France in Depth: 7 Towns in the Brittany Region
Brittany, in north-west France, is one of the country’s most distinctive and alluring regions. Locals refer to it as Bretagne. Natural coastal beauty aside, it has a long history of traditions. It even has its own language in the form of Breton. You’ll find delicious regional dishes, unique architecture, and an array of quirky and intriguing cultural attractions across the different towns in Brittany.
The region is easily accessible by train from several other popular cities in France, including Paris. With dozens of fascinating towns in Brittany to explore, here are some of the best.
Towns in Brittany, France (Bretagne)
Despite Rennes being the capital of Brittany, many travelers to this region of France overlook it for its coastal neighbors. That would be a mistake. This medium-sized city has an absorbing atmosphere, noteworthy architecture, welcoming locals, and enough students to bring the town and its seemingly hundreds of bars and clubs to life almost any night of the week. It’s also perfectly located as the gateway into the region.
Insider tip: Pay a visit to the spectacular park Thabor. There’s a wide range of plants and trees, and aviaries with several different species of birds.
How to get there: There are several direct trains from Paris to Rennes each day leaving from Montparnasse Station. There are also four direct trains from Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport.
Saint-Malo has a dramatic location on the Brittany coastline. Its walled citadel is one of the most popular destinations in the region. The panoramic views from the town walls stretch out across the English Channel, and the old town quickly transports you to another era. When the weather is good, Saint-Malo turns into a delightful place to take long walks along the pristine beaches, or a dip in the icy water or tidal pool. When the weather turns, the atmosphere grows dark and ominous. This only adds to the city’s intrigue and charm.
Insider tip: Have a traditional galette (savoury pancake) on the city walls at the restaurant Le Corps de Garde. It’s at an idyllic location, but the prices are reasonable, views incredible, and the service fast and friendly.
How to get there: There’s a daily TGV train from Paris to Saint-Malo. Some trains connect via Rennes, with hourly commuter services up to Saint-Malo from there.
If you’re looking for cobbled streets, timber houses, and a stunning harbor, then head to the small town of Auray. While this charming town was an important trading post up until the 1800s, today it serves primarily as a relaxing holiday destination. The busy trading port has transformed into a tranquil harbor frequented by yachting enthusiasts. Several popular restaurants and bars take full advantage of the beautiful scenery.
Insider tip: There’s a popular market in the town center on a Monday.
How to get there: Several trains leave from Paris each day. Routes and stops vary, but the trip averages approximately 4 hours.
Dinan is one of France’s best-preserved medieval towns. A visit here will instantly transport you back a few hundred years. A walk along the town’s walls serves up panoramic views of the valley below, while the interior offers an array of beautiful architecture. The town also has a strong sense of identity and culture, and as such it’s a thriving hub of arts, crafts and local delicacies.
Insider tip: Climb the 158 steps to the top of the Tour de l’Horloge for incredible views.
How to get there: There are several daily trains to Dinan from Paris. The fastest route requires one change and takes 3.5 hours.
If you’re looking for a charming seaside town on the north coast of Brittany, then Roscoff is well worth a visit. This somewhat sleepy small town boasts fascinating 16th century architecture, tranquil beaches, an attractive harbor, and an intriguing history that dates back to its early days as an ocean-side port.
Insider tip: Ile-de-Batz is a 15-minute ferry ride away and is a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
How to get there: There are trains to Roscoff from Paris that require one change. They typically take about 4.5 hours.
Many people consider Locronan to be one of the most beautiful towns in Brittany, and in all of France. You may recognize the village from popular films Tess and A Very Long Engagement, but there’s a lot more to this city than its filmset qualities. Locronan is the home of the legend of Saint Ronan, an Irish bishop who supposedly visited the town to found a hermitage. The St. Ronan Church, which houses relics from the era, is still a popular pilgrimage site. The Renaissance era houses are beautifully preserved, and a visit here is an instant portal into an otherwise forgotten era.
Insider tip: Take a walk up the town’s summit for superb views towards the Bay of Douarnenez.
How to get there: There are daily trains from Paris towards Locronan. Most connect in Rennes, and it may be more convenient to break your journey there.
The megaliths of Carnac share a resemblance, and a prehistoric age, with England’s Stonehenge. No visit to Brittany is complete without a quick stop here. Sometime between 3000 and 4000 B.C., pre-Celtic settlers in the region erected thousands of stones among the fields for no apparent reason. Today, the town is split between the historic center and the seaside resort. Both are quaint and inviting.
Insider tip: If you’re looking for a small, pleasant beach, head to Légenèse or Ty Bihan. St-Colomban is a good beach for wind and kite-surfers.
How to get there: There are regular trains from Paris to nearby Vannes, where you can catch bus to the coast.
Knowing what to explore in France can be a daunting process. But with a vast rail network that comprises both regional and high-speed trains, getting to towns in Brittany is relatively easy and thoroughly rewarding. Adding Brittany to your French rail journey will serve up the ultimate coastal views and pristine beaches. It will also transport you back to another era altogether.