of the inlets and creeks around Doëlan for and for avid walkers, the GR34 – the famous long-distance that hugs the Brittany coast all the way from north to south, can take you right around the harbour and to the east towards the very open resort of Le Pouldu.
Did you know? It was in one of Doëlan’s houses that Robert Badinter wrote his famous speech on the abolition of the death penalty in France.
Explore Rennes, the capital city of Brittany
While being in nature provides the uttermost experience we seek when exploring different corners of the world, we also like to include vibrant cities. This way we get to visit museums, climb church towers and enjoy people watching, in a process deepening our connection and giving ourselves a great reason to emerge from our hideout.
We arrived early in the morning, the streets were almost empty, except for an elderly couple walking hand in hand, so we had the place all to ourselves. The weather wasn’t ideal for walking around, it had been drizzling since early morning, making the cobbled street well polished and slippery. Usually, rainy days are our reset button, but this time, we made an exception.
Rennes is a perfect city for a cultural break, and day-trippers will enjoy its food scene, museums, craft shops, living history, music stores and many art galleries.
The historic centre of Rennes | is where you can discover one of the city’s unique features: its half-timbered houses with colourful facades. In total there are 286 houses and to admire them you can walk down one of many cobbled streets like Psalette, Le Chapitre and Saint-Sauveur Street.
The Mordelaises Gates | the main entrance to the city from the 15th century onwards, the Mordelaises Gates are characterized by a large door used for the passage of vehicles and a small pedestrian door surrounded by 2 symmetrical towers raised with machicolations. Located close to Renne’s cathedral, the gates are a must-see.
Visit medieval Dinan
Before departing for France, we did our homework thoroughly and left no stone unturned looking for the most beautiful villages in Brittany. At first, I wasn’t sure how are we gonna narrow down the list but as soon as we saw pictures of Dinan, I knew we had to go.
Upon our arrival, we parked outside a two-story half-timbered house, freshly painted in calming green tones. We love these old surviving relics and walking through the delightfully preserved town of Dinan, in north-western France, we felt like stepping back in time. Every façade was beautifully cared for, with fragrant flower baskets and carefully carved signs decorating every single house.
We took our time and slowly snailed through Rue du Jeruzal, which is the main high street lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, down to the peaceful River Rance, where the historic Port of Dinan can be found.
Dinan is quite popular with those who want to travel back in time and get lost exploring one of the most beautiful medieval towns of France. There are many fantastic attractions in Dinan worth visiting. Dinan is designated as Town and Land of Art and History, and its Centre Historique is richly filled with a maze of cobbled streets and buildings dating back to the 13th century that looks like straight out of storytelling books.
- Les Remparts de Dinan – enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding countryside by going for a walk around Ramparts, build in the 13th century where 10 out of the 14 guard towers are still standing strong.
- St Malo church and Basilique St-Sauveur with many stained glass windows are well worth a stop too.
- Dinan Castle – also known as Château de Dinan was built by John IV of Montfort with the usual medieval layout. It’s worth paying EUR 4 to see the views from the top of the chateau.
- Place des Merciers – this beautiful square is surrounded by one of a kind triangular-gable houses. In this place, you’ll find many artisans’ workshops worth visiting. I personally think that most of the time it’s not the impressive monuments that make the area feel special but rather little corner cafes decorated with colourful flowers, cute squares and friendly locals.
Other towns worth exploring | There is an abundance of beautifully preserved towns scattered around the region like award-winning Rochefort-en-Terre, Roscoff with appealing architectural heritage and Auray with a beautiful harbour.
Visit farmers markets and savour tonnes of fresh and organic foods
We loved our visits to the authentic farmer’s markets, taking place all year round on every Saturday, where fresh bread, olives, and big juicy melons were up for sale.
Twirling through the markets provided a sense of appreciation of how fortunate we are to travel the world together where we can support flourishing farmers and learn more about various traditional foods and dishes while interacting with locals.
A classic pair of wine and cheese aside, the gastronomical delicatessen in this particular French region cannot be brushed sideways.
Whether you consume food merely due to hunger or take real pleasure in sampling different dishes, in Brittany, it can and should be enjoyed slowly. Some of the typical foods include flat oysters of Bélon, fresh shellfish and traditional pancakes called crêpes and galettes.
Made from flour, milk, eggs and melted butter the traditional crêpe used to be the main meal in the region. Nowadays you can get them filled with either sweet or savoury fillings and then wash them away with a tasty and well-balanced Breton cider.
Visit one of Europe’s most unforgettable sights
Shared by Normandy and Brittany, the Mont-Saint-Michel is one of Europe’s most incredible sights. Situated between the towns of Granville and Cancale, the island is enclosed by the sea at high tide and makes for a spectacular sight.
Given that the bay is subject to some of the most extreme tidal variations in the world, you can always get ready for a sublime show no matter what time of the year it is.
To preserve the Mont-Saint-Michel’s exceptional landscape, the visitor car parks have been moved 1.5 miles from the mount and the access to Mont is across a bridge through the Baie du Mont St Michel, an area of mudflats known for its extreme tides that sweep in quickly.
You can take a walk to the abbey at the top of Mont, wander through Mont’s street, the Grande Rue where you’ll find gift shops and restaurants or you can stay overnight to truly enjoy the beauty of the Mont St Michel after the crowds of tourists depart.
Where to stay in Brittany
When it comes to accommodation, we almost always use Airbnb for numerous reasons, and Brittany was no exception. Airbnb is a fantastic accommodation search engine, and we can always find something that fits our budget and needs.
As we spend most of our holiday time outdoors, exploring surroundings, we love to book simple or even basic accommodation where we can make breakfast, sleep and shower(what else would you need anyway?)
Brittany has no shortage of excellent accommodations. Beautifully restored traditional French chateaus, crowd-pleasing villas, cute cottages, that feel warm and welcome as well as plenty of budget-friendly guesthouses and campsites.
How to get to Brittany
To get to Brittany, we opted for a flight with a budget airline Ryanair from Dublin to Nantes and rented a car to travel through the French landscape. You can also fly into Brest and Dinard airports from the UK with low-cost airlines like Flybe and Cityjet.
Its proximity to Uk and Ireland means there are daily ferry crossings from Poole and Portsmouth to Saint-Malo and Roscoff, and from Cork and Rosslare to Roscoff. This way you can bring your own car, motorhome or caravan with you.
You can also travel by high-speed train from London to Rennes, via Paris in just under 5 hours.
Getting around | Renting a car and going for a road trip is the best way to explore the region as motorways connecting cities are in perfect conditions and aren’t tolled if compared to the rest of France.
If renting a car isn’t possible, you can base yourself in one town and make small side trips to nearby villages and towns.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to Brittany? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Brittany and have travel-related questions!