Built 2000 years ago, Vannes is a walled town at the centre of the Gulf of Morbihan, just off the Atlantic coast of Brittany. Its rich patrimony, harbour, and numerous cultural events make it a major tourist destination in the region. Morbihan benefits from a milder climate than the rest of Brittany, with warm summers and mild winters.

The name Vannes comes from the Venetes, a Gaul tribe of seamen who challenged the Romans until they eventually defeated them in 56 BC. Vannes was the capital of the kingdom (later duchy) of Brittany from the 9th to the 16th century. Several princes of the region made Vannes their capital and it was here that in 1532, King Francis I concluded a treaty which made Brittany a part of France.

Today, with more than 60,000 inhabitants, Vannes is a dynamic economic and cultural centre. It has always carried out a thriving maritime business, and is now a beehive for new technologies.


Vannes has been designated by the French Ministry of Culture as a national "city of art and history". The main interests lie in the old town, which kept many of its original features, and is largely a pedestrian area. The Baroque gateway of Porte de St Vincent is the oldest remaining entry to the city (dated 1747), leading into the medieval district. Take some time to wander in the maze of narrow, steep and crooked streets to discover the traditional architecture of Vannes. Some of the finest half-timbered houses with steep roofs and wood carved facades may be found in Place Henri IV.

In the centre, the imposing [ Cathedral of St Pierre], built during six centuries from 1020, has a mixture of architectural styles. Some interesting features include its beautiful stained glass, unusual round chapel, and gargoyles on the outside.

Opposite the cathedral is the [ Beaux-Arts Museum], formerly named la Cohue. The building had several functions over the past 750 years, from high court, prison, revolutionary tribunal, to theatre and marketplace. Right by la Cohue is the Museum of History and Archaeology, which exhibits the material excavated at the famous stonehenge site of Carnac. The museum has one of the richest collections of prehistoric remains in Europe.

The old town is surrounded by fortifications of the 14th, 15th and 17th centuries, pierced by four gates. Walking around these offers exceptional views of the town. Don't forget to take a walk in the lovely gardens spread on the outside of the ramparts. It is also worth going up the two steep streets of St Patern, the oldest district of Vannes. They are lined up with medieval houses, and lead to the Church of St Patern. Some of the features of this building dating from the 18th century are amongst the only examples of Italian Renaissance architecture in Brittany.

Vannes also has a large port area opening on the Gulf of Morbihan. It is the perfect base from which to take a boat out and explore the beautiful islands in the Gulf.

For the children, the modern [ Aquarium du Golfe] has one of the best collections of tropical fish in Europe. It is located in the Parc du Golfe, 10 minutes walk from the city centre. You can also find a [ Butterfly Garden] in the park.

Vannes is very animated during the summer. Festivities start with the Fetes Historiques, a historical festival with parades in traditional costumes and guided tours. The [ Fetes d'Arvor] organise traditional music concerts and the election of a queen of Arvor! The town also hosts an outdoor [ Jazz festival] in July.


There is no major shopping centre in Vannes, but the old town is full of independent shops selling clothes, food, arts and crafts, books, etc. For typical food and products from Britanny, head to [ La Trinitaine].

Every morning there is a fresh food and fish market on the place des Halles. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the market gets crowded with tourists as it also offers clothes and traditional products.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Britanny is the kingdom of crepes and seafood. The old town of Vannes has enough creperies, bars, restaurants and cafes to please everyone. For cheap crepes eaten in an unusual background (in a cave!), try the [ Tour Trompette]. In the district of Saint Patern, the creperie Dame Ewen is a good and affordable option.

At the other end of the price range, the [ Brasserie des Halles] is one of the seafood restaurants which have signed an "authentic fresh Breton seafood platter" quality charter, to guarantee freshness and variety. Another fish restaurant in the centre of the old town, Le Roscamec, offers an expensive but unforgettable "lobster menu" for 74�.

Whatever you decide to eat, don't forget to accompany your meal with cider (cidre), the traditional drink of Brittany fermented from apples. A bowl of cider will only cost you a couple of euros. The locally brewed beers are also worth a try.

There is always something going on at night: you can choose between the bustling bars of the old town, one of the two cinemas or the Palais des Arts ], which offers theatre, dance, concerts and circus events throughout the year.

Tourist Information

  • Office de Tourisme du Pays de Vannes, CP 23921, 1 rue Thiers, 56039 Vannes cedex, France
  • Telephone: + 33 (0) 825 13 56 10
  • Fax : + 33 (0) 2 97 47 29 49
  • Email:
  • Website: []


The nearest airport is Nantes, which is about 1 hour's drive to Vannes. It takes about 1 hour 10 minutes flight time from London Gatwick (BA and Air France). Dinard airport is a bit further away (1.5 to 2 hours� drive) but you can fly directly from Stansted airport with Ryanair. By train, the journey from Paris is about 3 hours.

All car hire locations in France