Wanting to embark on an epic European road trip and don’t know where to start? Many people dream of driving a Fiat 500 along the Amalfi Coast or exploring the French Riviera with the rooftop down, but there is more to Europe than the Mediterranean.
Brittany in northwestern France beckons travellers with an enchanting blend of rich Celtic heritage, natural beauty, and Medieval towns. Perfect for a French road trip, travellers can drive from surrounding European countries, including the UK just a short ferry ride away.
Scenic coastal walks, epic sunsets, and exhilarating water sports are just a few options the region presents. Turquoise waters, dramatic cliffs, and golden sandy beaches surround the Breton coastline. Fishing villages sit on the water’s edge, whilst castles look out to sea.
I have been visiting Brittany for 30 years, and below are just some reasons why holidays to Brittany are always a good idea.
The medieval towns of Brittany
Brittany’s medieval towns are like walking into a time capsule. The region’s history was feudal, with many smaller territories with fortified walls. Many of these towns remain, and instead of being knocked down to make way for new buildings, they are preserved.
Walk through the cobbled streets of Dinan before heading towards St Malo to explore its ramparts. The quaint city of Quimper is filled with half-timbered buildings, just a stone’s through from Locronan, one of the most beautiful villages in France.
In southern Brittany, there is Vannes, a port city built inside medieval walls. Not too far away is Rochefort on Terre, also one of the most beautiful villages in France. Further inland is Josselin, a small town with a big castle.
These are just a few of the medieval towns and villages in Brittany. If you want to see them all, you could stay for weeks on end! Many of these towns offer beautiful boutique stores, plenty of restaurants, and some very charming places to stay.
The coastline of Brittany
The coastline of Brittany stretches over 1,700km, paving way to a beautiful tapestry of green, blue and gold.
Rugged cliffs cascade towards the crystal clear sea, opening up to sandy beaches that stretch for miles. The beaches in Brittany are a popular spot for kitesurfers and windsurfers, with many exposed to the elements of the Atlantic Ocean.
However, if you are looking for a calmer beach experience, plenty of beaches are protected by beautiful bays. During my early years, our favourite family-friendly beach in Brittany was Kerleven, located a few miles from the famous tourist town of Concarneau.
It’s not just cliffs and beaches that characterise the Breton Coast. Hundreds of picturesque fishing villages welcome visitors all summer long.
Close to Vannes is Auray, a waterfront village known for its stone bridge, cobbled quayside and half-timbered houses. Staying near Vannes but on the island of Belle Île, you will find Sauzon, with pastel-coloured houses and vibrant shutters.
The castles in Brittany
Few people realise that Brittany offers castles in abundance. Thanks to the strategic position in the far northwest of France, the medieval rulers had to build castles fast due to their role in European conflicts.
These castles were the centre of power and control in the 14-1600s. There were numerous conflicts with England especially, as well as with the rest of France. The castles in Brittany were also a way for noblemen and lords to establish their authority. The castles often served as seats of government and administration.
The castles have retained their historical value, and many are now tourist attractions. Many of these structures have been well preserved and open for the public to explore.
Some of my favourite castles in Brittany include Château de Tonquédec, Château de Suscinio, Château de Vitré, and Château de Fougères.
Many of these castles are surrounded by beautiful countryside and visitors can spend hours exploring local walking trails.
Brittany is world-famous for its delicious crepes. Why Brittany in particular
? Are there not crepes available all over France? These crepes are different, made with buckwheat flour, known as “sarrasin” in French. In upper Brittany, you will often find these are listed as galettes on restaurant menus.
Most of us think of crepes as a sweet affair, but here in Brittany you will find all sorts of fillings. Savoury crepes such as ham, egg and cheese, or cheese and mushroom are not out of place.
The region is also known for its seafood, an appetising reflection of its maritime heritage. A ubiquitous dish is ‘moules frites’, lightly steamed in a broth of white wine with shallots, onions, and fresh herbs.
There are plenty of places to eat in Brittany, but we can’t miss the boulangeries and patisseries. The smell of freshly baked baguettes fills the air with a tempting display of colourful sweet treats and pastries.
Like the English, the French love their dogs, and Brittany is no exception. An excellent location for a dog friendly holiday, travellers can even bring their beloved pups across the Channel thanks to the Brittany Ferries dog friendly cabins.
Travellers and their dogs are welcome in restaurants, beaches and plenty of accommodation. If you want to see your dog happy and running free, head to one of the many dog friendly beaches in Brittany.
La Plage Sainte-Barbe near Quiberon offers miles of golden sand for you and your dog to enjoy. The shallow waters are perfect for a day filled with doggy paddling.
If you are heading to Crozon, it’s a beach haven for humans and their four-legged companions. Plage de Goulien, Plage de Lostmarc’h, Plage de Palue and Plage de l’Aber. As with all locations, it’s worth checking restrictions before you travel. Sometimes dogs are not allowed on the beach during school holidays.
Most towns, cities and villages are great for those hunting down a good dog friendly holiday destination. Cafes and restaurants allow dogs (some just outside), dogs are often allowed to enter stores, and many hotels will welcome dogs with open arms.
Learn how to take your dog abroad here.
Where to start? There are some gorgeous islands in Brittany. With a diverse range of landscapes, unique cultures, and plenty of recreational activities.
Les Glénan Islands (known as îles de Glénan in French) are particularly breathtaking. Peeking above the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of Brittany, les îles de Glénan are like scattered emeralds surrounded by powdery white beaches, transparent waters, and colourful marine life.
Belle-Ile-en-Mer is another popular choice for tourists. With a name meaning ‘The Beautiful Island in the Sea’, Belle-Île-en-Mer is the largest island off the Brittany coast and has been inspiring artists for hundreds of years.
If you are visiting northern Brittany, I highly recommend visiting ile de Bréhat, unique for its colourful gardens, subtropical microclimate, and car-free streets.
If you are still searching for more islands to visit, look no further than Ouessant, Île de Groix, Molène, or Sein.