Brittany: what to do, what to see...

This legendary peninsula offers adventurous visitors an ocean of landscapes, as well as an enchanting coastline, age-old traditions and superb food. Much more than just a destination, Brittany is a captivating experience and a world apart.

Not to miss sights in Brittany

• Mont Saint-Michel

At is origins, in 709, this modern marvel was a simple little church built on a rock, erected at the request of the archangel Michael. Over the centuries, an abbey, convent buildings, walls, a village grew around it to make Mont St Michel a spiritual and intellectual haven in addition to a place of pilgrimage. You must see the bay in person, between sea and sky, to understand the enormity of its majestic beauty.

• The Standing Stones at Carnac

Imagine 3000 standing stones looming over the Breton moor, lined up over a kilometer (0.62 miles). The largest menhir (the Breton word for a prehistoric upright stone) is six meters (20 feet) high. Erected between 5000 and 3000 years before Christ, they beg the question: how and why are they there? They are often ascribed an astronomical function, but perhaps you'll develop new theories when you visit!

• Morlaix bay

Between Léon and Trégor, lies a large bay enameled with islets. Île Verte, Île aux Dames, Île Callot, Louët Island and its lighthouse, the fortified island of Taureau Castle—you can discover them by boat, or some on foot at low tide. On the mainland coast, the villages of Carantec, Plougasnou and Locquirec have become family resorts.

• Pont-Aven, the City of Painters

From the end of the 19th century, Gauguin set his sights on this small town in the green estuary of the Aven. Many painters followed, creating the school of Pont-Aven, like Emile Bernard, Paul Sérusier and Maxime Maufra. To find their places of inspiration, go for a walk along the mills, laundries, stone bridges and Bois d'Amour (Wood of Love).

• The Cathedral of Saint-Corentin in Quimper

In the heart of old Quimper, Saint-Corentin Cathedral will make your knees shake as you gaze upon its 76 meter (250 feet) high spires reaching towards the sky. Gothic style, its construction spread over 300 years, beginning in the 13th century, the cathedral is a testament to faith made manifest.

• The historic centre of Rennes

Walking through the old town of Rennes means walking through time, discovering the Gothic chapel Saint-Yves, the colorful timbered houses of the 15th century, the Mordelaise gates and their two towered castle and the Palace of the 17th century Parliament. Also be sure to spy the terraces on rue St Sauveur, those of the Chapitre, or the ones along Place du Champ-Jacquet.

• Belle-Île-en-Mer

Facing the tip of Quiberon, the largest island of Brittany is aptly named: Beautiful Island of the Sea. It can be wild and tumultuous on the Atlantic, towards the peaks of Port Coton, the point des Poulains and the cave of the Apothicairerie. The side facing the mainland is more sheltered, enjoying a wide sand beach. The island is pedestrian and bike friendly on marked trails, and accessible to cars on small roads, between the moors and valleys.

• The Bay of Saint-Brieuc and Paimpol

The bay of Saint-Brieuc ranks 5th in the world by the amplitude of its tides (fair warning). To admire it from above, head for the Pointe du Roselier, Pordic or Les Guettes. Walkers usually take a customary path, an spray-soaked balcony on the sea, unless they opt for kitesurfing, kayaking or catamaran. Then head to Paimpol, to survey the lively docks and taste the famous Paimpol oysters.

• The Forest of Brocéliande

Between ponds and moors, this forest, riddled with a hundred loops of hiking, evokes the legend of the brave King Arthur and Merlin the Enchanter. Let your imagination run wild: the century-old oaks are populated by elves, the castle of Comper is inhabited by the fairy Viviane and the fountain of Barenton bubbles with magic...

• The island of Ouessant

The last stop before America—this is one of the seven islands of the archipelago of Molène, 20 kilometers (12.43 miles) west of Finistère. Splayed out in the shape of crab claw, sprinkled in sea spray and shaken by the winds, Ouessant stands strong. A true sentinel on the ocean, it is dotted with lighthouses to help sailors and fishermen: Stiff, erected by Vauban, as well as Kéréon, Créac'h, the Mare.

Things to do in Brittany

• Stay in an eco-responsible gîte  

Brittany is a region rich in eco-friendly accommodation. Staying in an ecological wooden cabin, in a cottage with an orchard and vegetable garden, in an organic farm, or in a farmhouse is so simple to do here.

• Dive into traditional culture at the Lorient InterCeltic Festival

Every year for 10 days in August, the Celts take over! The InterCeltic festival attracts 750,000 spectators in Lorient. From Scotland to Galicia, via Australia, Canada and Ireland, there are more than 200 shows and events, and 4500 artists, celebrating this proud culture in all its forms.

• Take a boat trip to the Pink Granite Coast

North of Lannion, in the Côtes d'Armor, the granite rocks are tinged with pink seem to catch fire in the rays of the setting sun. It's a sailor's dream to set sail off Perros-Guirec, in the Seven islands national reserve, populated by seabirds and seals.

• Take in the waters with a thalassotherapy break in Pornic

The principle of thalassotherapy was born in Brittany, an aquatic land bathed by several seas: the English Channel, the Iroise, the Atlantic. No wonder there are a good 15 water-therapy centers to take care of you: in Quiberon, La Baule, Pornic, St Malo, Belle Ile, Dinard and more. The treatments combine thalasso, sport, massages and dietetics to to relax and rejuvenate.

• Surf the waves of La Torche at Plomeur

This is THE reference spot in Brittany. Surf culture is very Breton! Head to the tip of La Torche, an ideal practice spot with its powerful waves, but also, depending on your level, the Loc'h beach in Guidel, Plouharnel on the Quiberon peninsula, the Baie des Trépassés between Pointe du Raz and the Pointe du Van, the beach of Trestraou to Perros-Guirec or the beach of Rochebonne in St Malo.

• Meet a seal at Océanopolis in Brest

Discover the many aquatic species that inhabit the oceans! At Océanopolis, sharks and reef fish dart around in the tropical aquarium, penguins and seals waddle in the polar basin, plankton and crustaceans thrive in the Brittany-themed tank, and Alaskan otters scamper on the otters trail. Océanopolis is an instructive dive into the marine eco-system.

• Hold on tight to your partner when the high tides break over Saint-Malo

Several times a year, including September, the sea forms what is called a large tide. St Malo is where the amplitude is the most important, amplified by the winds. To enjoy the show, safely, go to the ramparts in front of Fort National, at high tide, when the waves explode against the dike.

• Cycle the canal towpath from Nantes to Brest

Cycle through green Brittany, to the ocean, following the canal and the Blavet. The path between Lorient and Redon is dotted with castles, abbeys, valleys and small river ports.

• Go sailing in the Gulf of Morbihan

This small inland sea, which extends between Vannes and Auray, is labeled a regional natural park. Dotted with about 40 islets, the gulf begs visitors to discover its variety in a modern sailboat or in old rig with ocher sails. Let your adventurous side take over and board one of these traditional tuna or lobster boats, fashioned with passion by the old sailors.

• Work on your swing at Abers, the most westerly golf course in France

The most western of the French golf courses lies in the full Breton moor, at the top of a rocky dome. This 18-hole golf course offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the islands of Ouessant and Molène. According to the specialists, it recalls the links of Ireland, and the wind is often an uninivited challenger on the course.

Getting to Brittany