With the summer fast approaching, I can’t help but remember my trip to Brittany. My then girlfriend (now wife!) and I were looking for somewhere to go in France and after many recommendations, we decided on our Brittany Getaway! We rented a car in Nantes and stayed in three different Airbnbs around Brittany, each with a different feel and unique surroundings.
If you’re looking for a nice French town with a beach but not ten million tourists overrunning the town, I can really recommend going to Carnac. Our Airbnb host told us it’s where French people go on vacation. Even the beach bar we went to had good food. The only downside is that the water wasn’t particularly warm, even in August. If it’s a hot day, it’s not a big deal but don’t expect to lounge around in the ocean. You’ll need to keep moving to stay warm.
Carnac is also famous for its standing stones, from the Neolithic era. They were put there by pre-Celtic people but the exact reason is unknown. Some say they are the remains of a Roman army, turned to stone by the Pope! The stones go on and on and are actually the largest collection of such stones in the world! So you’ve got great food, great culture, great history; Carnac has it all.
Vannes was one of the most beautiful cities we encountered during our Brittany getaway. The historic centre is surrounded by old city walls, with medieval era gates and beautiful churches within. It makes a great day trip or base of operations. Like Carnac, it wasn’t overrun by tourists, so we could take our time to take in the city.
Our second Airbnb was located on a farm somewhere near Huelgoat. Unbeknownst to us, Huelgoat is actually situated within an ancient and legendary Breton forest. Although there is tourist traffic, it’s quite quiet there in general, probably since it’s so far from the coast. If you’re cutting across Brittany, it’s worth a stop for a break from civilization.
Île de Batz and Roscoff
When I heard “no cars allowed”, I was sold. This small island is best enjoyed by foot or bicycle, which you can rent upon arriving on the island. You can easily spend the whole day exploring, if you’re going by foot. We decided to do a little Geocaching during our island adventure but you’ll also find cafes to relax in and a look-out tower to get your bearings. If you want a break from the mechanical world, hop on a boat to Île de Batz!
Of course, to get there, you’re going to need to take the ferry from Roscoff. We had a bit of a time finding parking, so you might want to look into that before making your trip. There are a lot of great places to eat in Roscoff, so don’t worry about finding somewhere to eat on Île de Batz. Because the ferry links Roscoff, Ireland, and the UK, it might be a good launchpad for your Breton journey.
Quimper is another classic Breton town we’d heard about and wanted to check out. It’s known for its crêpes, beautiful architecture, and old Gothic cathedral. We were only a little disappointed that some parts of the city were overwhelmed with tourists. Well, we were two of them, so how can you complain?
Add Quimper to your list of stops in Brittany, if you like great food and culture!
I had wanted to see Saint Malo for a while and I’m glad I finally got the chance. The historic old port town is completely surrounded by walls and sits on the English Channel. It’s a tourist hotspot, so be prepared for parking difficulties and be choosy about where you eat. Most places in France have exceptional food but anything near the front gate of Saint Malo is probably to be avoided.
Sadly for us, we arrived during pouring rain and intense wind. It was a challenge to stay dry. On the plus side, the waves crashing against the walls made the city feel a whole lot more epic and exciting. We didn’t have the chance to enjoy the city at a leisurely pace but it did allow us to take our time enjoying some Breton cuisine from the confines of a small and delicious restaurant.
My recommendation would be to make a day trip here and stay somewhere in the surrounding area, where it’s cheaper and nicer. Saint Malo is on many people’s must-see list for good reason, so add it to yours!
It’s hard to really describe how wondrous Mont Saint-Michel is but your opinion of it may well be decided by when you visit. I’ve been twice and I can tell you that it was a world of difference. When I went in October, the crowds were not so huge and I was able to really explore and enjoy this hundreds of years old abbey, one of France’s most recognizable attractions. On the other hand, when we went in August, it was so overrun by tourists that you couldn’t even move through the streets at times.
Although the abbey offers some amazing views, my favourite experience was setting out behind Mont Saint-Michel, during low tide. Just be careful and check the schedules; tides are no joke and you could easily drown if you are not prepared!
There’s a lot of interesting history to the Mont and it’s not actually part of Brittany, being located just over the Norman border. Still, any trip to Brittany should be cause for serious consideration to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Insider tip: There will be many restaurants immediately outside Mont Saint-Michel but you’re better off to drive to the nearby Avranches, where you’ll find a real French town with good food!
Historically and culturally, Nantes is part of Brittany but, today, it is part of the neighbouring department. There’s a lot to see in Nantes, with its expansive city centre and old churches.
You can easily spend a day in Nantes, wandering the streets and taking in the city. Don’t forget to check out the ducal castle and beautiful Gothic cathedral. It’s France’s 6th largest city and well worth a look. We flew in and out of the Nantes airport but we’re glad we took the time to explore.
Plan your Brittany Getaway
I hope you enjoyed reading about my Brittany trip. I can’t wait to go back to Brittany, so let me know your favourite spots in the comments below. If you’ve got any questions about planning your own getaway, I’ll try my best to answer them!
And if you’re traveling in a group, don’t forget to read my Six Tips to Travel With Friends!