A Few of the Best Places to Visit in Brittany

Brittany is the northwestern-most province of France, bordered on two sides by the Atlantic Ocean. In this ancient homeland of the Celts, vast forests meet dramatic, rugged coastlines; quaint French towns dot the coasts and castles pepper the forests.

Brittany is still a wild region of France, far removed from the civilized culture of Paris and other big cities. Exploring Brittany is an entirely different travelling experience, which puts you in touch with rural French culture — in particular, rural Bretonne culture, which can trace its roots back to the ancient Gauls.

One of Brittany’s principal attractions is the vast Forêt d’Amorique, immortalized in fiction by the Asterix and Obelix series (created by French cartoonists Goscinny & Uderzo). In Brittany, you’ll find many traces of ancient Gaulish culture; menhirs, cairns, and other ancient sites abound in the region. You’ll also find beautiful sites created by later generations of inhabitants, such as the magnificent castle of Josselin and walled cities like Concarneau and St. Malo.

During my recent trip to Brittany, I took some time to make a list of unique or interesting sites in the area, which I wanted to experience firsthand. This post goes over what I ultimately decided were the best places to visit in Brittany, as well as listing some of the other spots I considered (at the end). Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any other suggestions!

1. Chateau Josselin

Located in the interior of Brittany, Chateau Josselin is an 11th century castle, which has been rebuilt numerous times over the years. Josselin’s history is intimately tied to the history of protestantism in France and it was famously torn down by Cardinal Richelieu in the 19th century.

The castle has been owned by the Rohan family for close to six centuries and currently serves as a private residence for the fourteenth Duke of Rohan, Josselin de Rohan. The lower floors are a museum that can be accessed via private tour groups, along with the grounds.

If you’re passing through Brittany, an afternoon visit to the Chateau Josselin and the surrounding town is well-worth a visit! The castle has a spectacular view over the river flowing through town and showcases an incredibly well-preserved piece of French history in the Bretagne region. This is the ‘fairytale castle’ that you’ve always imagined!

2. Huelgoat Forest

Near the easternmost edge of the Forêt d’Armorique is the Huelgoat Forest, one of many areas in the region linked to Arthurian Legend — the other major one being the Paimpont Forest, which is reputed to be the real life equivalent of the Brocéliande Forest from Arthurian myths. Huelgoat Forest contains a number of unique sites and it was my favourite place that we visited on our Brittany trip!

Le Moulin de Chaos

The Chaos Mill is located at the edge of the forest, in the town of Huelgoat proper. It marks the entrance to Huelgoat Forest. No one is quite sure why it’s called the Chaos Mill — perhaps the chaotic mess of boulders behind it? It is a former working mill from the early 1900s.

La Grotte du Diable

As you continue into the forest from the Chaos Mill, you pass along the banks of an ancient stream filled with enormous boulders that look like they’ve been piled there by giants in ancient times. A few hundred meters along, you can descend to a cave in the mossy boulders, where you can hear the river rushing along below.

Inside the Cave

Iron stairs and railings have been built to ensure the safety of visitors, but you still get a sense of how spooky the place must have been in ancient times. The Devil’s Grotto is undoubtedly one of the coolest spots to visit in the Huelgoat Forest and the entire region!

La Roche Tremblant

The Trembling Rock is your next stop in Huelgoat forest. This enormous boulder sits on a perfect pivot, allowing it to be moved if pressure is applied in exactly the right way. However, decades of tourists have definitely reduced the boulder’s movement to a minimum, so you may have trouble seeing the movement. You can feel it shift slightly if you try yourself — I was able to move it twice, but barely.

Le Ménage de la Vierge

The Virgin’s Household is another collection of boulders, farther along on your trip through Huelgoat. Apparently these boulders ressemble a collection of household items, but mostly it is an interesting place to climb around and take photos!

La Grotte d’Arthus

Arthur’s cave is the final stop on the Huelgoat Forest trail. It is reputed to be the burial place of the legendary King Arthur and his servants, as well as an unknown treasure. While no one has been able to find Arthur or any treasure yet, the cave is definitely a very cool natural rock formation. Hike a little farther to find the Camp d’Arthus as well!

3. Les Alignements de Carnac

The Carnac stones are the largest collection of menhirs, or standing stones, in the world! Located on the southwestern coast of Brittany, outside the town of Carnac, you can find over 3,000 of these menhirs stretching for miles through the countryside. You can see some of my photos from one section of the alignment above.

Cairn de Gavrinis

The area also features a large number of ancient cairns or burial places, which are still revered as pagan religious sites. The largest site near Carnac is the Cairn de Gavrinis, which is located on an island in the Gulf of Morbihan, just east of the town. We were not able to visit this cairn — but I would recommend it to anyone going to the area. Just make sure you call ahead to find out boat times.

Tumulus de Kercado

We did visit a tiny cairn called the Tumulus de Kercado, outside Carnac, where we witnessed a full-blown pagan ritual in progress! Dozens of elderly folks, many of them with obvious injuries like broken legs or in wheelchairs, were gathered there. Some were standing on top of the cairn, chanting and waving incense. Others were waiting to enter the cairn and be healed (apparently).

They kindly allowed us to go inside the cairn first, where a man played a resonating crystal bowl for us, which echoed spookily around the chamber. You could feel the reverberations in your chest. It was a very weird experience, but definitely something that I will not forget!

4. The City of Quimper

Quimper is capital of the Finistère department of Brittany, which is the westernmost region of the province. Finistère is an amalgamation of the Latin words finis terre, which means ‘land’s end’. Quimper is a very cute French town, which was our base of operations during our stay in Brittany.

The city was a great spot to wander around, in particular the winding streets in the downtown area. There were also a couple of nice towns on the outskirts of Quimper, which were recommended to us! These include Benodet (a local sailing town) and Concarneau, which you can read more about below.

5. The Walled Town of Concarneau

Concarneau is a twenty minute drive outside of Quimper. The Walled Town is located in the centre of its harbour, on a long island that is accessible via bridge. The town dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

Wandering down its single, central street transports you to a medieval era, when the town would’ve been used a refuge from invaders. Make sure you also do the circuit of the walls, which provides amazing views of both town and the sea!

Other Recommended Spots

While I visited quite a lot during my time in Brittany, I had a long list of other destinations on my list, which I didn’t have time to check out. For those planning a longer trip to the area, here are some other suggestions:

  • Saint Malo — Another walled city, on the northeastern coast of Brittany, near the border with Normandy. Saint Malo is a great spot for WWII buffs, due to its proximity to the D-Day beaches and its own role in war. The town was recently featured in the popular novel, All the Light We Cannot See, which I loved and would encourage other historical fiction fans to read!
  • Presqu’ile de Crozon — The Crozon peninsula is located where the Forêt d’Armorique meets the sea. This windy headland is the home of more menhirs and WWII sites. It is reputedly a great spot for hiking with awe-inspiring views of the ocean!
  • Point du Raz & Ile de Sein — Point du Raz is located west of Quimper and is land’s end for France — the westernmost point in the country. Beyond it sits the remote Ile de Sein, a flat, treeless island in the Atlantic. The island contains a small fishing village, home to a few hundred folks. If you love remote spots, this is a place to check out!
  • Cairn de Barnenez — The Cairn de Barnenez is largest burial structure in Brittany and one of the oldest in the world, predating the pyramids. It is located on the north coast of Brittany, outside the town of Morlaix. This was one of my top choices to visit, but it was unfortunately too far out of the way for us to reach during our limited trip!
  • Menhirs de Plouarzel & Brignogan — These two menhirs are the tallest in Brittany, both located in the area north of Brest.

While you’re in Brittany, you should take the opportunity to enjoy traditional dishes like moules et frites (mussels and fries), crêpes (Breton pancakes), and a wide variety of seafood, caught fresh! The food in Brittany is delicious — just like the rest of France.

If you’re looking for other spots to visit in the area, you can check out the Brittany Tourism site for more details. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my guide to the best places to visit in Brittany!

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