Seven treasures not to be missed in Quimper

Seven treasures not to be missed in Quimper

Just 20 minutes’ drive from Manoir du Hilguy, Quimper is a fantastic choice for a day trip. It’s the oldest city in Brittany, originally founded by the Romans, and is full of the history and personality of the region. The city's pottery industry gave it a dramatic boost in the 17th Century and today it is still a hive of activity, bursting with life and atmosphere.

You’re sure to find more than enough to keep you busy during a day in this fascinating city, from charming creperies to architectural gems. However, if you’re looking for a few ideas, we’ve put together a list of seven Quimper highlights that you won’t want to miss.

Quimper Cathedral

Often called the finest gothic construction in Brittany, Quimper Cathedral is a must-see during any visit to the city. Construction on the Cathedral started in the 12th Century, with the spires finally completing the building in 1856. This makes it the oldest Gothic structure in lower Brittany. The Cathedral was the site of a devastating fire in 1620, when the locals claimed to have seen a green devil dancing in the flames of the burning bell tower.

There are plenty of beautiful historical gems to pick out as you explore the building. Marvel at the colours of the stained-glass windows in the choir, or admire the statue of the mythic King Gradlon riding his horse between the spires. Quimper Cathedral is also unusual in that the north side of the nave curves inward. This was done to avoid an area of swampy ground during construction, and left the building with its unique shape.

Old Quimper

Quimper’s medieval quarter is completely pedestrianised. This, along with the charming old houses and artisan shops, makes it a truly delightful place to explore. Many of the houses are half-timbered, with a granite lower floor and corbelled upper storeys overhanging the street, all painted a different shade to stunning effect. 

The streets and squares of the medieval quarter are well-worth a special visit. Many are named for the historic trades of their residents – the lovely square of Place au Buerre was named for the butter churners, while Rue Kéréon is dedicated to the shoemakers who once lived there. If you find yourself in need of refuelling after a few hours exploring, Place Saint-Corentin, located in the shadow of the cathedral, is great for a drink on a summer’s afternoon or evening.

Mont Frugy

If you travel to the left bank of the Odet river, you’ll find a small 70-metre hill that climbs sharply through six hectares of beech forest. Head for the top and you’ll be rewarded with some great views over the city, including the uneven rooftops of the old town. It is said that during the French Revolution, Quimper was briefly renamed “Montagne sur Odet” because of this small vantage point.

However, the woodland covering the Mont is actually younger than it appears. In 1987, a hurricane hit Western Europe and left the hill completely bare, but it was replanted and has since thrived, turning it into a pleasant place to take a stroll. This is especially true during the summer months, when the Mont offers a welcome shady area full of lush, leafy trees and foliage, 

Festival de Cornouaille

For five days in July, Quimper takes a step back in time with the Festival de Cornouaille, one of the biggest cultural events in Brittany. The festival is a famous celebration of the diversity of Breton culture, having run for nearly ninety years with no hint of tiring. Full of colour, life and music, it's a fantastic experience if you’re lucky enough to visit.

The festival brings the atmospheric medieval quarter alive with musicians, street entertainers and even the odd bout of spontaneous dancing! There’s also a rich calendar of cultural events, including a bagpipe competition, concerts and dancing workshops. Not to be missed is the big parade of Breton folk costumes and the crowning of the Queen of the Festival.

Manoir du Kinkiz

Breton cider is famous, so if you’re a fan of the tipple and willing the make the short 5km journey southeast of Quimper, then the Manoir du Kinkiz is a must-see. This authentic cider press is set among 30 hectares of orchards, where 21 varieties of apples are grown. During the tour, visitors learn how Cournouaille AOC cider is pressed, aged in oak barrels and bottled. You will have the opportunity to taste the famous brew, as well as Lambig (apple brandy aged up to 25 years) and pommeau, a Breton drink made with a blend of apple juice and Lambig. Children are also welcome, and will be treated to fresh apple juice.

Jardin de la Retraite

You’ll find Jardin de la Retraite beside Quimper’s eastern ramparts. The subtropical garden harks back to the 16th Century voyagers, who returned from their journeys with plant species completely new to the country. They quickly discovered that the Breton climate meant that almost all these plants were able to thrive, and so the area became known for acclimatising exotic species.

As you wander through the garden, you could be forgiven for forgetting you’re in Brittany at all. There’s so much to discover in this oasis of colour and texture, from camellias and rhododendrons to yuccas and aloes. The garden is separated into four sections, including a tropical garden, a grove of palm trees, a dry garden and more… there’s even a horse chestnut tree which is over 150 years old.

Musée de la Faïence

It was the pottery industry which caused Quimper’s economic boom in the 17th Century, and it’s still known for its creations centuries later. Quimper’s pottery museum is a great stop to learn about the city’s relationship with this beautiful artform. The museum has 500 pieces on show at any one time. Full of beautiful compositions, from historic scenes to abstract drawings, this compact museum is well worth exploring for an hour or two.

With all of this and more on offer within this beautiful, historical city, you’ll find it easy to fill a day drinking in Quimper's sights and atmosphere. However, once you’re done, Manoir du Hilguy is the perfect place to retreat and take the weight off your feet.

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