Morbihan in southern Brittany has a beautiful coastline as well as the Gulf du Morbihan, an inner sea. Beautiful countryside, historic towns and a sunny climate make this a holiday paradise.
Here are some of our favourite things to do…
Visitors often miss the 15th century port of St Goustan on their way to see the famous stones of nearby Carnac, but it’s well worth a stop. You’ll find a perfectly preserved 600 year old harbour that is today full of restaurants and cafés including one with a plaque commemorating a famous visitor. Benjamin Franklin landed here in December 1776 for secret meetings with the King of France. Franklin took the road to Paris to ask France for help in the American War of Independence and one of the quays is now named after him. From June to September take a boat ride from here around the little islands in the Gulf of Morbihan. Don’t miss exploring the town, cross the narrow 13th century stone bridge, which links the two banks of the Loc’h and then make your way up Les Rampes du Loc’h. This specially built walkway leads up the hill to the site where the château once stood and from where you’ll have an amazing view.
You can’t fail to be impressed by the Alignements du Ménec – lines of stones, 1km long, 100 metres wide, as well as the Alignements de Kermario, more than 1km long. These mysterious stones have baffled historians for centuries. There are more than 4000 of them, some weighing up to 350 tons. Burial chambers, giant observatories marking the stars, gravestones? No one is absolutely sure but it’s thought they were erected around the same time as Stonehenge. Nearby the beach of Carnac is a great place to contemplate the meaning of the stones!
The region takes its name from the words: Mor-Bihan, which means "little sea" in the Breton language. The natural harbour of the Gulf of Morbihan is the most famous feature of the coastline and is classified as one of the "Club of The Most Beautiful Bays in the World". Apart from its good looks it’s also great for nautical jaunts. And if that’s not enough, there are, apparently, 365 islands off the coast, perfect for explorers!
This old town of Vannes is a place of winding cobbled streets, full of history, character, colour and beautiful medieval architecture. Head to the Place Henri IV in the centre, lined with half-timbered houses, and discover its authentic cafés, restaurants and quaint little shops selling local produce and gifts. There are two museums, plenty going on year round, including a summer Jazz Festival and there’s even a beach – the Conleau Peninsula. Vannes is a great base for visiting the gulf of Morbihan.
Take a break at La Tete En L’air a gastronomic restaurant in the old part of Vannes. Known for their innovative menu using fresh locally sourced food, beautifully presented.
Josselin in the interior of Morbihan is famous for its medieval castle with a doll museum, a beautiful old town for enjoying walks, stopping to eat a pancake or a bowl of cider or delicious fresh seafood. There’s a lively Saturday morning market too.
Lorient close to the coast, is the second most important fishing port of France. It’s quayside is a hive of activity each morning and there are five ports to explore. Great for coastal walks, delicious seafood cuisine, fabulous beaches and the annual Interceltic Festival.
French Connections has loads of fabulous holiday homes in Morbihan and Brittany, head to our home to browse and find your dream holiday home…
The far north of France is one of those places that many don’t know about. Rushing off to the south for a bit of sun, they completely miss this surprising, vibrant and authentic corner of France that’s on the doorstep of England.
Here’s why you should really add Nord-Pas-de-Calais to your visit list – from great gastronomy to a long history, more museums than any region outside of Ile de France (Paris) and friendly folk…
The beautiful city of Arras is a fabulous, atmospheric, and architecturally striking place to visit. It was decimated during WW1 and rebuilt but it’s hard to tell what is original and what is not. There’s plenty to do and see in this 2000 year old city from climbing the UNESCO listed Belfry for great views, wandering the pretty cobbled streets, a very good Fine Arts Museum, shops, bars and restaurants.
Le Touquet Paris-Plage is a small seaside resort on the beautiful Opal Coast. Architecturally it has a mix of British Edwardian and French Belle Epoque styles. Combined with a zest for outdoor living (and its own microclimate), swanky shops and excellent bars and restaurants. It’s a brilliant place for a weekend break (or longer). With loads of activities from relaxing on the endless sandy beach to water sports, a historic golf course, horse riding in the sand dunes, tennis and much more – you seriously won’t want for things to do here.
Around an hour from the port town of Calais, Montreuil-sur-Mer in northern France offers a slice of history and gastronomy as this little town is home to a superb Michelin star restaurant and a dozen truly excellent brasseries, restaurants and cafés, with the label “Destination Gastronomique”. Wander the ramparts, stroll the cobbled streets and in the summer don’t miss the chance to see “Les Miserables” performed at the citadel. Hundreds of local townsfolk take part in this homage to Victor Hugo and his famous tale which was inspired by the writer’s visit to the town in 1837.
Take the D940 road, the Route 66 of northern France to discover the beautiful coastline known as the Opal Coast thanks to its extraordinary light. Dramatic cliffs, secret sandy coves where sealions bask authentic fishing villages and seaside towns brimming with cosy bistros. Stop off at for a spot of sand yachting in Wimereux, famous for its colourful Belle Epoque villas and Wissant where General Charles de Gaulle used to holiday. There’s 124 miles of beaches, historic sites and natural areas that have been preserved.
Boulogne-sur-Mer is known for many things – its lovely old town with cobbled streets and elegant squares, the premier fishing port in France and home to Nausicaa, the French National Sea Centre and the largest aquarium in Europe. The old town is extraordinarily pretty, like a film set with its ached entrances to the former walled city, chateau museum and fascinating Basilica which has the longest crypt in France. The town is also place of pilgrimage for many Argentinians who flock to visit the Casa San Martin, the last home of the famous general who liberated South America in the 19th Century.
Lille is one of the most cultural cities in the country. There are more than a dozen museums and art venues in the city and every three years or so Lille goes arty-party mad with a major several-months-long art festival known as Lille3000 in public buildings and the streets. A fabulous food scene and great bars, beautiful historic old city and brilliant shopping – what more can you ask!
Famous for its football team and rich mining history, the city of Lens, with its art deco facades, is at the heart of a culturally dynamic region that boasts a strong network of museums including an astonishing branch of the Louvre Museum.This very modern gallery, built on the site of an old coal mine is stunningly innovative and despite its youth has a lot of soul. The exhibitions range from ancient to contemporary and you can walk around and get up close and personal in a way that’s not possible in most museums.
Immortalised in history by Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of some 400,000 men from the beaches in 1940. Visit the Dunkirk War Museum to find out more. Don’t miss dinner or lunch aboard the paddle steamer Princess Elizabeth in Dunkirk. She was built in Southampton in 1927 and took part in the evacuation as well as in the in blockbuster Dunkirk by Christopher Nolan. Every year on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the town goes carnival crazy with one of the most fun and friendly carnivals in France.
Cars wind their way helter-skelter-like, up and around the Mont of Cassel until suddenly, they reach the cobbled roads that lead into the small town voted favourite town of the French in 2018. Go for the big views at the top of this famous hill of French Flanders where the “Grand Old Duke of York marched 10,000 men”. Don’t miss the multi award winning garden known as the Jardins du Mont des Récollets. This rather unusual garden is famous in France, in fact it was voted favourite garden of the French in 2011.
The great artist Henri Matisse was born in Cambrai and in 1952, he established a museum there defining how the 82 paintings he donated to the museum should be arranged. Now housed in the 18th century former Archbishops Palace, the Matisse collection has expanded and the museum also includes works by Chagall, Léger, Rouault, Miro, and Le Corbusier plus photos by Henri Cartier-Bresson
French Connections has a great choice of thousands of holiday rentals all over France – see our home page to browse and find the perfect holiday home for you…
After the summer crowds are gone but sunny days are still plentiful, it’s the ideal time for a trip to the exquisite little Ile de Ré, just off the coast of La Rochelle in Charente-Maritime, Poitou-Charentes.
You can drive to the island by car via a toll bridge or take a bus from the centre of La Rochelle. Or you could leave the car behind and take the pedestrian only boat from La Rochelle to Saint-Martin-de-Ré – one of the loveliest towns on the island, though there are many. You don’t need a car to enjoy its many charms though you might wish you had one if you like to shop, there are loads of fabulous boutiques here.
Saint-Martin-de-Ré is the main town on the island, the mini capital of Ile de Ré. There are great restaurants, bistros, bars, and ice cream shops. The town is protected by Vauban build fortressed walls which give it world heritage site status and spreads out around a stunningly pretty waterfront.. In the 1670s, Louis XIV’s French military engineer Vauban, was commissioned to overhaul the island’s defences - they were listed on the UNESCO heritage list in 2008. Climb the bell tower of the church for a panoramic view over the roofs of the terracotta-roofed houses in this “Plus beaux village de France” (official list of prettiest villages in France). If you’re lucky you’ll spot donkeys dressed in stripy trousers, a local tradition from the days when mosquitoes were a problem. They’re not now but hey, who doesn’t love a donkey in a pair of trousers!
Another “plus beaux village” on Ile de Ré, La Flotte is a tiny harbour town that well worth stopping off at. Wander the narrow streets to discover lovely coffee shops and bistros, shops and art galleries. Don’t, whatever you do, miss the market, it really is fantastically pretty with a great atmosphere.
Salt has been produced on the island since the middle ages. Fleur de sel salt is famous in France but it was hardly known outside of the Ile de Ré 20 years ago. People saw it on TV on programmes like MasterChef and wanted to buy it, now fleur de sel is revered. It costs several times what the originally salt costs as production time is much more consuming and depends on terroir, the strange French word that’s untranslatable into English but includes the climate, the land and more. The little tubs of salt make for a perfect (not heavy) souvenir of your visit.
New to the Ile de Ré and brilliant fun, tuk tuk rides can now be booked in La Flotte, Le Bois-Plage, La Couarde and Saint Martin de Ré. This fleet of environmentally friendly, 100% electric tuk tuks are the most fun way to take a tour. You can even get picked up from your holiday accommodation and dropped off in town or back at your pickup point. The great thing about a Tuk tour is that they can access all areas so you get to see the tiny oyster shacks that cars can’t reach, the local drivers can show you the secret places, the salt marshes and off the beaten track. Book at the tourist office or through https://www.retuktuk.com/
Cycling is a favourite pastime on the island and we’re not surprised. It’s pretty much completely flat, takes around two hours to go from one end of the island to the other and has more than 60 miles of signposted cycle paths which wind through vineyards and fields. And with the same number of sunshine hours as the south of France, cycling is the best way to see the best bits of this pretty little island. It’s easy to hire a bike on the island with loads of outlets in the towns.
Toulouse in the Haute Garonne department far south of France, within easy driving distance of the Spanish border, is a brilliant all year round place to visit. But in Autumn, when the crowds have thinned and the low golden sun licks the red brick buildings and makes them glow, and falling leaves flutter along the cobbled streets – Toulouse is just about perfect…
It’s impossible not fall under the spell of the Capitole in the centre of Toulouse. The emblematic building with a stunning 17th century neoclassical style façade is the beating heart of the city. Around it are a series of districts each quite different from the other and all easy to reach on foot. Pick up a map from the tourist office and go walkabout to discover Toulouse’s many charms.
Autumn is the ideal time to visit the museums of Toulouse – and you’ve certainly got plenty of choice.
Don’ t miss Les Abbatoirs Museum, which you won’t be surprised to discover is in a former abattoir.
The museum and guided tour of Aeroscopia 'Let's visit Airbus' opened in January 2015 and presents the legendary models of French aviation.
The Toulouse Museum, located in the city centre, is the second largest natural history museum in France. The museum has a superb collection of modern and contemporary art with works by Picasso many Spanish artists exiled from Spain when General Franco seized power during the Spanish Civil War. This is no elitist museum, you can do yoga classes amongst the artworks, workshops, a library and at Christmas they hold a market where artists sell their works. After your visit pop to the park next door to enjoy the views over the river Garonne and the soft sun puts on a dazzling show turning the autumn leaves every shade of gold.
The Bemberg Museum has an exquisite collection of artwork in a former 16th century mansion where each room has been restored to 19th century glory to showcase the wonderful collection of paintings, furniture and ornaments including Degas, Monet, Matisse and Boudin.
The Augustins Museum, Museum of Fine Arts located in the former Augustinian monastery is home to medieval sculptures and a large collection of paintings from the fifteenth to nineteenth century. It’s one of the oldest museums in France.
The Museum of Old Toulouse offers a large collection of pieces representing the artistic and historical past of the city.
The Museum of Companionship, former residence of the companions, the museum now displays the objects they produced there.
The Paul Dupuy museum displays many decorative and graphic objects.
The Georges Labit Museum has an extensive art collection of ancient civilizations.
In the vast space of the Halle de la Machine mysterious inhabitants are waiting to meet you. Amongst the exhibits are a walking 37 ton spider called Ariane and musical machines which make up the strangest orchestra you’re ever likely to see. There’s a giant set of wings piloted by a machiniste, pipes which spout flames, twirling guitars and a table laid for an enchanted dinner where the pepper is sprinkled by a flying waiter. And best of all you can ride on a giant minotaur (half bull, half man) who roams the streets carrying passengers in a temple on his back!
With mild temperatures in autumn, al fresco dining can feel like summer. It’s usually still warm enough to sit at a terrace café in the sun most days though you might need a jacket in the evenings. It’s the perfect time to enjoy a glass of local red wine in one of the many elegant squares in the city. We like lively Place St Georges in the historic centre. one of the most popular places with the locals. Try Monsieur Georges bar/restaurant with its colourful décor is ideal for a rendezvous with a glass of wine and in the evening it’s perfect for dinner on the terrace. Indulge in a seriously tasty menu, deliciously decadent desserts and scrumptious cocktails.
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Once a flourishing textile and manufacturing powerhouse, Mulhouse in Alsace, Eastern France is now undergoing a metamorphosis following a downturn in its major industries of engineering, printing and textiles. With an impressive number of museums, including the biggest car museum in the world, and home to the largest artists’ residence in France, Mulhouse is once again thriving.
The no. 1 attraction in Mulhouse, drawing visitors from all around the world is the Cité de l’Automobile. There are over 400 cars at this immense museum. Drool over incredibly well preserved masterpieces dating as far back as the first days of French motoring in the 1870s to the 1970s. There’s also a collection of awesome racing cars that are more modern. Priceless Bugatti’s take centre stage, gleaming and sleek, they’re as rare as hens teeth. Hire a classic car to drive round the private track at the museum, take the kids to enjoy a go kart track, games and workshops. There’s so much here you can easily spend an entire day at this one.
The train museum of Mulhouse has the biggest collection of trains in the world. There are locomotives from the 1840’s through to the newer steam and diesel and electric trains that are still in use. Get your bearings on the Petite train ride round the museum which is monumental. Ride a diesel train on the museum’s private track and hope on a mini-railways to see the exhibits in the huge yard. With impressive, interactive exhibits, no matter what your age, this museum is huge fun.
The town hall was built in 1553 and is famous for its trompe l'oeil paintings – medieval street art! The eagle eyed will spot a stone head hanging from a chain, known as the klapperstein, which weighs 12 kilos and used to be hung from the necks of gossipers and scandalmongers, who were made to wear it while riding around the city backwards on a donkey!
A museum dedicated to electricity? Well Yes. It’s right next door to the train museum and, it’s the biggest of its kind in Europe. There’s a working steam generator from 1901, an exhibition covering early experiments conducted from the 17th century up to modern day, and plenty of vintage machinery, from Thomas Edison’s Dictaphone to early versions of TV’s and fridges.
Founded in 1868 and covering more than 20 hectares of the Tannenwald Forest, Mulhouse zoo contains over 1000 animals. More than 170 different species live here including polar bears and artic foxes, Siberian tigers, snow leopards and meerkats. The botanical gardens make for a tranquil break. In the summer months over 400 types of Iris flowers bloom beautifully alongside exotic trees from Japan and America.
Website: Discover more to see and do in Mulhouse at: https://www.tourisme-mulhouse.com/EN/home.html
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