Things to Do in Vannes: 3-Day Itinerary

Vannes is a beautiful city in western France’s Brittany region. It is located on the Gulf of Morbihan at the confluence of the Marle and Vincin Rivers. The city has a long history dating back to Roman times but is famed for its well-preserved medieval walls, its charming old town and its large, gothic Cathedral.

There are lots of incredible things to do in Vannes from wandering the quaint cobbled streets to exploring the picturesque harbour, visiting museums, relaxing in verdant parks, or spending time at the nearby beaches.

Vannes is also perfectly situated for exploring some of Brittany’s most beautiful towns and villages such as nearby Auray and Rochefort-en-Terre. If you’re looking to escape into pristine nature, there are also beautiful beaches, nature reserves and historical monuments to explore.

Day 1

Morning: Vannes Old Town

Start your three-day Vannes itinerary by exploring the medieval old town which is packed with fun things to see and do. Marvel at the colourful half-timber houses that line the cobbled streets, walk through pleasant gardens and stop for a cup of coffee and something sweet in one of the many streetside cafes and patisseries.

Cathedral Saint-Pierre

One of the most striking landmarks in Vannes is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Vannes (Cathedral of Saint Peter). This imposing Gothic cathedral was constructed between the 15th and 19th centuries, but the site itself dates back to the early 10th Century. The Cathedral is free to enter and is well worth a look around for its impressive architecture and brightly-coloured stained glass windows.

Place Henri IV

This small square just steps from the Cathedral showcases the best example of the city’s gorgeous half-timber houses which date back hundreds of years. These historic buildings are painted in soothing pastel colours and feature wooden timber beams, some with ornate carvings and details. The square is packed full of cafes and restaurants and makes a great place for a pit stop on your city tour.

La Cohue - Visit the Museum of Fine Arts

Continue along Place Saint-Pierre to the Museum of Fine Arts which is housed in an old medieval hall. Inside you’ll find works by French artists such as Christ on the Cross by Eugene Delacroix, as well as more contemporary works showcasing the cream of the crop of France’s art world.

Vannes et sa Femme

One of the quirkier attractions in the old town is the small Vannes et sa Femme (Vannes and his Wife) sculpture adorning the corner of an old, timber-beamed house. This 16th-century granite statue of two cheerful, chubby faces is one of the most popular attractions in the city, and definitely a good place for an Insta-worthy photo or two.

Chateau Gaillard

Historic Chateau Gaillard is an old hotel that dates back to 1410. It was once the office of French cardinal Jean de Malestroit and now serves as an archaeology museum and gallery charting the city’s history. If you want to learn about the fascinating history of Vannes, this is a great place to start.

Day 1 - Morning Vannes Tour Map

Afternoon: Town Ramparts

Another of the top tourist attractions in Vannes is the medieval wall that surrounds the old town. This defensive rampart was first built by the Romans in the 3rd Century and has been extended many times throughout its history. Walk along the impressive walls and explore the buttresses, gates and watchtowers as you take in the stunning views of the city’s medieval architecture.

Rampart Gardens

Adjacent to the city walls lies the charming Rampart Gardens with its colourful flowerbeds, manicured lawns and the Marle River running right through the centre. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the old town’s compact, medieval streets, this is the place to go. The view from the gardens out across the city rooftops is one of the best in the city, making this one of Vannes’ most unmissable attractions.

Château de l’Hermine

The first Chateau de l’Hermine was constructed in the late 14th Century on the orders of the Duke of Brittany who wanted a residence in the city. The current castle was built in 1798 after the original was torn down during the reign of Louis XIV. The chateau has a stunning location set within the city ramparts and backs onto the Rampart Gardens.

Porte Saint Vincent

Exit the old town through the towering Porte Saint Vincent gate which dates back to the 17th Century and forms part of the ancient city ramparts. This was the traditional entrance to the city where traders and fishermen would come from the nearby port to sell their wares and is a must-see on any trip to the city.

Day 1 - Afternoon Vannes Tour Map

Day 2

Morning: Port de Vannes

On the second day of your 3-day Vannes itinerary start at Place Gambetta where you’ll have stunning views of the Port de Vannes harbour and the surrounding townhouses. This is the perfect place for a morning stroll as you take in the sailboats and old ships that represent the city’s nautical heritage.

Esplanade du Port de Plaisance

Stroll along the esplanade as you watch boats bobbing on the water and be sure to pop into the tourism bureau on the west bank of the marina if you want to pick up a city map and find out more about the Gulf of Morbihan.

Cross the Pont de Kerino Bridge

It’s a pleasant two-kilometre walk along the esplanade to the Pont de Kerino. This drawbridge which crosses the harbour opens to allow vessels to pass through out into the Gulf of Morbihan. When the bridge is down, it allows both vehicles and pedestrians to cross from one side of the harbour to the other and affords wonderful views of the bay.

Calvaire de Kérino

The Calvaire de Kerino is a 6.25-metre granite statue that marks the entrance to the port of Vannes, 150 metres from the Kerino Bridge. The statue, which was erected in 1913, was designed by Yves Hernot and depicts a large crucifix with statues of Saint Pattern and Saint Vincent Ferrier adorning either side of the cross.

Day 2 - Morning Vannes Tour Map

Afternoon: Cruise on the Gulf of Morbihan

In the afternoon take one of the many cruises on offer around the Bay of Morbihan, considered one of the most beautiful in the world thanks to its stunning views of the gulf and its 42 islands. There is also a year-round bus-boat service connecting Vannes, Sene and the island of Arz.

Larmor-Gwened Rosvellec

Finish your second day with a gorgeous sunset from the Larmor-Gwened Rosvellec nature reserve to the southeast of the city. There are around 200 species of bird that visit the Gulf of Morbihan each year, so keep your eyes out for waders, egrets and spoonbills amongst many others.

Day 2 - Afternoon Vannes Tour Map

Day 3

Morning: Visit the Botanical Garden

Take bus Line 3 from Republique Square to Morbihan Square (about 20 minutes) and make your way to the Maison de la Nature botanical gardens. Here you can discover lots of interesting tropical plants and birdlife in relaxed surroundings. This protected area features a range of different gardens representing plant life from around the globe and includes several ponds, pools and water features.

Walk Along Promenade Paul Chapel

From the botanical gardens, it’s a 5-minute walk onto Promenade Paul Chapel, which is a hiking path and walkway at the southern tip of the Vannes peninsula with gorgeous views out across the bay. From the Promenade, it’s a short walk onto Conleau Island which is packed with fun and interesting things to do including swimming, nature walks and more.

Day 3 - Morning Vannes Tour Map

Afternoon: Hit the Beach at Plage de Conleau

Make your way onto the island from the Promenade for a refreshing dip at the Plage de Conleau beach. This is the closest beach to the city centre and a great spot for families as there are protected swimming areas with shallow water such as the Piscine Naturelle De Conleau. There are also plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants with everything you need for the perfect day out.

Day 3 - Afternoon Vannes Tour Map

Best Day Trips from Vannes

Vannes has an enviable location a stone’s throw from the calm waters of the Gulf of Morbihan and other quaint towns and villages nearby. There are lots of wonderful day trips from quaint coastal villages to amusement parks, nature reserves and picturesque, historic chateaus.

  • Chateau de Tredion: Chateau deTredion is located 30 km north of Vannes and is one of the most impressive castles in Brittany thanks to its magnificent architecture set in stunning ground of forests and lakes. The chateau was first constructed in 1350 for the Dukes of Brittany, but the castle as you see it today dates to the early 19th Century.

  • Auray & Port St Goustan: The picture-postcard fishing town of Auray is just a 15-minute drive from Vannes and well worth a visit. It’s almost like a miniature version of Vannes with its cobbled streets, colourful half-timbered houses, stone bridges and charming harbour. Allow at least half a day to explore Auray.

  • Rochefort-en-Terre: 40 km east of Vannes lies the beautiful small town of Rochefort-en-Terre. It has been designated as one of the Petites Cités de Caractère and one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France and makes a perfect day trip from Vannes. Explore the medieval buildings, including the chateau, wander along cobbled streets and explore the boutique shops and eateries on offer in the town.

  • Parc de Perhistoire de Bretagne: Just a few kilometres from Rochefort-en-Terre is the Parc de Prehistoire de Bretagne where you can step back in time and walk amongst dinosaurs. This makes an excellent day trip from Vannes for all the family and there’s plenty to see and do on-site from interactive displays to quaint gardens, a boating lake and a cafe/restaurant.

  • Reserve Naturelle des Marais de Sene: The stunning nature reserve of the Sene Peninsula is just 7 km southwest of Vannes and is a great place to escape the city for a little slice of tranquillity. There are two walking trails covering 4 km, 2 hides for bird watching, and lots of events throughout the year from nature workshops to exhibitions and more.

Other Things to Do in Vannes

  • Eglise Saint-Patern de Vannes: This beautiful baroque church dates to the early 18th Century and is located a few minutes walk from the cathedral. The original church was destroyed during the Norman invasion of Brittany but was rebuilt in 1727, with the large granite spire being completed almost 100 years later.

  • Taste Fresh Oysters at an Oyster Farm: The Gulf of Morbihan is famed for its oysters and there are lots of oyster farms around Vannes where you can taste this sumptuous treat and see how they are cultivated. Belle d’Ilur, which is just a 5-minute drive from the city, is open from February to December each year and here you can sup oysters on their beautiful balcony overlooking the bay and islands. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Vannes for seafood lovers!

Top Things to Do With Kids in Vannes

Vannes is an excellent destination for families thanks to the many beaches a short drive or bus ride from the city centre. There are also plenty of wonderful attractions in and around the city for rainy days from interesting museums to wildlife parks and entertainment centres like the Speed Park.

  • Discover the beaches of the Gulf of Morbihan: Vannes is perfectly situated for a day at the beach and there are a few options including Plage de Conleau, Plage de Penboc’h and Beach Brouhel amongst others. The Gulf offers long sandy beaches and sweeping bays, perfect for sunbathing, swimming and other watersports such as paddleboarding. Many of the beaches are supervised in the summer months, making them a great option for families.

  • Visit the Butterfly Garden: One of the best things to do in Vannes with kids is to visit the Butterfly Garden and discover the multitude of brightly coloured butterflies from around the world that are housed here. Inside the tropical-style greenhouses, you’ll find species from as far as South America, Asia, and Africa.

  • Speed Park: The Speed Park on the outskirts of the city is an excellent place for kids on a rainy day. The complex includes a bowling alley, indoor go-karting, laser tag and many more fun activities for all ages. There’s also a bar and restaurant onsite so you can sit back and relax while the kids enjoy the entertainment on offer.

Where to Eat and Drink in Vannes

Vannes is a fantastic destination for foodies and the perfect place to sample the local Breton cuisine. Given the city’s location on the Gulf, fresh seafood is never far from the menu, however there are restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets in and around the city.

  • Markets: The Market of Vannes is located on Place des Lice between the Catehdral and harbour and is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm. This is a great place to pick up fresh produce for a picnic at the beach, or to shop for local artisan products from meats and cheeses to deserts, preserves and more.

  • Food Tours: One of the best ways to experience the local cuisine is to take a local food tour. The Breizhtronomie food tour includes five food stops where you can sample local oysters, cheese and ciders among other tasty treats.

Traditional Breton/French Restaurants

  • Le Cardinal: This charming restaurant has an enviable location with a terrace overlooking the Cathedral and is located within one of the city’s charming half-timbered houses. You’ll find a menu of seafood, cured meats, and fresh, local produce at very reasonable prices.

  • La P'tite Souris Restaurant: This excellent restaurant is located next to the harbour with fresh seafood a speciality, however, there are plenty of other options on the menu offering a taste of Brittany. Booking is advisable as the place can get quite busy.

  • La Brasserie Bleue Restaurant: This chic brasserie in the south of the city specialises in seafood and wines from the Loir Valley. The menu has a great selection of local dishes and desserts and is an excellent choice for a special evening.

  • Creperie Saint-Guenhael: No trip to France is complete without enjoying a crepe, so if you’re looking for a light bite or a great breakfast spot, this central Creperie is one of the best in the city. Choose from a menu of sweet and savoury pancakes, fresh coffee and a great selection of wines.

  • L'Annexe: L’Annexe is a cosy restaurant in the city centre with indoor and outdoor seating, so you can dine al-fresco on a menu of seasonally sourced dishes highlighting the flavours of Brittany.

  • Agora: This stylish bistro is tucked away in a quiet street just north of the city centre and serves up a fine selection of classic Breton and French dishes in relaxed surroundings.

Fine Dining Restaurants

  • La Tête en l'air: This Michelin-starred restaurant in the heart of the city just behind the Cathedral focuses on creative dishes utilising local produce to combine subtle flavour combinations. Open Wednesday to Saturday.

  • Le Sous-Sol: This rustic, basement eatery in the city centre has an ever-changing menu full of creative flare and is also recommended in the Michelin guide thanks to its good quality and good value cooking.

Vannes Racecourses

If you fancy a day at the races, Vannes has its own racecourses where you can catch the day’s action and have a flutter. There was a second racecourse (Cano’s) which is temporarily closed.

  • Hippodrome de Vannes: The Hippodrome de Vannes is located a couple of miles southeast of the city and has a 1,840-metre grass track. There’s an onsite car park, a restaurant and a bar serving meals and refreshments.

Vannes Golf Courses

Looking to put your stuff on the green? Vannes has a golf course a short drive from the city, as well as courses dotted around the Gulf of Morbihan a little farther afield.

  • Golf de Vannes Atlantheix: The environmentally sound Golf de Vannes Atlantheix is open to players of all ages and abilities. The 9-hole course is open year-round, and there are also 30 practice stations for aspiring golfers.

Where to Stay in Vannes

Vannes has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets and includes everything from beachside campsites to 5-star luxury hotels, and everything in between. Below you’ll find some of the top picks.

  • Miramar La Cigale Hotel Thalasso & Spa: This 5-star luxury seaside retreat nestled along the stunning coastline of Brittany, France, just a half-hour drive from Vannes. Offering unparalleled relaxation and rejuvenation, guests indulge in world-class spa treatments and exquisite accommodations overlooking the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Kyriad Prestige Vannes Centre-Palais des Arts: This 4-star hotel is just an 8-minute walk from the city centre and has lots of amenities nearby. The air-conditioned rooms are decorated to a modern standard, and there is a buffet breakfast featuring fresh, local produce.

  • Padja Hotel and Spa: If you’re looking to kick back and relax on your stay in Vannes, then the 4-star Padja Hotel and Spa is the perfect choice. The hotel features an onsite spa and wellness centre with a hammam sauna, a heated indoor pool, and a sensory shower.

  • Urban Style Hotel de France: The 3-star Urban Style is a great, budget hotel in the heart of the city a short walk from the Cathedral and just 300 metres from the railway station. The modern rooms are finished with wooden fixtures, and include an en-suite bathroom, flatscreen TV and air conditioning.

  • Maison de la Garenne & Spa: Set within a 19th-century house in the heart of Vannes, just 100 meters from the medieval old town, Maison de la Garenne & Spa is surrounded by charming gardens and provides a spa for guests to enjoy during their stay.

  • Domaine Le Mezo: Nestled amidst serene landscapes, Domaine Le Mezo hotel offers a tranquil retreat for guests seeking relaxation and luxury. Situated just 15 kilometers from Vannes, it provides convenient access to the charming town's cultural attractions and scenic beauty.

  • Château de Locguénolé, a distinguished Relais & Châteaux hotel, offers a picturesque retreat in Kervignac, just roughly 20 kilometers away from the charming town of Vannes. Nestled amidst serene surroundings, guests can indulge in luxurious accommodations and exquisite dining experiences, making for an unforgettable stay in the heart of Brittany, France.

  • Domaine de Rochevilaine: This Relais & Chateaux hotel boasts breathtaking coastal views and exquisite amenities, offering guests an unforgettable retreat. Situated in  Billiers, approximately 30 kilometers away from Vannes, this seaside gem provides a tranquil escape, blending French elegance with serene natural beauty.

  • Hôtel & Spa La Bretesche, a distinguished Relais & Chateaux property, offers a luxurious retreat amidst the tranquil beauty of Brittany, France. Located in Missillac, approximately 40 kilometers from Vannes, this elegant hotel invites guests to indulge in world-class amenities and serene surroundings for a truly memorable experience.

Best Time to Visit Vannes

Given its fantastic location on the Gulf of Morbihan, summer is definitely one of the best times to visit Vannes. With lots of outdoor activities from enjoying a day at the beach, to boat trips, sea safaris and mile upon mile of gorgeous coastline (not to mention the streetside cafes and open-terraced restaurants), this is a great place to be in summer.

The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are also great for visiting with fewer tourists and cheaper prices. The Atlantic coast can take a bit of battering in winter, but there is still plenty to keep you occupied, even out of season.

Vannes Festivals

There are lots of fun events year-round in Vannes, but the summer months host regular regattas where a plethora of sailing boats, tall ships and other vessels flock to the city. There is also an annual medieval festival, an arts festival, a jazz festival and many more activities across the region.

  • Gulf Week or La Semaine du Golfe du Morbihan: Gilf Week is Vannes’ biggest sailing regatta and takes place in May/June every other year (the next one is 26th May to 1st June 2025). Witness over 1,000 boats take to the water in the Gulf of Morbihan and wander around the stalls and workshops on dry land. This is a fantastic day out for the whole family as the whole city comes alive.

  • Arvor Festival: Get a real taste of taste of medieval Vannes at the annual Arvor Festival (next one 2nd to 3rd August 2024). This Breton folk festival sees participants dress up in costume and perform song and dance to celebrate the city’s unique heritage.

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