The town of Saint Brieuc in Brittany has a little bit of everything for everyone. A stone’s throw from the half-timbered houses of the old town are sand dunes and dramatic cliffs, dense forests and rippling streams. Saint Brieuc itself has a charming mix of traditional restaurants, buzzing marketplaces and a bustling estuary port, all within an easy amble of each other. Here is Culture Trip’s pick of the 10 best things to do in this enchanting pocket of Brittany.
Under 30 minutes on foot from the attractive town centre of Saint Brieuc, Le Légué port is a protected estuary harbour with over 300 kilometres of seafront. Visitors from the sea can moor their boats here and for those staying in town, it makes for a great afternoon stroll. The quaint working harbour also has plenty of information on the marina’s past, as well as some delightful restaurants and cafes.
Under half an hour from Saint Brieuc is Trégomeur Zoological and Botanical Park. Trégomeur spreads out over three hectares of land, including shrubs, bamboo, climbing and aquatic plants. The park has a lot of Asian elements, from Indian lions to a recreation of an authentic Thai house, and there is a focus on preservation and protection.
Dominating the Légué valley in Saint Brieuc, Villa Rohannec’h is well worth escaping the town to for an afternoon. This Italian-inspired villa and surrounding park was built in 1910 by wealthy shipowner Viscount Alain Le Gualez de Mézauban. From the villa’s terrace, Mézauban could observe the comings and goings of his ships. Today, the villa is starting to be used more and more for art and design projects and events, though the park is always open and free to explore.
Les Rosaires, just 15 minutes from the centre of Saint Brieuc, is a quintessential Breton beach. At low tide, the sand seems to go on for miles and, during the summer months, thanks to the positioning of the beach, the sun warms the sand (and so the water, too) all day long to the perfect temperature. Les Rosaires isn’t a wild beach like a lot of the coves along this coastline, but that does mean there are facilities for a coffee or light meal just a stone’s throw away, easy to amble over to in your flip flops. Ample parking makes it a hassle-free beach trip.
Just over 20 minutes from Saint Brieuc is La Maison de la Baie, a delightful museum made up of eight exhibition spaces. Taking the visitor on a journey from the clifftops of the bay of Saint Brieuc to its marine life below and bringing to life the natural heritage of the Nature Reserve in which it lies, it is the perfect educational morning or afternoon out for all the family. The museum also offers guided nature outings on reservation.
Saint Brieuc has a gorgeous historic centre. Pick up a crepe from one of the many options in town and wander the cobbled streets with it, snapping shots of the timber-fronted houses and quaint squares. Stop by Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Saint-Brieuc, an imposing historic monument in the centre.
Taking place each year at the end of May or beginning of June since 1983, three days of concerts and shows (including theatre, dance, circus), as well as contemporary art and video installations, make up Festival Art Rock. It’s a ticketed event, but some of the exhibitions and street performances are free. If you can, plan your trip to Saint Brieuc when the festival is taking place; the whole town comes alive and it’s a vibrant way to view the usually quieter Breton town.
Seafood lovers will be in heaven in Saint Brieuc. As well as the Breton cider and creperies at every corner, king scallops – ‘coquilles Saint-Jacques’ – are the local speciality. Try them after a day of swimming or exploring in one of the many eateries that Saint Brieuc has to offer. There is also a choice of three Michelin-star restaurants in town, so if it is top-notch meal you’re after, have a look at L’Air du Temps, Aux Pesked or Restaurant Edgar.
Otherwise known as GR 34, the Sentier des Douaniers is one of France’s main hiking trails. It hugs the Brittany coast from Mont-St-Michele in the north, to St-Nazaire in the south. At Saint Brieuc, you’re perfectly placed to pick up the trail and hike in one direction or the other and, with scenery like this, you can’t go wrong whichever way you choose. If you need some direction, the views from Pointe de Pordic or Pointe des Roseliers headlands can’t be beaten.