Brittany, France’s Emerald Coast Is the European Hidden Gem You’ve Been Looking For

Brittany, France’s Emerald Coast Is the European Hidden Gem You’ve Been Looking For

Don’t believe the myth that Brittany, France, is perpetually gray: While the northwestern region of France has its fair share of rainfall, sunshine is also abundant on its Emerald Coast—especially outside of winter months. And with historic towns, jagged coastlines, and white-sand beaches, it’s no wonder the storybook landscape has been a favorite of British vacationers from across the channel since the 19th century: Perhaps they started the rumor to keep the place to themselves.

The sea looms large around Brittany, a peninsula bounded by water on three sides. It is, after all, the birthplace of the marinière, the classic and iconic French striped shirt originally donned by Breton sailors. There’s no shortage of water activities here: from surfing, snorkeling, and kite surfing to boating and paddle-boarding. And on terra firma, year-round, travelers have easy access to tennis, golf, hiking, and cycling. The beauty of Brittany compels you to slow down to really experience it.

The region’s unique cuisine is also an experience unto itself: You’ll find buckwheat crepes or galettes topped with bright, farm-fresh eggs, edges crisped to perfection, and dishes accentuated by umami-packed seaweed; fresh fish and briny oysters plucked from the coastline; and rustic and refined pastries baked with rich Breton butter. Home to Michelin-starred restaurants, family-owned creperies, BYOB oyster markets, and more, Brittany is an ideal destination for those with big appetites for fresh coastal cuisine.

For some relaxation, there are plenty of accommodations to choose from, whether you fancy a cozy, family-owned maison d’hote (which have five rooms or less, by law) or a scene-y seaside resort offering tasting menus and craft cocktail bars. More recently, passionate hoteliers have breathed new life into some of the most picturesque, historic properties to make the uncrowded region a more compelling destination than ever.

Recently, the Brittany Tourism Office shared that tourism has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. According to local business owners, word about this magical region is slowly spreading and each year they’re seeing more international visitors, including many more Americans. Take that as your sign to go now, before the secret is truly out (just be sure to tell your friends about your “terrible” vacation to “rainy” Brittany). Here are the best things to do in Brittany, France, 

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Fresh fish at Oyster Club, a nautical-themed nook in Dinard for oysters, octopus, prawns, and natural wine

Oyster Club

The minimalist interior of Oyster Club

Oyster Club

Where to eat in Brittany, France

While Brittany’s culinary scene is home to its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants (44 total, as of the 2022 guide edition), most establishments are casual spots where you’ll find some of the region’s most quintessential food experiences. There are countless mom-and-pop créperies to choose from, but at Breizh Cafe (which has multiple locations), you’ll find elegant takes on Brittany’s traditional buckwheat savory crepe, with combinations like smoked salmon, fresh goat cheese, and chive cream; or “white” ham, Comte cheese and churned Maison Bordier butter. At La Ferme Breizh Cafe in Saint-Coulumb, the famed restaurant grows buckwheat or sarasin for its flour and apples for its house cider. According to founder Bertrand Larcher, few creperies use Breton buckwheat. His goal for this project was to promote local agriculture. During the summer months, they welcome travelers to visit the farm and taste their products (like the classic sausage galette) at the source, in the fresh air, steps from the Guesclin beach.

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