Bretagne Region

General Info

Regional Map
Conseil Régional
Tourism: Comité Régional de Tourisme
Capital: Rennes
Departments: Côtes-d'Armor, Finistère, Ille-et-Vilaine, Morbihan
Arrondissements-15, Cantons-201, Communes-1,268
Population: 3,146,654 (2008 est.)
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France Bretagne Region Map

Overview

Bretagne Belle-Ile-en- Mer
Bretagne (Brittany) is on a large peninsula and is a region that is proud of its independent heritage. It is somewhat separated from the rest of France by dense forests and some people consider themselves Celtic first and French second as is evident in the local traditional dress. Two regional languages are recognized by the region- Breton, a Celtic language akin to Cornish and Welsh, is spoken in the western part of the region. In other parts of Bretagne which never spoke Breton, Gallo, an Oïl language (Gallo-Romance), is also in the process of being revived as a cultural trait.
Along Bretagne's northwestern coast is the famed Côtes de Granit Rose with its pink-toned cliffs of granite. On the southern coast is Carnac, which has the most extensive Neolithic (4500 B.C. to 2000 B.C.) collections in the world with nearly 3,000 menhirs (upright stones). Bretagne is also popular for having several Parish Closes which usually feature a triumphal archway and calvaries (crucifixes) carved out of granite by Breton sculptors.

Bretagne Departmental Information

Notable Towns and Sights in the Bretagne Region

Belle-Ile-en-Mer (Morbihan) is the largest of the Breton islands and lies just south of the Quiberon peninsula. Its coast has nice beaches, scenic yet dangerous cliffs, and inland is hilly terrain with valleys amidst agricultural land. In the town of Le Palais is the 16th-century Vauban Citadelle which is a star-shaped fortress which was designed to resist and delay invasions. During the 1870s and 1880s, French painter Claude Monet painted the French countryside and dramatic scenery such as the rock formations at Belle-Isle. Monet's series of paintings of the rocks at Belle-Île astounded the Paris art-world when he first showed them in 1887 and most notable are the Storm, Coast at Belle-Ile and Cliffs at Belle-Ile (photo) from 1886. France Bretagne Belle-Ile
Brest (Finistère) is located in a sheltered position near the western tip of the Breton peninsula and is an important seaport and France's premier naval base. Notable here is the Recouvrance Bridge, a massive drawbridge 210 feet high (64 m) and Europe's largest drawbridge. The 14th-century Tour de la Motte Tanguy and the nearby Château (photo) across the water are the oldest monuments here. The Tour de la Motte's museum houses a collection of dioramas that depict the city of Brest on the eve of World War II. The Musée de la Marine de Brest contains exhibits which outline Brest's maritime tradition. There is also an aquarium, the Océanopolis marine center. A few miles out of town, there are impressive landscapes, from sandy beaches to grottos to tall granite cliffs and sunbathing, windsurfing, yachting, and fishing are popular in this area. France Bretagne Brest Tour de la Motte
Cancale (Ille-et-Vilaine) is a small port town east of Saint Malo and with views across the Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel (Basse-Normandie region). The focus of the town is on the cultivation and consumption of oysters which were prized by the ancient Romans and it has been said that Louis XIV had them brought to Versailles. The town produces about 25,000 tons a year and restaurants and bars abound along the quays of the Port de la Houle where the fishing boats moor at high tide. There is a pleasant coastal path which permits a circular walk from the town to the Pointe du Grouin with views across the bay towards Mont Saint Michel. France Bretagne Cancale Oysters
Carnac (Morbihan) is a popular seaside resort and is renowned for the Carnac stones which were hewn from local rock and erected by the pre-Celtic tribes of Brittany. It is one of the most extensive Neolithic (4500 B.C. to 2000 B.C.) collections in the world with nearly 3,000 menhirs (upright stones) in parallel rows (photo). The town is located on a narrow peninsula halfway between the medieval town of Vannes and the seaside resort Quiberon and is split into two centers: Carnac-Ville and Carnac-Plage (beach front). There are five beaches, including la Grande Plage, and further to the east, Plage Men Dû, and Beaumer. The Musée de Préhistoire is excellent and also notable is the 17th-century Église Saint Cornély with scenes from Saint Cornelius' life painted on the wooden ceiling. There are several campgrounds in the woods around Carnac, some clustered around various lakes such as the Etang du moulin du lac which is immediately to the west of the river Crac'h. For windsurfers, the Saint-Colomban beach located in Carnac-Plage, is one of the best spots for windsurfing in France. France Bretagne Carnac Menhirs megaliths
Combourg (Côtes-d'Armor) is best known for the Château de Combourg, which was built in 1025 by Archbishop Guinguené and stands on a small hill next to Lac Tranquille (Lake Tranquil) in the town. The castle consists of four large massive buildings of dressed granite, with crenellations and machicolations (openings between the corbels through which stones and hot liquids could be dropped on attackers), enclosing a rectangular courtyard. In each corner of this massive fortress is a round tower with conical roofs. In 1761, the Chateaubriand family acquired the property and it was the childhood home of author and diplomat, François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848). It has been restored and is open for tours. The town has buildings from the 14th-15th centuries. Tourisme France Bretagne Combourg Château
Concarneau (Finistère) has two distinct areas: the modern town on the mainland and the medieval Ville Close, a walled town built on a long island in the center of the harbor. Parts of the 14th-century granite ramparts (photo) can be toured and the Ville Close is now devoted to tourism with many restaurants and shops. The Musée de la Pêche is a fishing museum devoted to local sea fishing techniques and history, and is housed in the port's historic barracks. In August, the town holds the annual Fête des Filets Bleus (Festival of the blue nets). The festival, which has been held since 1905, is named after the traditional blue nets of Concarneau's fishing fleet and celebrates Breton and pan-Celtic culture. It attracts over a thousand costumed participants and more observers. France Bretagne Concarneau aerial view
Côtes de Granit Rose (Côtes-d'Armor) is on the northern-most coast of Brittany between Paimpol and Trébeurden and is named for the pink cliffs along the coast (photo). The most interesting are on the northwest side between Trébeurden and Trégastel near Perros-Guirec where the pinkish granite is in amazing shapes, an area that is also extremely popular for family vacations. France Bretagne Côtes de Granit Rose
Côtes d'Emeraude (Côtes-d'Armor and Ille-et-Vilaine) or the Emerald Coast stretches along the north coast of Brittany from St-Malo and Dinard to the headlands of Cap Fréhel. There are numerous seaside resorts and camping opportunities here, linked by a coastal road and the most striking feature is Cap Fréhel, which is 236 feet (72 m) high above the sea, and offers spectacular views of the coast. The most popular resorts are Dinard, Cancale, Paramé, Saint Briac, Saint Lunaire, Lancieux, Rothéneuf, Saint-Jacut de la Mer, Sables-d'Or-les-Pins, Servan-sur-Mer, and Saint-Cast-le-Guildo. France Bretagne Côtes d'Emeraude

Dinan (Côtes-d'Armor) is a walled town with cobbled streets and half-timbered houses which sits on a hill overlooking the slow-moving and brownish Rance river. The 8,500 feet of medieval ramparts that surround the town are connected to the 111 foot (34 m) high Donjon de la Duchesse Anne (Keep of the Duchess Anne) and Château Dinan (photo). Other sights include the Flamboyant Gothic Eglise Saint Malo (photo), the Romanesque Basilica Saint Sauveur, the 15th-century Tour d'Horloge (clock tower), the Jacobins Théâtre from 1224, and the 17th-century Abbaye Saint Magloire in Léhon. Also, the Musée du Château is small, but has informative local history and nearby is the 15th-century Tour de Coëtquen. Every other year (2008) the town has the two-day Fête des Remparts when the town is decorated, the locals dress in medieval garments, and medieval-style spectacles attract thousands to the city. France Bretagne Dinan and Rance river
Dinard (Ille-et-Vilaine) is on the Côtes d'Emeraude and lies on the Gulf Stream so it enjoys a warm climate, several degrees warmer than the surrounding areas. It was first settled by Saint-Malo's shipping merchants who built some of the towns magnificent villas on the cliff tops. In the late 1800's, American and British aristocrats made Dinard popular as a fashionable summer resort, and the building of villas and exclusive hotels has continued. Sometimes called the "Cannes of the North", it has attracted a wide variety of stars including Alfred Hitchcock who spent many summers in Dinard and based the house used in his most famous movie Psycho on a villa standing over the Plage de l'Ecluse. Monet and many other prominent artists were inspired by the stunning coast line as well. Tourisme France Bretagne Dinard Villas
Douarnenez (Finistère) is a typical Breton fishing port and lies at the mouth of the Pouldavid estuary on the southern shore of Douarnenez Bay. It offers much for tourists, not only in view of its pleasant location and warm climate, but also because of its marinas, maritime museum, regattas, and sandy beaches. The Port Musée has over one hundred boats and several shipyards some of which may be visited. The tiny island of Tristan off Douarnenez has a mysterious past, linked as it is to the tragic love story and legend of Tristan and Iseult. France Bretagne Douarnenez port
Fougères (Ille-et-Vilaine) sits on a hill overlooking the Nançon river and the impressive 11th-15th century Château de Fougères (photo). Some of the surviving ramparts stretch from the Château in the lower town up the hill to surround the upper town and visitors may climb some of the walls, some of which are 10 feet (3 m) thick, and the thirteen towers. The town also has one of only three belfries in Brittany which is located in the center of the weekend market. The belfry, from 1397, has symbolic importance as it was funded by local merchants and allowed ordinary people access to timekeeping previously the preserve of the church and nobility. The Flamboyant Gothic Eglise Saint Sulpice has an 18th-century wood-panelled interior and the Notre-Dame-des-Marais (Our Lady of the Marshes) statue. During the first week-end of October, the Pardon de Notre-Dame des Marais is held. Glass making has been an industry in Fougères since the 16th-century when Italian glass specialists came here and shoe-making was another industry that developed towards the end of the 19th-century making Fougères one of the main French shoe manufacturing centers. Close by is the Parc Floral de Haut Bretagne and the gardens of place aux Arbres. Tourisme France Bretagne Château de Fougères ramparts
Golfe du Morbihan (Morbihan) is usually referred to as just the Morbihan which means "Little Sea" and is a natural and land-locked harbour on the southern coast of Bretagne. The Golfe is sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by the peninsulas of Rhuys and Locmariaquer with a small channel connecting it to the Atlantic Ocean. The Golfe has numerous islands among which about forty are inhabited with Ile d'arz and Ile aux Moines being the largest. The area around the Golfe features an extraordinary range of megalithic monuments. There are passage dolmens, stepped pyramids with underground dolmen chambers, stone circles, and giant menhirs, among others. The site best known to outsiders is Carnac with dozen rows of huge standing stones run for over 6 miles (10 km). France Bretagne Golfe du Morbihan
Guimiliau (Finistère) is in the historic Léon diocese and has a parish close (fr. Enclos Paroissiaux) which is an enclosed area around a church and usually features a large triumphal archway. This parish close of Guimiliau is situated at the upper end of the main village street with the entrance dominating the village. The calvary (crucifix) is the center piece of the church yard and is surrounded by a fine and complex retelling of the Passion in statuary. The church contains many fine examples of polychrome sculpture from the 16th-century, including several large retables which are raised altar-like ledges. Saint Miliau (photo). There is also a fine octagonal baptistery, a carved pulpit, and a collection of banners used in religious processions and pardons. France Bretagne Guimiliau parish close
Ile de Bréhat (Côtes-d'Armor) is an island located near Paimpol, a mile off the northern coast. Bréhat is actually an archipelago (cluster of islands) composed of two main islands, separated only at high tide, and many smaller ones. It is famous for its pink granite rocks, very mild micro-climate, and Mediterranean vegetation, due to the warm Gulf Stream coming from across the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors come to Brehat every day by the ferry service, Les Vedettes de Bréhat, and visit the main attractions including the Paon & Rosedo lighthouses, the Saint-Michel chapel, Guerzido beach, the Birlot water-mill, and the Verrerie of Bréhat. Map France Bretagne Ile de Bréhat
Ile d'Ouessant (Finistère), also called Ushant, marks the southern entrance to the English Channel and is the north-westernmost point of France. It is known for its extreme weather and strong currents and is part of the Parc Régional d'Armorique. There are two museums here including the Ecomusée d'Ouessant with furniture crafted from driftwood and shipwrecks. Also, the Musée des Phares et Balises has interesting history of Brittany's lighthouses and lighthouse keepers. The island is home to a special breed of dwarf black sheep and the Phare du Creach (lighthouse) is reputedly the most powerful in the world. Tourisme France Bretagne Ouessant
Josselin (Morbihan) overlooks the Oust river in the center of the region and is referred to as the Petite Cité de Caractère (little city of character). The town is dominated by the 14th-century medieval Château (photo) on the banks of the river and it was owned by the Rohan family of viscounts, and later, dukes and princes. The Château was extensively restored in the 19th-century and four of its nine towers have survived and there are public tours available from April to September. The Musée des Poupée in the former stables has over 500 antique dolls. Also in Josselin is the Basilique Notre-Dame-du-Roncier (our Lady of the brambles) which has 15th-16th century stained-glass windows and a mausoleum of former château owner and constable Olivier de Clisson (14th-century) who was nicknamed "the Butcher". On Bastille Day (14 July), the town celebrates its past with the Festival Médiéval when the entire town dresses up in period costume. France Bretagne Josselin Ch&acir;teau
Lampaul-Guimiliau (Finistère) is in the historic Léon diocese and has a parish close (fr. Enclos Paroissiaux) which is an enclosed area around a church and usually features a large triumphal archway. This parish close contains a large number of complex retables focus on the Passion and on the lives and deeds of saints, including John the Baptist, St Margaret the Virgin, and St Lawrence. Each is divided into numerous panels, with episodes modelled in relief, and each is flanked by free-standing statuary. The baptistery here is one of the most striking among the parish closes. It is an octagonal Baroque concoction, dating from about 1650. Unlike most of its kind, it is elaborately polychrome, with highly-elaborate pillars and finely-modelled representation of the baptism of Christ. France Bretagne Lampaul-Guimiliau parish close
Locronan (Finistère) is one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France and is a small town built at the foot of a hill. Since the 15th-century, hemp has been blossoming in Locronan's surroundings and led to a hemp industry in the town making it quite prosperous. Locronan's hemp used to be shipped around the world, and was also vital for the rigging on ships. The town declined some after Louis XIV ended the Breton monopoly on this industry. The Grande Troménie (Pardon), held every six years between the second and third Sundays in July, is a pilgrimage festival honoring the Irish missionary Saint Ronan and involves a huge procession and features the banners of participating parishes. Office de Tourisme France Bretagne Locronan
Paimpol (Côtes-d'Armor) has two harbors, both filled with yachts and is attractive with its cobbled streets, granite houses, lively restaurants, cafés, and bars nearby. An especially beautiful part of the town centre is the Quartier Latin. Notable near here is the Abbaye de Beauport built in 1202 and located off the D786 (photo). There are regular events such as the Tuesday morning street market, night-markets, and Mardi du port, where tourists can enjoy eclectic music at waterside. Paimpol is also home to the bi-annual (next in 2009) Fête des Chants de Marin, a sea shanty festival, which attracts thousands of visitors over three days in August. Tourisme France Bretagne Paimpol port
Point du Raz (Finistère) is a promontory (headland) located at the tip of Cap Sizun, near Audierne, and is nearly 262 feet (80 m) high. It is named after the Raz de Sein, a dangerous stretch of water between the flat Isle de Sein, further west, and the mainland. (photo) France Bretagne Point du Raz.jpg
Pont-Aven (Finistère)is a quaint and picturesque village located in the wooded Aven estuary and was once a center for milling. Now it is mainly known because of the group of artists who flocked round Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, then joined in 1888 by Paul Sérusier. They were collectively known as the École de Pont-Aven (school) and developed the colorful style of painting known as Synthetism where neither form nor color dominate, but have an equal role. Nearby, the Chapelle de Trémalo is home to the wooden Christ (photo) which is depicted in Paul Gaugin's painting Le Christ Jaune from 1889. The Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art (PASCA) is an international fine arts program located in the historic artists' colony of Pont-Aven (Brittany, France). The town has fifty private galleries France Bretagne Pont Aven Water Mill by Paul Gaugin
Quiberon (Morbihan) is situated on the narrow Presqu'île de Quiberon peninsula is known primarily as a seaside resort for the French during summer and for its history of sardine production. Sights include the Église Notre-Dame de Locmaria, the 19th century Chapelle Fort Penthièvre, and the Musée de la Mer (Museum of the sea). From Quiberon, there is boat service to three quiet and restful islands: Belle Ile, Houat, and Hoedic. Tourisme France Bretagne Quiberon aerial
Quimper (Finistère) was built on the confluence of the Steir, Odet and Jet rivers and was originally settled during Roman times. It has a distinctly Breton personality with a rustic atmosphere and footbridges spanning its rivers. Sights include the Romanesque Church of Locmaria which dates from the 11th-century. Also, the Cathedral of Saint-Corentin, with its Gothic-style façade, was constructed between the 13th and 16th-centuries and is the oldest Gothic structure in lower Brittany. Its two towers are 250 feet tall and the 15th-century stained glass windows are exceptional. The Musée Départemental Breton in the Bishop's Palace is devoted to Breton costumes, furniture, regional history, archaeology, ethnology, and economy and are near the ruins of the town's 15th-century walls. The Musée des Beaux-Arts, with its 19th-century façade, houses a collection of 14th-21st century paintings that include works by Boucher, Corot, Oudry and Rubens along with canvases by such Pont-Aven School painters as Bernard, Denis, Lacombe, Maufra, and Paul Sérusier. The town's best known product is Quimper faïence pottery and has also been known for copper and bronze work, galvanized ironware, hosiery, leather, paper, and woollen goods. The town's eating establishments boast some of the best crêpes and cider in Brittany. Quimper is also noted for its Winter Festival and Cornouaille Festival (last week of July). France Bretagne Quimper
Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine) has been the capital of the region since 1532 after Bretagne's union with France. It is a university town and is located at the confluence of the Ille and Vilaine rivers with its old town built on a hill. After a six-day fire devastated the town in 1720, only some of the half-timbered houses in the medieval city survived and a grid of 18th century buildings were built. Notable sights include the Musée de Bretagne which has displays of traditional Breton furniture and costume, historic megaliths, local crafts, and the fishing industry. The Musée des Beaux Arts has art from the 14th-century to the present including works by Gaugin, Bernard, and others from the Pont-Aven School as well as a few Picassos. The 15th-century Portes Mordelaises with two towers and a drawbridge were once part of the city's ramparts. The 17th-century Palais du Parlement de Bretagne are Rennes' Law Courts. Les Halles Martenot in Place des Lices is from the 19th century and hosts the market on Saturday mornings which is the third largest market in France. Tourisme France Bretagne Rennes Place des Lices
Roscoff (Finistère) is an active channel port and seaside resort and since the early 1970s, has been developed as a ferry port for the export of Breton agricultural produce. Notable here are the 16th-17th century granite façades of the shipowner's mansions. It was also a traditional departure point, starting in 1828, for Onion Johnnies, the nickname given to the Breton farmers and agricultural laborers that sold distinctive pink onions (photo) door-to-door in England, Wales, and Scotland. They would typically dress in a striped shirt and beret, riding a bicycle hung with onions. Sights here include the 16th-century Élglise Notre-Dame-de-Croaz-Baz, Charles Perez Aquarium, and the Maison des Johnnies history museum. Nearby is the peaceful Ile-de-Batz, called Enez Vaz in Breton, a small island that can be reached by boat from the harbour. Roscoff Tourism France Bretagne Roscoff harbor
Saint Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine) is one of the region's most popular tourist destinations and sits at the mouth of the Rance river. It was once a fortified island during the middle ages and is now a major port city. During the 17th-18th centuries it was a base for merchant ships and corsairs (government-supported privateers) who forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute. The old town, which was devastated in WWII and has been well-restored, is surrounded by walkable ramparts from which there are excellent views of Saint Malo and its islands. Notable sights include the 14th-15th century Château de Saint Malo (citadelle) with its Solidor Tower of Saint Servan which has a museum containing the city's history and the Cathédrale Saint Vincent with its 12th-century nave. Other sights include Fort National built in 1689 by Louis XIV's famous military architect, Vauban, and which may be reached on foot at low tide. Nearby are the tidal islands of Grand Bé and the fort on Petit Bé which are at the mouth of the Rance river. At low tide, both islands can be reached on foot from Bon-Secours beach. Saint Malo has one of the highest concentration of sea food restaurants in Europe and is famous for its local oysters from nearby Cancale. Passenger ferries provide transport to Dinard and the Channel Islands as well as to Dinan further up the Rance river. Tourisme France Bretagne Saint Malo
Saint Thégonnec (Finistère) has one of the best examples of a parish close (fr. Enclos Paroissiaux) which is an enclosed area around a church. Here, similar to others in the area, the Saint-Thégonnec close features a large triumphal archway, stressing the importance of the close as a focus for pilgrimage and pardons. An impressive calvary (crucifix) from 1610 (photo) forms the focus of the church yard and demonstrates the amazing skills of the Breton sculptors with local granite. The interior of the church is in the Baroque style, with a large quantity of polychrome sculpture and decoration, including a spectacular pulpit and polychromed organ. France Bretagne Saint Thégonnec crucifix
Tréguier (Côtes-d'Armor) is a port town overlooking the Jaundy and Guindy rivers. Its main attraction is the remarkable Cathédrale Saint Tugdual (photo) which has three towers over the transcept in Romanesque, Gothic, and 18th-century styles. The third tower was financed by winnings in the Paris lottery under Louis XVI. The port and harbor are not only picturesque, but also carry an excitement that pleases visitors with fresh seafood being prepared in the attractive waterfront restaurants and many crêperies. The town also houses the Renan birthplace museum- Ernest Renan was a prominent skeptic and author of the "pagan" Prayer on the Acropolis and with the 1903 unveiling of Renan's statue, which included a depiction of the goddess Athena, led to widespread protests from the Catholic church. Tourisme- Côte des Ajoncs France Bretagne Treguier Ernest Renan house
Vannes (Morbihan) lies at the head of the Golfe du Morbihan at the confluence of the Vannes River and is a busy commercial center with a well-preserved medieval center (photo). The 13th-century Cathédrale Saint Pierre, which also carries the title of Basilica (photo), is the seat of the Bishops of Vannes and has both Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. The Tour du Connétable or tower of the constable (photo) was built in the 15th-century, is five stories high, and space for guards and defensive weapons. The Musée d'Archéologique is housed in the 15th-century Château Gaillard and contains items from prehistoric sites including pottery, jewellery, and weapons as well as medieval and Renaissance objets d'art. Just south of the city is the beautiful Parc du Golfe with an aquarium (400 species), a butterfly conservatory, and other activites. France Bretagne Vannes medieval center
Vitré (Ille-et-Vilaine) is a fortified town overlooking the Vilaine Valley just east of Rennes and near the border with the Pays-de-la-Loire region. The breathtaking medieval Château (photo) was rebuilt in the 14th-15th centuries and has ramparts which are walkable. At the foot of the castle is the old town with its medieval streets and along rue (street) Beaudraire and rue d'Embas are half-timbered houses with extraordinary architectural features from the 14th-15th centuries. Also notable here is the Flamboyant-Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame (photo). The 14th-century Château des Rochers-Sévigné (photo), southeast of town, was rebuilt in the 17th-century and features the celebrated letters of Madame de Sévigné (1626), who chronicled life in the court of Louis XIV. Tourisme France Bretagne Vitré house

Les Plus Beaux Villages in the Bretagne Region

 

Côtes-d'Armor

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Finistère

Ile-de-Sein
Le Faou
Locronan

Ille-et-Vilaine

Saint-Suliac

Morbihan

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France Bretagne region map
Complete List of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

Natural Parks in the Bretagne Region

Additional Resources for the Bretagne Region

Average Monthly Temperatures in the Bretagne Region

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