Brittany is one of the most beautiful regions in France, situated in the northwest of the country. The cities in Brittany are full of history, with megalithic stones, medieval towns and castles, walled cities and a strong independent identity (breton – the dialect that used to be spoken in this part of France – is taught in some schools and used on the road signs alongside French). The coasts of the region are also gorgeous, with pretty beaches and wild cliffs. It’s hard not to have a fondness for Brittany, and if so it’s generally because of the bad reputation of its weather. As it is said of Great Britain (in French, la Grande-Bretagne, “the big Brittany”), it is supposedly always raining in Brittany. However, we can easily attest that this statement is false, since we only had a couple of days of rain during the whole month we spent in the region! Granted it was in the summer, but it’s proof that it shouldn’t deter you from a trip to one or all of these 15 cities in Brittany that we passed by and can only strongly recommend!
These 15 cities in Brittany will make you fall in love
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Saint-Malo is one of those walled cities in Brittany that you really shouldn’t miss. It’s a popular and touristic city with a rich historical path, from piracy to being almost completely destroyed during World War II… Which you won’t even realise since it’s since been completely rebuilt, almost identically. Saint-Malo is also a great place to enjoy the sea, with several beautiful beaches to choose from.
If you don’t have a lot of time in France, you’ll be seduced the city’s proximity with the Mont Saint-Michel, the cute medieval town of Dinan, Paris, and the British Chanel.
| Related read: Why you should visit the walled city of Saint-Malo
• Where to stay in Saint-Malo: Luxury beachfront – Grand Hotel des Thermes | 4* inside the Old Town – La Maison des Armateurs | Small family-run 3* with an incredible location intra-muros – Hotel des Abers | Tight budget intra-muros – Hotel Le Nautilus
Dinan is a medieval town and these are some of the cutest! Honestly I did not expect Dinan to have so much to offer: a beautiful picturesque historical center with gorgeous timbered houses and cobbled streets, a gigantic and fascinating castle, and everything else we missed by lack of time: the fortified walls and the gorgeous port. If you’re into historical and pretty places, you have to visit Dinan! What’s best? It’s close to Saint-Malo and the Mont Saint-Michel!
| You might want to read: Our Guide to Visiting Mont Saint-Michel
Carnac, on the south coast of Brittany, is the place where you’ll find famous and mesmerizing stone alignments from the Neolithic period. These three groups of standing stones – which are part of one of the most extensive collections of Menhirs in the world – are thousands of years old and still not completely understood.
But Carnac is also one of these popular cities in Brittany to hang by the beach or take advantage of the winds coming from the West to partake in nautical activities like sailing or windsurfing.
4. Auray & the Port of Saint-Goustan
Auray is a village in the Gulf of Morbihan, not too far from the city of Vannes. It’s popular thanks to its prettiness and its gorgeous port, from where you can take a boat for a tour of the Gulf of Morbihan.
If you look well enough, you will spot a sign which attest of the arrival of Benjamin Franklin at the port of Saint-Goustan at the beginning of the US War of Independance in 1776 (when the port was still an active route) to get military help from the King of France.
Other places of interest in Auray include several churches and religious sights with two churches classified as historic monuments among them, the Town Hall also classified as a historical monument, the Chazalles foutain on the Martin dock, and the Saint-Goustan bridge, first built in the the thirteenth century and rebuilt since then.
Visiting Locronan is a must-do when you’re touring cities in Brittany. It has been awarded « one of the most beautiful villages in France » and no one can deny that! The village is as picturesque as can be and represents a great stop or a day trip from Quimper. We particularly liked the Celtic bookshop, located in an old tower and totally a propos since Locronan used to be a sacred place for the Celts.
Speaking of which, two Celtic traditions are still held in the village: the planting of a beech tree on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May to symbolize the awakening or nature, and the distribution of the bread of the dead on the 1st of November, the Celtic New Year.
• Where to stay in Locronan: Quiet Hotel 800m from the village – Latitude Ouest Hotel
Rochefort-en-Terre, in Morbihan, is another town that has been awarded « one of the most beautiful villages in France » and once again, the title was not usurped! That place is dreamy and extremely well preserved, with cobbled streets and littles shops. Don’t miss the old well in the main square and the medieval castle. The castle can’t be visited unfortunately, but pass by the museum situated on its grounds if fantasy art is your thing.
Quimper is a city in Finistère with a gorgeous historical center. Cobbled streets, timbered houses and colorful club flags will send you right back to the Celtic and Middle Ages! As a matter of fact, Quimper used to be the capital of Cornouaille, an ancient region of Brittany.
The center was much smaller than we had anticipated, but there’s still much to see: the gorgeous Gothic Cathedral of Saint-Corentin with incredible stained-glass windows from the 15th century and it’s two towers, the 9th century Church of Locmaria, the streets of Old Quimper with their rustic feel, the ruins of the 15th century city walls, the Episcopal Palace now housing the Musée départemental breton, the peculiar garden of the Jardin de la paix and Jardin de la Retraite,..
In the Gulf of Morbihan, Vannes’ city center is bigger and somewhat less crowded, with larger streets. The city has had its fill of history! It takes its name from the Veneti, Celtic people who used to live in the region before the Roman invaded it, it’s been repeatedly besieged during the Breton War of Succession in the middle of the 18th century’ and used by the French forces to repel a British Invasion, to name only a few events.
To visit the town, start by the marina and penetrate the city through one of its grandiose medieval gates, go check the old laundry building, go back by the closest city gate, and then get lost in the streets full of little shops and timbered houses. Don’t forget to go check out the beautiful Cathédrale Saint-Pierre and its gorgeous square with colorful timber-framed houses!
• Where to sleep in Vannes: Lovely B&B in the center – La Villa Garenne | Modern 3* Hotel in the heart of Vannes – Escale Oceania Vannes Centre | Affordable 4* in the center – Best Western Plus Hôtel Vannes Centre Ville
9. Lorient during the Inter-Celtic Festival
If you can be in Lorient during the Inter-Celtic Festival, do! It’s a memorable experience to see the city and its people inhabited with Celtic spirit. There’s a lot of music, always, everywhere, dance and instruments shows, « Celtic nights » with gorgeous shows and fireworks, shops with Celtic items, etc.
The atmosphere is great, and if you’re on a budget you can enjoy it for almost nothing as some parts are open to the public for free, and the 5€ badge also lets you see a lot more at night.
| Related article: 5 reasons not to miss the Inter-Celtic Festival in Lorient
• For your stay in Lorient: Affordable 4* perfect for the festival – Mercure Lorient Centre | Affordable family-run Hotel – Hotel d’Arvor || Keep in mind the prices might get over the roof and the places might be booked early for the festival, you might have to book a place a bit further away (we slept on an authorized parking lot in our van 20min walk away from the main festival sites.
Pont-Aven is a cute little village in Finistère popular thanks to its gorgeous old water mills… and the « Pont-Aven School », a group composed of artists gravitating around Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard in the 19th century. Pont-Aven was another of those very colorful cities in Brittany and full of flowers when we went – it was also crowded with people…
If you want to escape the madness, head to the woods of Bois d’Amour, a great source of inspiration for many artists.
Guidel is a beach town on the coast of Brittany, in Morbihan. There are several beaches, looking either peculiar (one is close to the port and the sand is rarely covered in water, with little dunes, it’s a pretty sight) or wild.
The best activity to do in Guidel is canoeing or kayaking. You can either rent a canoe or a kayak to go on the Laïta river – which flows into the Atlantic Ocean by Guidel – by yourself, or you can decide to go on an organized tour to go back up the river all the way to Quimper (and then go back down to Guidel on a bus).
• Where to sleep in Guidel: Gorgeous B&B in Guidel – Les Gites de Kerdurod
If you want to chill on a gorgeous beach with a few shops around including a very cool night market, Clohars-Carnoët’s Pouldu harbour is the one for you.
The beach is rather calm, very beautiful and a small diving platform (careful, it’s slippery!) stands in the ocean, for you to have some fun in the water! There is also a sailing club where you can take part in some cool nautical activities.
If you want total calm, go back to the main part of Clohars-Carnoët, away from the beach but cute and with zero noise except the church bells.
Wild coast alert! Cléden-Cap-Sizun, in Finistère, is one of the most beautiful wild places we’ve been to in Brittany. The colors of the cliffs on the promontory of Cap-Sizun and the color of the water will take your breath away for sure. A (careful) walk will make you feel rejuvenated and more in love than ever with the beauty of nature.
Don’t miss the place down the cliff from where people get to their boats, and the lutin village on the way!
• Where to stay in Cléden-Cap-Sizun: Cute B&B with garden – Chambres d’hotes de Keryann
14. Plougonvelin and the Pointe Saint-Mathieu
The Pointe Saint Mathieu in the town of Plougonvelin (Finistère) marks the point of the coast, and it’s as beautiful as you could imagine. You’ll find little coves with absolutely no one if you want to enjoy the sea, but be very careful about the tides!
The main attractions, apart from the beauty of the ocean, are the lighthouse (which you can visit, be prepared to climb up a lot of steps!), the ruins of the Abbey Saint-Mathieu, which might give you some serious Game of Thrones feels, and the ruins of the Fort de Bertheaume, standing on a tidal island reachable by a footbridge.
• Book a room in Plougonvelin: Luxurious 4* stay by the lighthouse – Relais du Silence Hostellerie Pointe Saint Mathieu | Bright and Affordable Hotel by the sea – Logis Hôtel Vent d’Iroise
15. Le Gorvello
Close to Vannes (Morbihan) and very small, the hamlet called Le Gorvello is perfect for a calm walk followed by a visit to the distillery (they do apple stuff: apple juice, cider, apple liquor etc.) and a crêpe. Enjoy the stone houses, gorgeous flowers, the fountain Saint-Jean-Baptiste (classified as historical monument) and little Church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, built in the 15th century on a Templar chapel.