Medieval streets, half-timbered houses, a pretty harbour and a place of gastronomic delight, the walled town of Vannes is one of Brittany’s most charming towns.
In the Morbihan area of Brittany, Vannes invites you to wander around the well-preserved medieval streets before enjoying a harbour-side lunch or a boat trip around the gulf.
This is a great place to browse and amble at your leisure. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings you’ll find a pretty street market in Places Lices, vivid, colourful and vibrant. This is where jousting tournaments were once held but these days the only contests are among the sellers of fruit and vegetables, calling out to draw attention to the lush, shiny produce.
A popular place for a selfie is in Place Valencia where on the corner of a half-timbered house you’ll see the carving of a man and woman known to the locals as “Mr and Mrs Vannes”, it dates back to possibly the 15th, or the 16th century and though no one knows exactly why it was made, some think it was a commercial sign for a cabaret.
There are two museums in town – Château Gaillard in a 15th-century mansion house is an exhibition of archaeology and the town’s history and La Cohue, is a museum of fine arts, located in a 13th-century covered market that was the home of the Breton Parliament from 1675-89.
Outside the town walls is the Château de l’Hermine, once the home of the Duke of Brittany, now an exhibition space with pretty gardens.
Boats, butterflies and beaches
Take a boat trip from the Parc du Golfe, about a mile from the town centre and float around the Gulf of Morbihan. There’s also an aquarium with a huge collection of tropical fish and the Jardin aux Papillons, a glass dome filled with vegetation where hundreds of butterflies fly free. Further south is the Conleau Peninsula, Vannes’ only beach.
The hidden road for restaurants
Just outside the old walls of the departmental capital of Vannes lurks a hidden gastronomic treasure.
The main gate into Vannes is the Porte St-Vincent Ferrier, named after a Spanish monk who died in the town in 1419 and became its patron saint; he is buried in St-Pierre cathedral. To the left and right of the gate are town houses: many of their ground floors have been turned into cafes and make a lovely location for lunch as they face the marina.
If you pass by the cathedral and head for the Port Prison (yes it really was the prison) keep left and find the Rue de La Fontaine you will find a great collection of restaurants such as Terroirs run by a husband and wife team who both worked at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant in the UK the husband being the head wine water, so you can imagine the quality of wines they serve.
Vannes is well worth a visit…