In Finistère, not far from the westernmost point of Brittany, Quimper is a city rich in history, full of this unique regional character.
The old town has medieval timber-framed houses with typical Breton granite bottoms and a crepe tempting you every few steps.
The 13th-century cathedral is known as the most beautiful Gothic building in Brittany, while the Locmaria district is home to Quimper’s famous faience production since 1690. Come in July for the Festival de Cornouaille, with traditional costumes, lots of dancing and bagpipe music.
Indulge in sea-fresh seafood and delicious cider, native to the historic Cornoyère department.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Quimper:
1. Quimper Cathedral
The best cathedrals are usually somewhat irregular, and Quimper certainly falls into this category.
This magnificent building is unique because the north side of the nave curves slightly inward in the middle; this was done to avoid a marshland during construction in the 13th century.
Most agree that this is the greatest Gothic building in Brittany, and many things you will remember are the magnificent stained windows in the choir, added between 1408 and 1415. Outside, lift your eyes and pick out a 19th-century statue of the semi-mythical King Gladron, riding alone among the wondrous spires.
2. Museum of Fine Arts
Most of what greets you at the Museum of Fine Arts in Quimper belongs to one person, Jean-Marie de Silguy, who in 1864 donated over 1,000 works on condition that the city build A museum was built to display them.
The emphasis on French school paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries is the likes of Lubin Baugin, Carl van Loo, Fragonard and Pierre Bignard.
But Silguy also has some Dutch and Flemish art, created by such masters as Rubens, Breughel the Younger and Jacob Jordaens.
There is a room for Max Jacob, a 20th-century Quimper native, a writer and artist who moved in the same circle as Jean Cocteau and Picasso, some of these artists as well as his own.
3. Musée de la Faïence
For many, “Quimper” means ceramics: Faïence pottery has been produced since the late 17th century in the Loc María district, southwest of the centre of Quimper.
These plates, jars, bowls and vases are hand drawn and often feature a rustic, unadorned design.
The typical image is the Little Breton, a man in 17th-century regional clothing.
Spread over two floors and with more than 2,500 faience pieces, this museum in Lokmaria offers you the best summary of Quimper’s pottery industry.
You’ll learn about time-honored manufacturing techniques and see how styles have evolved since the early 1700s.
4. Museum of the Province of Brittany
Housed in the Bishop’s Palace, where the Bishops of Cornouaille lived from the 1500s to the 1800s, the Museum of the Province of Brittany is a fascinating journey through the rich heritage and culture of Quimper and Finistère.
There’s archeology, stained glass, traditional clothing, ceramics, paintings, furniture, and that’s just the beginning.
Check out the local curious box beds (lit-clos), which sit in their own wooden closets and close to keep warm in winter.
There are also Bronze and Iron Age treasures, polychrome medieval statues, Quimper pottery, and the building has a 1507 Tour de France with a beautiful spiral staircase.
5. Odette River
Most people arriving in Quimper by car park south of the Odette River and cross it into the old town.
There are many intersections directly below the cathedral, most of which are pedestrian-only.
These are lovely too, decorated with flower boxes and filled with bright geraniums along the way, while the river banks in summer are full of lush foliage.
You can also take the Veedettes de l’Odet boat for a 90-minute downstream cruise: best in spring, when the banks south of Quimper are blooming with wild purple rhododendrons and the lush vegetation provides shelter for egrets and egrets . heron.
6. Old Quimper
The sweet medieval quarter of Quimper, near the Odet River to the south and the Steir River to the west, is completely pedestrian.
It’s also good because you probably don’t want to leave until you walk past every old house and break into every artisan store.
The streets and squares even keep the names of their time-honored industries: Place au Buerre is home to the butter mixer, while the main road, Rue Kéréon, takes its name from the shoe company that was once located there.
Many of the houses are half-timbered, with granite lower floors and vaulted upper floors overhanging the street.
7. Mount Frugie
A steep climb from the left bank of the Odette is a 70-meter hill that has always been a prominent part of the cityscape.
During the Revolution, Quimper was even known simply as “Montagne sur Odet” because of the hill.
For us, it was a great way to get the calves working for a few minutes, walking along six hectares of cool beech forest to the top of the hill, where you can overlook Quimper’s medieval quarter.
The hurricane that swept through much of Western Europe in October 1987 left the mountain completely bald, but Frugy was replanted shortly after, and now you hardly know the difference.
After your trip to Quimper, you can also take the GR 38 walkway up the Odet.
You’ll enter one of the most amazing natural landscapes in the region, right on the northeastern outskirts of the city.
Within 5 km there is a steep valley with a slope of 45° and the banks are covered with greenery of mossy rocks, ferns and beech trees.
There are huge granite boulders in the river bed that allow you to jump on the water.
9. Cornoyer Festival
For five days each year in late July, Quimper commemorates its Breton heritage in the appropriate atmosphere of the medieval quarter.
There are spontaneous dances, street entertainment and musicians, as well as a range of organised cultural events.
There are many important things to see during the event, such as a large procession in Breton national costumes, a bagpipe music competition, a concert in the Bishop’s Garden next to the cathedral, dance workshops you can attend and the Queen’s annual coronation festival of ceremonies.
10. Ginkiz Manor
If you’ve fallen in love with Brittany cider in Quimper, you’ll want to visit the authentic cider presses located 5 km southeast of the city.
The Manoir du Kinkiz covers 30 hectares with 21 amazing varieties of apples.
You’ll get an eloquent explanation of how Cournouaille AOC cider is pressed, aged in oak barrels and bottled, and most importantly, you can taste their ciders Lambig (25-year-old apple brandy) and pommeau (a Breton) mixed with apple juice and lambig.
Children are also welcome, and they will enjoy freshly squeezed apple juice at the tasting session.
11. Jardin de la Retraite
You’d be forgiven for wondering if you’re still in Quimper when you step into this wondrous garden by the city’s eastern ramparts.
This is a subtropical garden that reminds us of the 16th century navigators who returned to America from expeditions with plant species never seen before.
They found that Brittany’s climate allows almost anything to grow, making Brittany an acclimatization area for exotic species.
There are hydrangeas, various palms, camellias and rhododendrons, and a Mexican desert garden with yucca, agave and aloe vera in pink and white gravel beds.
It’s easy to get from Quimper to Locronan, one of France’s “most beautiful villages”, just a few kilometers to the north.
The beauty of Locronon comes from its sense of unity, with 17th and 18th century granite houses and cottages lining the streets, dating back to when the town was a center for the cannabis trade, providing rigging and sails for the French, Spanish and British navies.
Rocknan Church has the tomb of St. John.
Ronan, an Irish hermit who helped spread Christianity to Brittany in the 6th century.
If you want to learn about Brittany’s maritime heritage, look no further than the town of Dournanez, 20 km northwest of Quimper.
There are four fishing harbours with lively quayside and lovely fishermen’s huts overlooking them.
Douarnanez is the center of the French sardine industry, and signs of that status still exist in the old cannery.
The port museum is fantastic, it will show you the traditional ships of Brittany and introduce you to the people who drive them.
The museum is partly in the quayside, then five boats moored at the mouth of the Pouldavid River, and the kids will love it.
14. Torch Point
To feel the ocean air and experience the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, drive 30 kilometers southeast to this bare promontory.
The sand on the edge of the dunes has a pristine aesthetic, although the currents are a little too strong for bathing.
Instead, ocean rollers are reserved for seasoned surfers, and thanks to the constant breeze, the Windsurfing World Championships take place here every October.
You can walk to the rocky headland, where dolmens mark Neolithic burial sites and where large Nazi “blockhaus” were installed during the war.
Another cornerstone of Brittany, and Finistère’s in particular, is the crepe, to the point of almost being a stereotype.
If you want to be really authentic, you should try galette, a delicious alternative to adding buckwheat flour to the batter.
Serve one of these with salted butter, eggs or cheese and ham.
But it’s the ocean that most influences Finistere cuisine, and when your seafood platter comes up, you’ll be surprised how high the piles of langoustine, mussels, clams, clams and the freshest fish are.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Quimper, France
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