In the south of Brittany sits Vannes, an ancient town which during the ninth century was the capital of Brittany: Rennes then took over this duty when Brittany became part of France in 1532. A port town on the Gulf of Morbihan, Vannes is a historic and lively town with naturally beautiful surroundings.
1,500 years of military history have marked the town over the centuries. The ramparts date from the third century when the Romans began fortifying the city, and in the 13th century it was the Duke of Brittany, Jean IV who extended the fortifications. From the Porte St Vincent gate you can go inside and explore. You'll see the ermine, emblem of Brittany, emblasoned above the door.
Every year the Vannes Marathon starts at the Ramparts. If, however, you don't feel like running 42 kilometres round the Bay of Morbihan, the bars and cafes in Vannes might be a more pleasant option. Take a seat in a cafe on the Place des Lices, and imagine the town all those centuries ago... It was in this square that the Duke of Brittany organised jousting tournaments. Close your eyes and hear the crowds cheering...
The Parc du Golfe beside the gulf of Morbihan is a picturesque spot, continue your discovery of the town with a stroll along the Promenade de la Rabine which leads to the port and the historic centre. Flutter gaily to the Tropical greenhouses - Vannes Butterfly House. Here you'll find yourself in an Amazonian forest: discover the exotic plants which enjoy the steamy heat. All around you you'll spot hundreds of exotic and rare butterflies from Guyana and the Philippines. Learn the secrets of their transformations and admire their stunning colours.
Leave the heat of the tropics for a refreshing exploration of the ocean, at the Vannes Aquarium. This giant aquarium is one of the most beautiful in France. Exotic, brightly-painted fish are housed alongside gnashing piranhas, sharks, and don't miss Eleanor the Nile crocodile who was found in the sewers of Paris in 1984.
The Gulf of Morbihan or the "little sea", as it is sometimes referred to locally is a tidal oceanic basin which contains several islands and rocky outcrops, some of which are inhabited, such as the Ile d'Arz and Ile aux Moines. During Gulf Week, you can watch traditional sailing boats and classic yachts gather here.
25 km from Vannes, go back in time to the prehistoric age at Carnac. Some 40,000 menhirs and dolmens or standing stones are mysteriously aligned, such as the Alignments from Menec to Carnac. If you're with the family, the five beaches of Carnac are an ideal destination, with fine sand and crystal clear water.
Travel to Vannes for an authentic baptism in Breton history and the beautiful waters of Morbihan.
Station to station