The Essential Guide to Brittany

An independent kingdom until 1532, Brittany still has a rebellious feel, its rocky coasts and windswept beaches conjuring a Celtic—and Druidic—past. History is alive here, especially in the ancient ramparts, half-timbered houses, and picturesque villages that cling to old customs and festivals. Come to this mystical region to experience a very different side of France.

Ille-et-Vilaine, 3 Avenue George V, 35800 Dinard, France
One of the most scenic walks on Brittany’s Emerald Coast, the Promenade du Claire de Lune offers stunning views of St-Malo, St-Servan, and the Rance Estuary. The portion in Dinard is bordered by palm trees and mimosa blooms as well as several cafés and casinos, but there are also secluded sections for more romantic strolls. From Dinard, you can follow the path around the Pointe du Moulinet to several beaches, including the inviting Plage de l’Écluse. Note that some parts of the trail are elevated and without railings, so be cautious when walking with children or in stormy weather.
9 Rue de l'Orme, 35400 Saint-Malo, France
At once sweet, salty, and smoky, Beurre Bordier is one of Brittany’s most famous products. Taste it for yourself at butter artisan Jean-Yves Bordier’s Saint-Malo creamery, where he uses 19th-century methods of pounding and shaping butter to ensure a silky texture, complex aroma, and smart balance of flavor. Here, you can shop all of Bordier’s popular flavors—from beurre d’algues with flecks of Breton seaweed to smoked salt, lemon-olive oil, fennel, and even Venezuelan chocolate chip—along with 230 different cheeses, charcuterie, desserts, and a wide selection of wine. If you’re craving something more substantial, head to on-site restaurant Bistro Autour du Beurre, where you can enjoy local fish and produce from the farmers’ market, all prepared with Beurre Bordier.
56340 Carnac, France
In Carnac, row upon row of some 3,000 upright stones cover three fields (Ménex, Kermario, and Kerlescan), creating a magical atmosphere. Though the exact meaning and purpose of the prehistoric stones—some dating as far back as 4000 B.C.E.—remains largely a mystery, a number of them were revealed to be tomb markers, concealing remains and funerary objects.

Start your visit at the Maison des Mégaliths, where you can watch a film about the site in English. The stones are now fenced off to the public, so it’s best to book a guided tour if you want to fully experience the site. When you’re done exploring, take the 10-minute walk to the Museum of Prehistory, which houses one of Europe’s finest collections of prehistoric objects.
Locronan, France
A member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, Locronan is one of the country’s most treasured villages. A historic monument since 1924, it’s known for its granite houses and large square, where the sacred Church of St. Ronan is located. To this day, Locronan remains an important Druid pilgrimage site. Every year on the second Sunday in July, locals don traditional costumes for the Petite Troménie, a religious procession that leaves from Locronan and follows an almost 7.5-mile circuit dotted with 12 stations. A larger festival takes place every six years, with the next one planned for July 2019. An ancient village of weavers and craftspeople, Locronan is home to cobblestone streets—a favorite of artists and filmmakers—lined with boutiques and galleries selling local wares. Wander around town and you’ll also discover picturesque cafés, sacred wells, charming lanes, and breathtaking views to the Bay of Douarnenez.
Le Buot, 35350 Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes, France
In 2008, chef Olivier Roellinger stunned the culinary world by shuttering his famous three-Michelin-starred restaurant to focus on more relaxing endeavors. This was good news, however, for guests of Château Richeux, his picturesque hotel in St-Méloir-des-Ondes. Set on a cliff overlooking the sea, the 1920s villa offers views of Mont St-Michel across the bay, and a serene space where guests can completely unplug.

Without TV or Wi-Fi, you must find entertainment in Château Richeux’s elegant, antique-strewn interiors and beautiful grounds, complete with terraced gardens and a blind for birders. Relax in one of 11 sophisticated rooms with ocean vistas, cozy up in an armchair with a hot toddy, or linger in the living room over a book about the region. Come dinnertime, book a table at the hotel’s singular Restaurant La Coquillage, where Chef Roellinger’s mastery is on full display in dishes of local seafood, produce, and spices. A breakfast of homemade pastries on the ocean terrace is another rare treat.
1er étage, 7 Quai Admis en Chef Thomas, 35260 Cancale, France
At this Michelin-starred restaurant overlooking the port of Cancale and the bay of Mont St-Michel, chef Raphaël-Fumio Kudaka proves that Breton ingredients and Japanese cuisine are a match made in heaven. Combining local seafood with Japanese recipes and techniques, he offers six- and eight-course menus, full of unique dishes like fruits de mer with Japanese rice salad, blue lobster mi-cuit with yuzu sauce, and chicken thigh tsukune with foie gras and tofu. Guests also get to taste local oysters, melt-in-your-mouth tempura, and the catch of the day, all paired with fine sake or scintillating French wines.
Place Saint-Corentin, 29000 Quimper, France
A magnificent example of Gothic architecture, Quimper’s St. Corentin Cathedral dates back to the 13th century, when the bishops of France forced their influence on wild and unruly Brittany. Built on the remains of an ancient Roman temple, the church features a characteristic dip in the middle (possibly to accommodate for the marshy, uneven terrain) and an unusually placed nave (believed by some to symbolize where Christ’s head falls on the Holy Cross, the position may also have been necessary to avoid destroying an older chapel with the remains of a descendant of one of Brittany’s earliest kings). Between the impressive facade, glorious stained glass windows, and several chapel nooks, there’s much to see here, so be sure to save time when exploring Quimper’s fascinating Old Town.
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