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Stroll between land and sea in southern Finistère

Take a big breath of salty air in southern Finistère, along this Cornwall-like coast typical of Brittany. From Quimper to Quimperlé via Concarneau, fill up with sea spray and the incredible views. Small fishing ports and oyster farms, pretty museums and good restaurants, dream beaches—Finistère earns its name, it feels like the ends of the earth. But, it's located so near to many other French destinations!

Credit: au.france.fr

Go FranceGo France2 months ago
Stroll between land and sea in southern Finistère

Quimper: crêpes and Breton shirts

© Yannick LE GAL / Tourisme Bretagne  —  The Cité d'Art in Quimper.

© Yannick LE GAL / Tourisme Bretagne — The Cité d'Art in Quimper.

Between rocky land and wild ocean, at the crossroads of two rivers, the Steir and the Odet, the beautiful capital of Cornouaille (sharing a root with Cornwall, across the Channel) is aptly named. Kemper, meaning "confluence" in Breton, becomes Quimper in standard French. From cobbled streets to small bridges, flowered walkways blooming in pretty squares, imposing cathedral and charming turreted houses, history and heritage are around every corner in Quimper.

The city is a favorite of visitors thanks to Locmaria, the city's oldest district, a stronghold of earthenware and the hometown of the famous bol à oreille (unique crockery with tiny ear-like juts, created by the local label Henriot). Quimper is also home to Armor-Lux and the famous striped sailor shirts, as well as gourmet treats like hearty buckwheat crêpes, salty or sweet.

Quimper
Quimper, France

Concarneau, where the sea is the horizon

© Emmanuel BERTHIER / Tourisme Bretagne  —  View of the walled town of Concarneau.

© Emmanuel BERTHIER / Tourisme Bretagne — View of the walled town of Concarneau.

From Concarneau, nestled at the bottom of one of the most beautiful bays in Brittany, you can take the boat to the Glénans. Keep an eye out: this string of islands is bathed in waters as turquoise as the Caribbean! But before embarking, head for the Ville Close. Between a fishing port and a marina, the former stronghold of Brittany has remained well sheltered behind its ramparts. Fish markets, shipyards, pontoons with flotillas of sailboats, renowned spas and fabulous restaurants, such as Le Chantier or La Coquille , Concarneau's heartbeat is the tides of the ocean. If you'd like to moor there and drop anchor for awhile, the Kermoor hotel, on the large beach of Sables Blancs is the ideal lodging. In its cozy rooms with the atmosphere of boat cabins graced with beautiful maritime decor, you don't need to have sea legs to feel welcome here.

Concarneau
Concarneau, France

Belon, oysters and small ports

© Emmanuel BERTHIER / Tourisme Bretagne  —  Clohars-Carnoet, port of Doelan at dawn.

© Emmanuel BERTHIER / Tourisme Bretagne — Clohars-Carnoet, port of Doelan at dawn.

A few kilometers from Quimperlé and Pont-Aven, small, discreet roads and bucolic paths wander between deep forests and tiny fishing ports, nestled in the meanders of peaceful rivers. For maritime stops, check out adorable Doëlan, with its tiered houses and two red and green Rosbras lighthouses and colorful quays. The lighthouses face the equally picturesque cove of Kerdruc, washed by the waters of the Aven. These river valley landscapes that resemble a large fjord, and the best way to soak in the view is to sit on the terrace and taste a dozen oysters, harvested by neighboring oyster farmers. You can also visit these farms, like that of the Cadoret family, on the banks of the Belon River. This is the opportunity to learn everything you've ever wanted to know about the famous Belon oysters, emblem of Brittany, renowned the world over for its delicate flesh and its subtle nutty taste.

Bélon
Bélon, France

Beautiful beaches and crustaceans of Brittany

© Thibault PORIEL / Tourisme Bretagne  —  Customs trails, Tahiti beach.

© Thibault PORIEL / Tourisme Bretagne — Customs trails, Tahiti beach.

At the mouth of the Aven and the Belon, the small port of Port-Manec’h opens wide to the ocean. Book a room at Manoir Dalmore, worthy of the most beautiful Celtic legends, and take in the panorama. In the foreground, on the beach, the row of small bathing cabins evokes the old-fashioned charm of the Belle Epoque. It's not only a spot for idle contemplation, however; here, paddling, sailing and kayaking are practiced with aplomb, among other aquatic sports. Every nearby beach deserves a visit, but our favorite? Kerfany. Or Tahiti Beach...or the cove of Rospico. We can never decide! Each one seems more beautiful than the last. Don't miss Kervignon Point. You can buy fish directly from fishermen's boat when they come back from their sea voyages, their holds full of lobsters and other crustaceans. Sea to table, without a stop in between, and fresher than fresh!

Tahiti Beach
Tahiti Beach, Groix, France

Pont-Aven, a museum and galettes

© Alexandre LAMOUREUX / Tourisme Bretagne  —  Historic center of Pont-Aven

© Alexandre LAMOUREUX / Tourisme Bretagne — Historic center of Pont-Aven

Kerascoët, Kercanic...the names are as Breton as the architecture. These picturesque little hamlets, dotted with the typical granite houses sporting thatched roofs, can be explored leisurely on the way to Pont-Aven. Nestled in the verdant Aven estuary, cherished by so many artists and painters in the wake of Paul Gauguin, has retained its cachet. Be sure to visit it off-season too, even if just to see the beautiful museum (reopened in 2016). It's the only institution in the world entirely dedicated to the Pont-Aven School, and more than merits a visit. In Pont-Aven, there are also artisans and designer shops, galleries and workshops that you'll never tire of. For gourmets, the famous galettes whose many local biscuit shops compete for the best recipe. It's up to you to taste and judge, washing them down with delicious chocolate at La Chocolaterie...

Pont-Aven
Pont-Aven, France

Quimperlé, crucible of history

© Yannick DERENNES / Tourisme Bretagne  —  The Laïta river begins in the center of Quimperlé.

© Yannick DERENNES / Tourisme Bretagne — The Laïta river begins in the center of Quimperlé.

An upper town, a lower town, medieval alleys, 19th century halls made of red briquettes and wonderful churches—Quimperlé has never been much on the tourist's radar, but it is truly worth much more than a simple stopover. You have to take your time to discover it with your eyes towards the sky to admire the beautiful residences, such as the Maison des Archers. Dont' forget to explore an exhibition at the Ursulines Chapel , a remarkable religious building that has become a very trendy contemporary art museum. Save the best for last: Le Bistro de la Tour the best spot for a bite in town.

Quimperlé
Quimperlé, France
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