The best small towns for day trips in Bretagne, France

Brittany is full of charming small towns to explore. Dinan, Pont-Aven, Locronan, and Concarneau are small towns in Bretagne that make excellent day trips if you are staying just about anywhere in the Northwest of France. Dinan is an easy day trip from Rennes or St. Malo, and Quimper is a good base for exploring Pont-Aven, Concarneau, and Locronan.

While public transportation in France is very good, it is best to rent a car to be able to explore these places, since they are off the beaten path. Plan on spending at least a half day in each of these small towns in Bretagne. Some of them have won awards for being the prettiest villages in France!

If you are traveling to Brittany, learn about the traditional music and dance you can experience in this region.


Arriving in Dinan in nothing short of breath-taking.  As the bus rounds the corner you are treated to a view of a towering bridge over a river and above it a walled city with a view of a cathedral spire.

The outskirts of Dinan

What to see and do:

Dinan has pretty much everything you could want in a cute French town: Walled city? Check. Cathedral? Check. Riverfront? Check. Steep cobblestone street? Check. Ok, no one actually wants to have to walk uphill on cobblestone, but it is very pretty.

The main street from the river to the center of town
  • Rent a canoe or kayak from the Club de Canoë Kayak de la Rance and paddle down the Rance river to the ancient abbey of Saint-Magloire.
  • Climb the stairs up to the top of the clock tower for an amazing view of the town.
  • Peak into the Basilica Basilique St-Sauveur to marvel at the stained glass windows.
  • For history buffs, there is a plaque on the city walls near the bridge thanking American soldiers for the liberation of Dinan in August 1944.

What to buy:

Dinan is home to many artists, lots of whom use unique methods that go beyond traditional painting. Find a fun souvenir at one of the shops that line the street down to the port.


Pont-Aven means “bridge over the Aven River” and the town is exactly that. At one point, a whopping 15 windmills lined the Aven river. The famous French painter Paul Gaugin spent a significant amount of time here painting, along with a number of other impressionists. Arriving in Pont-Aven it’s easy to see why this town seduced so many painters.

A great spot for lunch by the water

What to see and do:

  • Visit the Fine Arts Museum which has exhibits of impressionist paintings, including those done in Pont-Aven.
  • Have lunch by the water at the Le Moulin du Grand Poulguin restaurant which still has remnants of its working windmill from centuries ago.
  • Stroll the river and its bridges or even take a river cruise

What to buy:

Cookies! This is the place to get buttery cookies made with the famous beurre breton (salted butter) in cute tins. There are lots of pre-packaged gift sets that include cidre, too.


The tall cathedral tower is the first thing that you’ll notice about Locronan, but the purple flowers are what you’ll remember most. Locronan’s cathedral is the centerpiece of a religious pilgrimage, the Grande Troménie, that occurs every six years. If you don’t want to wait six years there is a Petite Troménie every year in between in July. Locronan is named after Saint Ronan, with loc meaning hermitage in Breton, and this pilgrimage is said to follow the 12km route that he walked every day. The event is steeped in Breton culture, and participants wear traditional clothing.

Don’t worry if you aren’t there during the Troménie; Locronan is still worth a visit. It has even been used as a movie set for a number of films.

What to see and do:

  • Stroll around the town and admire the shops and blue buildings. Locronan has been awarded membership in the group of the most beautiful villages in France.
  • Visit the cathedral and then admire the tall, intricate spires from the outside.
  • Have lunch at one of the many crêperies and then take a longer walk on the hiking paths that surround the town.

What to buy:

If you haven’t bought a gourmet Kougin Amman cake yet, Locronan has good places to get one. There are also a number of shops with beautiful hand-made pottery with Breton designs.


The old walled town of Concarneau is surrounded by the ocean. Literally. The original walled town was built on an island, and the city has since grown up around it. An early morning promenade on the boardwalk here is a must and as the town is a hub for fisherman, you may even see them bringing in their catches.

What to see and do:

A great place for summer shows
  • Check out a musical or theatrical performance at the outdoor amphitheater in the old town.
  • Explore the old town and walk along the ramparts.
  • Visit the fishing museum, Musée De La Pêche, to learn more about the importance of fishing in Bretagne.
  • Go swimming at the beach that is right in town.
  • Take an ocean cruise to nearby islands or sail around the Bay of Concarneau to enjoy the water.

What to buy:

You can pick up cute marine-style clothing here. Heavy-duty but stylish raincoats and anything with stripes are good bets. Shop around for the best prices.

If you are looking for another stop in Brittany, read about spending a perfect day in St. Malo. Looking for another quaint region of France? Try Dordogne in southwest France.

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