With its winding medieval streets, colourful timber-framed houses and handsome stone buildings, the old Breton capital Vannes (or Gwened in Breton) has bags of character, great shopping and lots of photogenic buildings.

Colourful timber-framed shop in Vannes

Originally named Darioritum, the charming market town, which sits at the mouth of the rivers Marle and Vincin, has a long history. It was founded by the Romans and became the capital of Brittany in the Middle Ages. Today, it’s the capital of the Morbihan region.

The town’s medieval centre is surrounded by imposing walls, which are studded with towers and gates, and while some stretches no longer exist, around two-thirds of the ancient walls are still standing.

Vannes marina

Parking near the marina (above), we entered Vannes’s medieval centre through a striking stone archway at the top of the grand, café-lined Place Gambetta (below).

As we strolled into the town, we realised it was market day as the streets were filled with stalls selling everything from clothes to jewellery, baskets, sausages and even mattresses.

Stone archway in the Place Gambetta in Vannes

We had a great time ambling around the warren of streets, browsing in the market, admiring the characterful houses, and window shopping in the many chic (and expensive!) clothes and furniture shops.

Cathedrale St-Pierre in Vannes

The largest and most notable building in Vannes is the Cathédrale St-Pierre (above and below), which is nestled in the centre of the medieval quarter.

The grey stone cathedral is fairly plain and simple, although it boasts a rich Flemish altarpiece, pretty blue and purple stained glass windows, and an ornate 16th century doorway.

The cathedral is also home to the tomb of St Vincent Ferrer, a Spanish monk who became Vannes’s patron saint.

Cathedrale St-Pierre in Vannes

As we strolled through the streets, we stopped at the new indoor market, which is filled with food stalls, to buy something for dinner, and admired a couple of the old medieval gates – the Porte Prison and the Porte St-Jean.

The pleasure gardens in Vannes

Towards the end of our visit, we made our way up onto the ramparts atop the town walls. While most of the ramparts are closed, you can walk along a few small sections. The stretch we walked across boasted superb views over the perfectly maintained flower gardens below (above).

The centre of Vannes isn’t massive, so it didn’t take long to meander through the maze of streets, and by lunchtime, we’d seen all there was to see. But I enjoyed the morning we spent there, it’s a lovely town and one I’d happily go back to.

4 thoughts on “Vannes

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    1. I love the timber-framed houses, too. They’re fabulous. The only downside to Vannes is the medieval streets are so narrow, it’s quite difficult to photograph the buildings and capture just how charming they are in person.

      Liked by 1 person

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