Brittany is one of the most beautiful regions in France. Surrounded by luscious coastline, sweeping white sandy beaches, sandstone cliffs, and turquoise waters. You can discover medieval villages, romantic chateaus and picturesque Pontrieux by boat. Brittany is also a gastronomy hotspot. World famous for its incredible seafood, Breton crepes, galettes and of course, its cider. Here are all the best things to do in Brittany, France!
Visit An Historic Abbey
Founded in 1202 by Count Alain de Goëlo, Alain I of Avaugour, Beauport Abbey really is one of the prettiest places in Brittany. Located in the village of Kérity, facing out to sea in an unspoilt salt marsh in a sheltered little harbour, the abbey is a listed Historic Monument and its site protected. For over 600 years the abbey was an economic hub, but with the French Revolution came the closing of its doors and the abbey was divided into lots of and sold off to three families from Paimpol. The abbey was finally listed as a historical monument in 1862 and in 1992 the French coastal protection agency bought the abbey and its ground to better protect them. Today the abbey opens its doors to visitors to come and marvel at its former splendour. It’s a wonderful place!
The medieval town of Moncontour is one of Brittany’s marvellous ‘Petites Cités de Caractère’. The town was founded in the 11th century as part of the defences for nearby Lamballe and was surrounded by castle walls which kept the inhabitants safe. These walls still survive today, with 11 of its original 15 towers still in place. In fact I think it is one of the smallest walled towns in the whole of France! Wander away from the main square and you’ll be charmed by the most beautiful alleys with cobbled lanes, adorned with roses creeping up the timber framed houses. It’s idyllic.
The Medieval Garden of Hildegarde
Whilst in Moncontour make sure to pay this tiny garden a visit. It’s a really unique little place, located on the roof top of the remains of the castle of Moncontour and from this beautiful garden you get the best views of the town!
Tip: Only open on Sundays during the summer months.
Les Jardins de Kerdalo
By far one of the most beautiful gardens in Brittany, The Kerdalo Gardens are world renowned amongst those in the know. In fact, it is reputed to be one of the best gardens created in Europe since the second world war. Designed by Prince Peter Wolkonsky, this garden was created in 1965, taking inspiration from Italy, China and even tropical jungles. Built on the terrain of an old farm overlooking the river Jaudy, opposite the ancient town of Tréguier, it incorporates a wonderful mix of formal and informal sections to the garden, a contrast I very much enjoy. On Prince Peter’s death in 1997, the garden was taken over by his daughter Isabelle, who cared for this magnificent place until just a year ago when she sold it to Christian Louboutin. As the new custodian, Mr. Louboutin is making it his mission to renovate the house which is in need of some love and to continue to share this gem of a garden with the world.
Visit Domaine de La Roche Jagu
Built in the 15th century on the site of an earlier medieval fort, this gothic chateau was originally much larger than it appears today, with only the west wing surviving. Standing perched looking out over the Trieux River, the Château de la Roche-Jagu is the only survivor of about ten fortresses that once oversaw stretches of this valley in medieval times. You’ll notice that there are few openings of any sort on the side dominating the river, reflecting its defensive role in days gone by.
The chateau regularly hosts art installations and this summer it is ‘Metamorphosis’, a display of the work of twelve Brittany artists whose works are an invitation to dream and imagine a world where everything is connected. On a previous visit there was an incredible installation made up of over 15,000 dried flowers! You can guarantee that whatever is on during your visit, it will impress you.
Make sure to enjoy a wander around the grounds and gardens which are adorned in roses during the summer months.
Walk The Coastal Path
Brittany is well known for its magnificent coastline and one of the best ways to enjoy it is with a good walk! Take the GR34 coastal path from Plouha, following the red and white marked trail. You’ll arrive in the port of Gwin Zegal, a picturesque bay with turquoise waters. If you want, you can walk from here to Bonaparte Beach which is approximately a 7km return walk and should take you around two hours.
Tip: If you are short on time you can drive from one place to the other, parking in a free car park and walk down to the bays.
Take A Boat Through Pontrieux
The village of Pontrieux is one of most photogenic and charming in the whole of Brittany. Sitting along the banks of the River Trieux, Pontrieux is known as the ‘Little Venice of Trégor’ and there’s only one way to enjoy such a place – by boat! Use the free parking alongside the river (behind the tourist office) and cross over the bridge where you will be able to hire a boat for just 4 euros. This tour will take you down the Trieux where you can see the 54 old stone wash houses, or lavoirs, where the washing was done for the wealthy families. These rich families each had their own wash house so they could have their washing done privately, after all, nobody wanted their dirty laundry washed in public. Today, they are beautifully maintained and laden with baskets of flowers and displays. Come to Pontrieux and enjoy 20 minutes on the water, soaking up the atmosphere of how life used to be before a wander around the rest of the village.
Tip: Lunch at Les Jardins du Trieux (22 rue Saint Yves) where you can enjoy amazing food out on the terrace overlooking the river.
Uncover Brittany’s Mussel Farming
Head to the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, a stretch of coast over 90km long where around 15 farmers harvest and supply nearly 10% of the entire French annual production of mussels. This makes Brittany the second largest producer of mussels in the whole of France. No mean feat! Pay a visit to the bay where you can go on a tour to learn about Bouchot mussel farming and afterwards make sure to stop for lunch at Le Panier Iodé where you can sample all the freshly caught produce from that day. This was easily the best seafood lunch I’ve had in years.
Location: Jospinet, 22400 Lamballe-Armor
Visit Château de La Hunaudaye
Built around 1220 by Olivier Tournemine, this fortified castle protected the eastern border of Penthièvre for over a century, until it was destroyed in 1341 during the Breton War of Succession which was a long civil war lasting over 20 years. It took until the 15th century for the castle to be rebuilt and it survived until the French Revolution when some of the towers and the moat were destroyed as the castle was pillaged and set ablaze.
Today, the Château de la Hunaudaye is a fantastic place to come and spend a day out. You can wander the path around the castle where you are able to take in the sheer size and beauty of the place. Inside there are a number of interesting installations which help you imagine what life would once have been like inside this former fortress. Heidi loved her time here, making up stories as we explored the castle. Despite its current ruinous state, there are still a good number of the towers you can climb where you’ll get to enjoy great views out over the countryside.
€5.50 per adult (under 6’s free) or €15 for a family ticket.
The Beautiful Little Port Of Dahouët
Dahouët is a small but beautiful Breton harbour located in the area of Pléneuf-Val-André. Enjoy free parking along the harbour wall where you’ll see charming cottages lining the street up to the Notre Dame de la Garde chapel viewpoint on the seafront. Head here for wonderful views out towards the lighthouse and if the tide is out, head down onto the bay where you can enjoy hunting for shells and crabs. If you fancy, you can enjoy a walk along the coastal path to the nearby town of Pléneuf-Val-André where you will find a long stretch of golden sandy beach, perfect for a lazy afternoon. Finish off with dinner at Libeccio which you’ll find at 115 Rue Clemenceau. They have the a restaurant downstairs or if you visit on a lovely summers evening, head to the terrace on the rooftop so you can enjoy the ambience and views. At Libeccio they make the freshest homemade burger buns and pastries and if you’re looking for desserts, I can highly recommend the Finger Pep’s and caramel mille-feuille. The burgers were amazing too!
Hike The Cap d’Erquy
This area of outstanding natural beauty is one of the few areas in the whole of France that is classified under the protection of natural sites and monuments. Take a short hike here and you’ll see the Lacs Blue, a former quarry now a small lake, so called as on a sunny day all you can see is a wonderful blue reflection of the sky on the water. You’ll get to enjoy views of the port of Erquy and if you continue on, you’ll discover the most stunning wild beach. You’ll be hard pushed to resist a dip in the ocean here! Not to worry if you forget to bring your bathing suit. The left half of this expanse of white sand is one of Brittany’s only beaches where nudity is permitted, but if that bothers you then just stick to the right hand side – not that you have to worry though, excluding July and August this beach is as peaceful and quiet as could be.
Indulge In Crêpes And Galettes
Head inland after a walk of Cap d’Erquy and you’ll find the sweetest little lunch spot, the Crêperie du Pêcheur. Set in a charming garden, there are lots of things to keep little ones entertained from a mini treehouse to bunnies. Not to mention a superb menu of crêpes and galettes. If you want to indulge in the local gastronomy, order yourself a ‘Galette Bretonnes’ which is a savory buckwheat crêpe that’s stuffed with a layer of ham, cheese and a fried egg, simply delicious!
Location: 31 rue de Plaine Garenne, 22430 Erquy
Relax In The Medieval Garden of Saint-Jean
Tucked away behind the church of Saint-Jean in Lamballe, there is a hidden garden that is very easy to miss. The medieval garden of Saint-Jean is a little gem, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the town. A place you can come to retreat and enjoy solitude, surrounded by the beauty of nature. This garden is inspired by the gardens of the Middle Ages. A time when gardens were not created to be merely decorative, but to serve the purpose of providing food as well as natural medicines to heal. That said, there is a beautiful pergola at the heart of the garden that is draped in climbing roses and makes for the perfect spot to shelter from the sun and perhaps read a book or sit quietly with your own thoughts as you listen to the sound of the birds.
Where To Stay In Brittany
Brittany is full of beautiful places to stay. From mid-range guesthouses with dreamy views to luxury boutique manors, you’ll not be short of places to choose from. For exploring all the places listed in this post, we stayed at Les Petites Maisons Arin and Le Manoir de la Villeneuve.
Best Time To Visit Brittany
The best time to visit Brittany in my opinion is in the late spring months or very early autumn. Of course it would be absolutely wonderful in the summer months too, just keep in mind that it will be slightly busier, particularly in August which is a national holiday in France. Also be aware that in the peak season of July and August, as with anywhere in Europe, the prices for accommodation will be higher – just something to keep in mind.
How To Get To Brittany
There are numerous airports which you can fly into Brittany from all across Europe, it’s a very well connected region. You can check out all the cheapest flight options here. Depending on where you’re travelling from, ferry is always a great option too. In fact, coming from the UK, hopping on a ferry is our preferred method of travel. It’s quick, it’s easy and it means that we have our car with us to get around the region once we’re there. It’s especially great if you are travelling with children as you can take an overnight ferry where you can have a cabin to get a good nights sleep and when you wake up in the morning you’re all fresh and ready to begin your adventures.
We use Brittany Ferries from either Portsmouth, Poole or Plymouth arriving into Cherbourg, Caen-Ouistreham or St Malo for this particular corner of Brittany.
How To Get Around Brittany
Once you’re in Brittany, if you have arrived by plane I’d highly recommend hiring a car as it will give you the most freedom. However, there are also public bus links between some of the more popular towns. I recommend taking a look at Sunny Cars so you can have a car rental ready to go when you land! They’re a great company who pride themselves on working with local rental companies and when you book through them all insurance is covered so you don’t have any of the usual hidden extras like with other companies! Plus, they offer free cancellation, always a bonus.
I hope this post has given you the inspiration to enjoy a trip some place new! I’m always on the hunt for quieter places to visit in Europe and this region of France really fits the bill. Let me know if you pay a visit or if you already have, is there anywhere else you would recommend I visit?