Located on the northwest corner of France, the Province of Brittany combines rugged coastal beauty with a music, culture, cuisine and language all its own. The peninsula, for centuries a part of Britain (hence the name), combines craggy coastlines, historic castles, picturesque forests and a vibrant folk music scene to create a memorable vacation spot for most any visitor.
Brittany's history differs from the majority of France. The peninsula was a Celtic colony until it was annexed by France in 1532. Thus, the region has many similarities with Ireland and England as well as a native language all its own. Once part of the Roman Empire, you can still find remnants in Brittany of that era. The towns of Brittany were heavily damaged during World War II and the region was among the last parts of France to be liberated. Thus, you'll see Medieval and 19th century buildings next to modern mid-20th century buildings all over Brittany.
What to see and do in Brittany
Brittany offers a diverse array of things to do, from outdoor activities to historic buildings to exciting folk music festivals. Below is just a sampling:
- Nantes -- Situated along the Loire River in western Brittany, Nantes is home to a magnificent Gothic cathedral, the Jules Verne museum, a maritime museum, a Medieval old town and the 15th century Castle of the Dukes of Brittany. Today, Nantes is not technically part of Brittany, but the city was the regional capital city for centuries.
- Saint Malo -- Located along the English Channel, St. Malo is an ancient, walled city, with many of these fortifications still intact. The city is also known for its many oyster restaurants, its expansive beach, the aquarium and the seaside tomb of the 19th century writer, Chateaubriand.
- Rennes -- Rennes, the modern Provincial capital city of Brittany, is located away from the coast in the eastern portion of the region. City sights include a portion of a Gallo-Roman wall, the Medieval entrance gate to the city, many streets of traditional, half-timbered houses and the Breton Fine Arts Museum.
Brittany is home to many regional music festivals. These include the Festival Interceltique de Lorient (Western Celtic Music Festival), La Route du Rock in Saint Malo, the Veilles Charrues (Old Ploughs) Festival in Carhaix (a festival that attracts some of the top names in contemporary music of all genres) and the three-day Transmusicales de Rennes.
In addition to festivals, cities and historic sights, Brittany is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. From white sand beaches to pristine forests, Brittany offers plenty of places to enjoy nature. There are 1,200 miles of hiking and biking trails, more than 350 miles of canals to explore in kayaks or canoes, and a fleet of larger water craft for exploring Brittany's 1,780-mile coastline.
Eating and drinking in Brittany
Brittany has its own distinct local foods and beverages. As you would expect for a region surrounded on three sides by water, fresh local seafood is available throughout Brittany. The region is particularly noted for its oysters and mussels and for a fish stew called cotriade.
Other Breton specialties include buckwheat pancakes, called galettes, which can be served with butter and cheese and replace bread at most Breton meals; the beurre blanc sauce, which was invented in Brittany; and a plum pudding, similar to a Yorkshire pudding, called a clafoutis.
Cider is more popular in Brittany than wine, although the region does make a kind of mead-like wine with honey, called chouchen.
Fun facts about Brittany
Just how much do you really know about Brittany? Consider these fun facts:
- Brittany has more than 1,780 miles of coastline, one-third of the total French coastline.
- There are 800 off-shore islands included in the Province of Brittany.
- The Breton town of Quimper is famous for its collectible faience pottery.
- Brittany's Paimpont Forest is believed to be the Broceliande Forest, the site of a magical fountain and Merlin's tomb in the King Arthur legend.
- Breton needlework and lace is world-renowned.
- Although French is widely spoken, most residents of Brittany also speak Breton, the ancient Celtic language that is similar to Welsh.
A trip to Brittany makes an ideal visit following a barge cruise or explore Brittany by barge aboard the four passenger bargeLibje. A barge cruise allows you to see the French countryside at a leisurely pace and one price includes accommodations, three gourmet meals daily, all beverages including wine and entrance fees for daily sightseeing excursions.
This blog was brought to you by The Barge Connection, specialists in barge vacations since 1998. We are experts at matching you with a barge cruise that best suits your interests, lifestyle and budget. We handle all of the details, from transportation to the cruise to pre or post-cruise excursions, like a trip to Brittany.