14. Vannes

 Vannes is located at marker 14 on the map of Brittany below.

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Vannes is known as Gwened in Breton. It is a cobbled city that boasts a quirky arts scene and spectacularly well-preserved ancient buildings which make for a pleasant riverside stay. The historic town is also the birthplace of French New Wave film director Alain Resnais.  

The town was officially founded by the Romans (Julius Caesar), almost 2000 years ago. However, Vannes existed as a city even before that, as it was once known as Veneti- a Gaulish Tribe capital. After being a Roman city in 1 century BC, Vannes became a Breton centre in 9 century BC. It continued acting as an important Breton capital until Brittany was united with France in 1532.

Vannes is located at the mouth of the Vannes River. Its old town sits in the centre, with the city’s train station up north [rue de la Gare]. Local buses from the Infobus kiosk [place de la République] connect to the station and around town.

BRITTANY MORBIHAN VannesThe city’s old town takes you on a history lesson, as the entire area is filled with half-timbered/stone buildings and medieval city gates. Its narrow alleys crawl out of Cathédrale St-Pierre [Pl. St-Pierre F], which is a 13th century Gothic building that stands as the old town’s centre. The construction of this monumental cathedral spanned over seven centuries, into its remodelling years in the 19th century. Built mostly out of granite, it is a grand structure that combines the various style evolutions of the Gothic branch of architecture. It also houses two bishops’ tombs that date back to the 17th century.

Nearby, is the Musée la Cohue [9 Place Saint-Pierre,   +33 297473586   www.mairie-vannes.fr/culture/musees/46/index.html  ad/ch 6/4 (combined tickets for both museums)] - housed in Château Gaillard,
 a 14th century building that used to be everything from a market to a parliament building. Today, it is used as a fine arts museum that has a sizeable 19th century sculpture and engraving collection. Directly south of this lies another town museum- the Musée d’Historie et d’Archéologie [2 Rue Noé,   +33 297016300 ]. This history and archaeology museum sits in a building befitting of its function- the Château Gaillard (a 15th century castle that was once a parliament house). The museum displays various artefacts that date back to the Roman and Greek periods. It also houses information regarding the surrounding regions’ famous megaliths.

As you head on further down, you will come across the ramparts. These old fortifications present visitors with views of the Vieux Lavoirs (Old Laundry houses) [R. Francis-Decker F.] which were built on the Marle Stream banks in the 19th century. Their long roofs are an iconic sight of city.

Vannes is not all history and architecture. If you visit the city between July and August, you will be able to inject some fun into your itinerary with the annual Festival de Jazz [http://en.mairie-vannes.fr] that takes place between late July and early August, featuring both local and international jazz acts. Also worth watching out for, is the Fétes d’Arvor [http://en.mairie-vannes.fr] which is a 3-day celebration of the Breton culture, It includes, street parades, traditional Breton music and food and of course, Fireworks!  This celebration is held in honour of Vannes’s status as the old capital of the Duchy of Brittany.


VANNES:   1.  Tourist Office  2. Train station  3. Marina  4. Cathédrale St-Pierre  5.  Château Gaillard (Musée la Cohue & Musée d’Historie et d’Archéologie)  6.  Vieux Lavoirs

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