This traditional 15th-century town appears almost completely untouched by time, yet it holds excitement for visitors of all ages.
Enter Vannes through grand city gates and wander streets of half-timbered houses to a stunning cathedral and engrossing museum. Head to the harbor to watch boats sailing or to the aquarium to see stunning marine life.
Reach the imposing Porte Saint-Vincent Ferrier, the main town gate near the harbor. Look along the high wall built as a shield from attack. Pause to peruse well-kept gardens. Stop at the Place des Lices for the open-air market on Tuesday and Saturday.
Visit the Vannes Cathedral just north. This was built between the 15th and 19th centuries on the site of an ancient Romanesque church. Outside, notice the statue of Saint Vincent Ferrier, the city’s patron saint. His tomb lies within the thick stone walls along with several beautiful chapels.
Step across the road from here and into the Musée de la Cohue, the museum of fine arts. Find a fine collection of work with canvas paintings from the Middle Ages to modern and contemporary pieces.
Take a break at one of the delightful cafés nearby and enjoy a crêpe. Watch local people hurrying between stores of boutique clothing and gaze across the rows of rustic houses that have stood here for hundreds of years.
After lunch, walk to the Port de Vannes at the inlet of the Marle River. Amble along quiet paths past pristine yachts until you reach the point where the water widens into a sheltered bay. Admire tropical fish at the aquarium or visit the Jardin aux Papillons where a glass dome is illuminated with vivid plants and the bright wings of hundreds of butterflies.
Vannes is the capital of Morbihan in northwestern France. Come for the Photo de Mer photography festival in the spring or listen to some smooth music at the jazz festival in mid-summer.