Quimper Guide. Leisure Guides.

 

Quimper is a strong centre of Breton culture, with lively extravaganzas including the Festival de Cornouaille threading the medieval streets with bands and dancers. A striking fusion of old and new mixes heritage and tradition with sophisticated shops and gastronomy.

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Getting around


Quimper’s compact centre is perfect for exploring on foot – even the oldest Locmaria quarter is just a stroll away from the medieval quarter along a tree-shaded riverside promenade. The bus and train stations are only 300 metres from the cathedral, and public transport to the surrounding area can be checked out in advance online. The airport is linked to the city centre by a regular bus service (Line 25), and cars can be hired on arrival. Summer buses link the city with coastal resorts like Benodet. 
 
The cobbled streets at the heart of the city are largely pedestrian zones. Large car parks can be found by the river near the tourist office. Signage to parking areas is good – look out for Théodore Le Hars, a well-priced handily placed multistorey car park on the left bank almost opposite the cathedral. Works in the centre are currently underway to improve the quays and develop the Place de la Résistance to include a pedestrian promenade.
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Getting here

Getting here could not be any easier. We offer many frequent flights from London City Airport and plenty hotel packages. To book flights and hotels please click here.

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Hotels


Unlike its neighbours on the French Riviera, Toulon has a dearth of luxury accommodation. Top of the range is the four-star Holiday Inn Garden Court (1 avenue Rageot de la Touche), which has a swimming pool in its favour. A good three-star choice in the city centre is Hôtel Amirauté (4 rue Adolphe Guiol), set in a 19th-century building with contemporary interior décor, a few minutes’ walk from the train station and harbour. 
 
Two-star Hôtel Bonaparte (16 rue Anatole France), in the Old Town near the naval port, has 22 bright rooms colourfully decorated in Provençal style and once played host to Napoléon, after whom it is now named. Near the airport, the Giens Peninsula and the attractive town of Hyères have a wide variety of accommodation, from campsites to beachside boutique hotels, including the modern Mercure Hyères Centre (19 avenue Ambroise Thomas) in the town centre.
 
To book a hotel click here
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Nightlife


Lovers of Celtic music and good craic should head to Le Ceili pub (4 rue Aristide Briand) where they’ll find the lively atmosphere fuelled by a large range of beers including the best local brews. Another bar with a young scene, sounds and a dance floor is Le Paradise (17 avenue de la Libération).
 
Les Naiades (108 boulevard de Créac’h Gwen) offers a house/techno sound disco from Wednesday to Saturday nights, with a pool and outdoor terrace. Le Majestic nightclub (7 avenue Georges Pompidou) has several rooms to cater for a good age range.
 
Quimper’s cultural centre, the Théâtre de Cornouaille (1 esplanade François Mitterrand), has a programme of plays, concerts and dance from September to June featuring many international artists and spectacles.
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Restaurants


Delicious seafood, crêpes, salted caramel desserts – you can sample the best of Breton cuisine in Quimper, from the highs of Michelin-starred L’Ambroisie (49 rue Elie Fréron), where an unprepossessing exterior belies the culinary delights within, to numerous manifestations of the humble pancake. This Breton staple is raised to an authentic dining experience at traditional Au Vieux Quimper (20 rue Verdelet) and tiny La Krampouzerie (9 rue du Sallé) where they experiment with more adventurous filling options like seaweed or smoked duck.
 
The modern décor and imaginative menu at L’Épée (14 rue du Parc), not to mention a huge cocktail list, attracts a young professional clientele to this riverside brasserie, where you might find artichoke tart followed by salmon en croute. Similarly up to the minute, the excellent Le Cosy (2 rue du Sallé) combines contemporary style with deceptively simple dishes like medallions of monkfish enlivened by a kick of chilli.
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Shopping


Quimper has a good range of individual shops in the historic centre, where modern boutiques are located in ancient buildings. Search the rue Kéréon for clothes and shoes epitomising that distinctive French casual-chic look, or check out the rue du Frout behind the cathedral for eclectic outlets of hats, antiques, books and music.
 
Les Halles (rue Saint-François) is an indoor food market with a riot of colourful produce, from fish and cheese to quality fast-food stalls selling sushi, Moroccan snacks and crêpes. Stock up here for picnic ingredients such as large chunks of savoury tarts from Nelly Le Roy’s stall.
 
For souvenirs, it has to be Quimper’s iconic pottery, either from Henriot’s own shop in the Locmaria district (Place Bérardier), Maison A. Breton La Civette (16 bis rue du Parc) or Art de Cornouaille (12 place Saint-Corentin). Designs of peasants in traditional costumes with strong blue and yellow colouring are worldwide symbols of the city. 
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Top 10 sights


Top 5 sights for first-timers

Cathédrale Saint-Corentin

This glorious example of Gothic art is famous for its crooked nave. The spires and statue of legendary founder of Quimper King Gradlon are 19th-century additions, scaled by a local to fly the French flag as the Germans were driven out in 1944. Inside the cathedral, look out for the statue (and skull) of Santig Du,Quimper’s ‘Little Black Saint’. Closed at lunchtime.

Place Saint-Corentin


Musée Départmental Breton

The superb Musée Départemental Breton has an exquisite selection of items illustrating the history of the Finistère region. The museum is housed in the Bishop’s Palace, an elegant building that was erected next to the cathedral in the 16th century and later restored after a fire.

1 rue du Roi Gradlon
www.museedepartementalbreton.fr


Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper

The city’s art gallery has Breton-themed paintings downstairs, with a room of legendary subjects including the submersion of the mythical town ofYs(the Breton Atlantis) and the bizarre nocturnal washerwomen who lure travellers on the moors to their deaths. The Max Jacob room has a fascinating collection about the Quimper-born artist and his illustrious friends Cocteau and Kit Wood.

40 place Saint-Corentin
www.mbaq.fr 


Musée de la Faïence de Quimper

Potters have worked in the Locmaria area since Celtic times, but the street where the museum is located is named after the man who revived the art here in 1699. Exhibits trace the extraordinary history ofQuimper’s most famous export, with figurines and objects illustrating the preoccupations of Breton artists over the last 300 years.

14 rue Jean-Baptiste Bousquet
www.musee-faience-quimper.com

Le Quartier

Quimper’s showpiece for the contemporary arts scene features both international artists and local grown talent from the nearby arts school. Exhibits are thrown into sharp relief by the pristine white of the four exhibition rooms.

10 esplanade François Mitterand
www.le-quartier.net

Top 5 sights for old hands

Les Macarons de Philomène

This famous shop offers a remarkable range of delicious macarons in all colours of the rainbow. Try very Breton flavours like salted caramel and Plougastel strawberry or more exotic seasonal specials.

13 rue Kéréon
www.macaron-quimper.com

Jardin de la Retraite

This haven of peace off a quiet street in theOldTown, contains three different gardens: a palm court with fountain, a ‘dry’ zone and a tropical section with banana trees. On the edge of the garden is the Tour Nevet, the only (much-restored) remaining tower of the original fortifications ofQuimper.

Rue Elie Fréron

Passerelle Max Jacob

This metalwork footbridge was erected in 1994 for the 50th anniversary of poet and artist Max Jacob’s death. Born inQuimper, the artist became part of the demi-monde ofMontmartre, in the circle of Picasso and Modigliani. Tragically, he died in the German camp atDrancyduring WWII. Look out for Modigliani’s portrait of Jacob etched under the bridge.

Opposite the Ouest-France building

Passage de l’Épée

A curiosity on the riverside Rue du Parc where the famous Hotel de L’Épée once played host to many political figures. Follow the covered passageway right through to see an eclectic collection ofQuimpermemorabilia displayed in glass cases, from lace headdresses and drawings of the medieval city, to photos of the interwar years.

Rue du Parc

Filles de la Mer (Daughters of the Sea)

This monument by important Breton sculptor François Bazin stands near the Pont Firmin towards the station. It dates from 1935 and shows two women in Breton dress gazing out to sea, awaiting the return of their menfolk, a common theme in Breton art.

Rue Jacques Cartier

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Top 5 activities


Boat trip
 
Take a boat trip from Quimper down the Odet, said by Émile Zola to be the most beautiful river in France. The winding route lined with chateaux leads to Benodet where the yachting fraternity love to play, or out into the ocean and the Glénan Islands. Or do it all yourself in a kayak.
 
Helicopter trip
 
From nearby Ergué-Gabéric, Héli Air Cornouaille offers a 30-minute helicopter ride down to the coast and over the Glénan Islands to give you a bird’s-eye introduction to this beautiful corner of Brittany.
 
Cider tasting
 
Visit an award-winning cider farm in an area famed for the quality of this product, or for something completely different, a distillery making whisky from buckwheat. Also try knocking back the fiery local apple brandy lambig in one gulp!
 
Surfing
 
Get amped at one of the hottest surfing spots in Europe. A short trip out to the dramatic Atlantic coast at La Torche will take you to a watersports mecca, site of many international surfing competitions.
 
Walking/cycling
 
An old railway track provides an 18-kilometre link between Quimper and the port of Douarnenez where you can sample the freshest fish in its many restaurants and visit the famous boat museum at Port Rhu with over 200 crafts from around the world.
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Top 5 events


Festival Les Hivernautes

This annual late winter festival celebrates all that’s good in pop rock, metal and electro with performances from local and international artists.
 
Date: March
Venue: Théâtre Max Jacob and other venues in Quimper
 

Fête de la Musique 
 
This programme of outdoor music in various locations around the centre covers a great variety of musical styles. You might find folk songs, children’s choirs, rock music or an organ recital. Most performances are free. 
 
Date: 21 June
Venue: Central locations
 

Les Jeudis de l’Évêché
 
From 9pm every Thursday in summer, enjoy the performance of a bagad (Celtic band) featuring traditional instruments like the biniou (sort of bagpipes) and bombard (wind instrument) and Breton dancing in a very central location.
 
Date: Mid-June to mid-September
Venue: Bishop’s Garden, by the cathedral
 

Festival de Cornouaille 
 
Quimper’s iconic week-long celebration of Celtic culture fills the streets and concert venues with an awesome mix of music and song, costumed Breton dancing and a children’s parade.
 
Date: Late July
Venue: Indoor and outdoor locations in central Quimper
 

Aprèm’Jazz
 
A host of jazz-themed performances take place from autumn to spring in various city centre venues, from concerts to masterclasses and the chance to chat with artists.
 
Date: October to April
Venue: Théâtre de Cornouaille and Le Céili Pub

Written by World Travel Guide

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