I’ve always loved the wilderness of the coast in Brittany. And the diversity of landscapes in such a small region is impressive. From dramatic cliffs to granite boulders, from rocks to sandy beaches, from a calm gulf to an angry ocean… Brittany has it all. I cannot tell which part of Brittany I prefer. But I can try to create a non-exhaustive list of the best of Brittany.
I spent most of my holidays as a kid in Brittany. And I’ve also visited it regularly as an adult as it’s where my parents now live and it’s easy to access from Paris.
So, here are some of my favourite places in Brittany. I tried to limit the list to 15. It was hard! If you’re looking for activities in Brittany, I’ve created a list of the best things to do in Britanny for nature, food and culture lovers here.
How this Best of Brittany article works: The list goes anti-clockwise from north to south. The numbers are not to indicate an order of preference but to show you the place on the map at the end of the post.
Best of Brittany: the Northern Coast
I haven’t always liked Saint-Malo. As a kid, I preferred the nearby town of Cancale. If you’d asked me about Saint-Malo back then, I would have said it was the most boring place ever. We’d walk along the ramparts, and I was too small to see above the walls! I went back there after growing up, and my point of view on Saint-Malo changed.
It’s a beautiful town, full of history, culture and beautiful landscapes. The best way to discover Saint-Malo is by walking in the medieval town centre and along the coastline. If you have the budget, a private guided walking tour* could be perfect to discover the fascinating history of the port. Plus, there’s a direct train from Paris so you can easily go there for the weekend!
If you haven’t been there yet, the Mont Saint Michel isn’t too far away. It’s not in Brittany (although… no, I won’t start a debate here), but it’s one of the most visited places in France – and for a good reason! You may want to join a tour from Saint-Malo*.
If you’re staying in Saint-Malo and want to experience some of the places mentioned in this best of Brittany in a very short time, have a look at this private guided tour of Saint Malo, Cancale, Cap Frehel and Dinan*.
Dinan is very close to Saint-Malo, yet very different and it’s worth visiting both. You can actually go on a boat from Saint-Malo to Dinan, along the Rance River. It’s a great way to visit both towns in one trip. Dinan is particularly remarkable for its charming street and it’s lovely medieval streets with half-timbered houses.
3. Cap Frehel
You will have to get closer to the lighthouse to enjoy the beauty of the cape. That’s where you’ll get panoramic views and realise you are perched on stunning cliffs 70 metres above the sea. No construction is allowed there; you’ll only find one of the many lighthouses of the region. It’s one of the most powerful French lighthouses. Its light can be seen more than 50 km away. If it’s open when you visit, it’s worth climbing the stairs to the top!
The Cap Frehel is beautiful no matter what. When it’s sunny, the contrasts between the green vegetation, the blue sea and the somewhat pink cliffs are stunning. As you walk around the cape, you may even see Jersey or Guernsey on the horizon. And when the weather is terrible with winds, the sea puts on an incredible show. No wonder why it’s one of the most visited places in Brittany.
If you have time, you can walk to Fort La Latte for more spectacular views (2 to 3-hour return).
4. Brehat Island
The peaceful Brehat Island is only a short ferry ride away from the mainland. There is no car on the small island so you’ll have to walk or cycle to discover its beauty. It’s often nicknamed Flower Island. But what surprised me the most on Brehat Island were the goats on the beach!
5. Pink Granite Coast
The coastal walk near Ploumanach’ will take you around funny pink granite rocks, some up to 20-metre high and 300 million years old. Your imagination may let you spot a falling bottle, Napoleon’s hat or even a pig’s face. If you can be there at sunset, the colour contrasts are even more breathtaking. Plougrescant is famous for Castel Meur, the house between the rocks. There are a few interesting houses like that in the area. Nearby, Treguier is a charming small town worth visiting.
I remember talking about the Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island (South Australia) with French expat friends. They had no idea we had something like that back home!
Best of Brittany: Finistere (the west)
6. Pointe du Raz
When you travel, you often wish for beautiful sunny weather. Unless you’re heading to the Pointe du Raz. It gets even more impressive when the weather is stormy. The turbulent waters are unchained. The waves crashing on the lighthouse in front of the headland offer a fantastic show.
Unfortunately, I had a flat sea when I visited. It was incredible for this place, but I felt I missed the best part of the experience! Still, the views were breathtaking. I had a fantastic time hiking from the Pointe du Van to the Pointe du Raz.
Concarneau reminds me somehow of Saint-Malo. It’s a fishing port with a walled city centre. There are also lovely walks along the coast there. The walled town (Concarneau Ville Close) is one of the most visited sites in Brittany.
8. Pont Aven
You may feel inspired while exploring Pont Aven. It’s not surprising: many artists chose to stay there for a while and paint the lovely town. The famous French painter Paul Gaugin made Pont Aven famous with the Pont Aven School. You can nowadays still feel his influence as you wander in the town centre with the art galleries and the Museum of Fine Arts.
9. Port Manech’
I love the diversity of Port Manech’s landscapes. As you walk along the coast, you go from a stunning white sandy beach to a beautiful rocky creek. You may feel like you’re the only one in the world as the small houses or ports disappear. With turquoise water, the place is even nicknamed Tahiti!
Best of Brittany: Morbihan (the south)
This ship graveyard won’t seduce everybody. It looks sad but still is an interesting sight. And photographers can feel inspired there. I certainly did.
Fishermen were using this spot on the Blavet river to store their boats during the winter season. And that’s where they also hid their ships when they had to go to fight in WWII so that the Germans wouldn’t take them. Some never came back, and that’s how the shipwreck graveyard started.
11. Saint Cado
Etel Estuary is worth a visit. And my favourite place there is the small islet of Saint Cado. The cottage alone on its rock in the middle of the river is one of the famous images of the region.
12. Saint Goustan
The small port of Saint Goustan looks like a perfect postcard. You can wander along the harbour and the small village where some of the houses date back to the 15th century. Then cross the bridge and go up the hill on your left for the best views. And if you have time, hop on a boat to explore the river and even further!
Auray and Saint Anne d’Auray are two nearby towns that are worth a visit too.
I love Vannes old town, the walls and its garden, and the marina. It’s a lively town, day and night (at least during summer).
Although I certainly prefer the smaller villages, Vannes is a great gateway if your time is limited. There’s a high-speed train linking Vannes to Paris in only 3.5 hours, so you can go there just for the weekend. It’s a central place that should allow you to explore some beautiful places around the Gulf of Morbihan.
Arradon is very close to Vannes, on the coast. I had to pick a place along the Gulf of Morbihan where to walk and admire the everchanging landscape depending on the tides. With its hundreds of islands, the Gulf of Morbihan is as beautiful as fascinating. In Arradon, there are about 15 kilometres of coastal paths that will take you from one beach to another. My favourite is the Penboch area; I spent most of my holidays there as a teenager. You will feel like walking in a postcard. You’ll see the Ile aux Moines (Monks’ Island) most of the time from Arradon’s coast. If you have time, it’s a great day trip.
15. Belle Ile
In French, the name means Beautiful Island. I think it says it all! But if you want more details, I wrote a full article about visiting Belle Ile. Hiking is the best way to catch views of the breathtaking coast.
And many more…
There are a lot more places that are worth visiting in Brittany and didn’t make it to that list, but isn’t a best of meant to be short? It was really hard to choose. I’m thinking of all the beautiful towns in Brittany, such as Quimper, Josselin, Vitre, Locronan, Douarnenez or Rochefort en Terre, for example. Or Carnac and its megalithic alignments. Or the island of Ouessant. And don’t get me started about all the lighthouses. You can live your whole life in Brittany and still find beautiful new spots to explore in the region!
Best of Brittany: the food and the cider
A list of the must-see activities in Brittany wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the food. I love how French regions have kept local specialities. Seafood, galettes (crepes), cider, cakes… the list goes on and on. I’ve detailed it in my other article about the best things to do in Brittany.
What would your Best of Brittany look like? Share it in the comments below!
My Best of Brittany map
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