Deciding on a vacation destination can be a difficult undertaking, with such a wealth of awe-inspiring destinations throughout the world, picking just one for your next trip abroad could take forever...
With the help of Auto Europe, you can take out the guesswork, and jump into your next vacation to tour Brittany with one of our expertly crafted France road trip itineraries. On this page, you will find information tailored around crafting a memorable Brittany road trip, driving from St. Malo to Rennes.
The entire country of France is world-renowned vacation hot spot, and for good reason: The culinary scene is incredible, the history is rich, and the landscapes are stunning. Instead of heading straight for the capital, why not deviate from the well-traveled road, and explore Brittany, France’s northernmost region, a melting-pot of British and French cultures, forged through a storied past of cultural interactions dating back to Roman times. Nowhere else in France will you find such a stunning magnitude of diverse landmarks, cuisine and history.
Read on to Drive to Discover the adventures that await you in France!
Welcome to day 1 of your journey through Brittany, beginning in the former walled-pirate-fortress of St. Malo, one of the region's most popular travel destinations. St. Malo's largest and most awe-inspiring attraction is, La Ville Intra-Muros - translated, "the Walled City" - an ancient defensive perimeter built in the middle ages as protection from the Britons. Within the walls, beautiful architecture and monuments can be found around every corner, including free public access to walk atop the walls for unparalleled views of the city within, and ocean afar.
St. Malo's northern coast locale makes it a top summer destinations for eager beach-goers, and the towns harbor hosts a number of private and commercial boats, of which some can be rented for a tour around the city in the English Channel waters. If you happen to find yourself in St. Malo for the summer, be sure to check out the Festival des Folklores du Monde (World Folklore Festival), held in the main square featuring dance and drama performances representative of the world's many cultures.
St. Malo, like the rest of Brittany, is home to an exceptionally interesting mix of cultural influence, evident through some of the most unique culinary offerings in all of France - especially when compared to the expected and traditional cuisine the country is known for. St. Malo's restaurant scene is primarily focused on traditional Breton cuisine, including but not limited to: Breton crepes (sweet and savory), Mussels, Oysters, and Kouing Aman - a cake made with butter and sugar, served piping hot, usually with apples added in. St. Malo's historic British influence sees a unique culinary contrast of traditional English fare being served alongside the regions abundant fresh seafood, to create flavors and dishes that can only be found in Brittany.
As a small coastal town, the nightlife scene is fairly tame. Unlike the majority of France, Brittany isn't all that regarded for its wine-making, though despite the regions uncommon and potentially disappointing lack of wine-making propensity, it has created the space for a variety of regional specialties to become prominent. Hard cider, apple brandy, mead, and muscadet (sweet wine) are popular drinks in St. Malo, and pair perfectly with the crepe-based culinary offerings commonly found throughout the city.
Lodging options in St. Malo are numerous, and the city's beach-side locale and sweeping ocean views make it a prime candidate for overnight hotel stays. If you're looking for top-tier hotels in St. Malo with breathtaking views of the water, look no further than Le Nouveau Monde, a 4-star hotel within walking distance of the walled ramparts, scenic beaches and downtown offerings. Amenities include a heated indoor swimming pool, full-service spa, on-site restaurant and bar, and wireless internet service. If you are looking for something a little more reasonably priced, without sacrificing prime location or creature comforts, check out Cartier Hotel, also located in downtown, only a few minute's walk from all the city's incredible attractions.
Depart St. Malo on the D137 heading south, following signs to the E401 expressway towards Dinan. Along this route you will pass numerous scenic vistas and photo-worthy landscapes, as you cruise along the coastline of the English Channel inlet and the quaint villages that line its shores. For those interested in historic architecture, a number of chateau's can be found minutes from the E401 as you approach Dinan. Standouts include the Chateau de la Belliere and Chateau de Dinan.
More Brittany Road Trip Resources: St. Malo
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Despite its relatively small size, Dinan is a mecca of medieval architecture, and its geographically exceptional location, nestled into the hillside overlooking the River Rance, makes it a perfect destination for nature lovers and urban explorers alike. Within Dinan, atop the hillside, a large proportion of the original medieval structures can be found in near-immaculate condition, some of which date back to the 13th century, including sections of the original city walls.
A variety of churches and historically relevant architecture can be found in the area as well, including the flamboyant gothic stylings of St. Malo's Church, the Romanesque designed St. Saviour's Basilica, and the fabled Duchess Anne's Tower. Fitting in theme with Dinan's rich history, the city hosts an annual festival, Féte des Remparts, where the town is transformed and decorated in medieval style and locals dress in period-specific garb, much like a city-wide Renaissance Fair, only medieval.
One of the biggest benefits to visiting quaint village locals like Dinan, is the opportunity to experience local, home-cooked food, in rustic mom-and-pop restaurants that would be difficult to find in a big city. Dinan is absolutely flush with pastoral eateries, and hole-in-the-wall kitchens that you must try. Standouts include, La Mére Pourcel - serving traditional French cuisine with a Brittany twist, set in a 15th century, timber-framed building. Le Cantorbery - specializing in seafood dishes, cooked over a traditional medieval wood fire.
Nightlife options in Dinan are pretty slim, as the club atmosphere found in major cities hasn't fully integrated into the village-feel of Dinan. There is no shortage of small bars and lounges in Dinan, though the environment is notably more relaxed and quiet than that of larger cities.
Now that you've had a full day to explore Dinan's many enchantments, sample the local fare, and bask in the beauty of the natural locale, it's time to find a hotel. As expected, Dinan's quaint feel gives rise to an abundance of Bed and Breakfast options, perfect for rounding out an all-inclusive experience of Brittany's unique culture. If you're dead set on a hotel, Residence MMV Duguesclin comes highly recommended. On-site amenities include an indoor swimming pool, free WiFi, continental breakfast, satellite TV service, and rooms with full kitchenettes.
When departing Dinan, we recommend the road less traveled, leaving east on the D794, connecting with the D137 south, and eventually on the D20 towards Montauban. Along the way, a number of chateaus can be found, most notably the Chateau de Caradeuc just outside Montauban to the east. As you follow this route, you will pass through numerous photo opportunities of scenic landscapes, as well as a variety of small towns with wonderful food offerings for a lunchtime pick-me-up.
Further Travel Resources: Dinan, France
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Though commonly overlooked in favor of larger destinations, Montauban de Bretagne is the perfect getaway for those travelers eager to explore the country's rich history without swaths of tourists milling around. When you arrive in Montauban de Bretagne, be sure to check out the Castle of Montauban de Bretagne - one of Brittany's oldest standing structures, and a pristine example of medieval architecture. Another "must-visit" site of great historic importance is the Chapel Notre Dame de Lannelou, located just outside the city.
For those travelers keen on exploring the natural beauty of the Brittany region, Montauban de Bretagne is home to the Montauban Forest - a 580 hectare nature reserve, navigable via numerous trails and back roads. Spend the day hiking one of the forest trails, and bring picnic supplies to snack on at one of the many breathtaking viewpoints along the path.
Food offerings in Montauban de Bretagne are stylistically similar to those in St. Malo and Dinan - a mixture of hearty British cuisine, north-coast seafood, and traditional French fare. The town's small size isn't all that conducive to large restaurant establishments, though a variety of home-y kitchens populate the area and provide an abundance of intimate dining atmospheres to enjoy. One notable restaurant, as recommended by the Michelin guide (so you knows it's good!) is, Le Relais De La Rance, offering traditional cuisine and seafood such as rabbit terrine, freshly caught fish and savory lobster bisque.
Much like it's Brittany counterparts - the nightlife scene in St. Malo and Dinan is all but non-existent. For travelers looking for fun nightly activities, fear not, as your next stop in Rennes will provide for all your pent up clubbing desires. Wine Bars, after-hours lounges, and Brit-pubs can all be found in Montauban de Bretagne for relaxed, post-dinner hangouts.
Hotel options in Montauban de Bretagne are generally on the quaint/rustic end of the scale, as opposed to the many luxurious/expensive options found elsewhere. Though, what better way is there to fully immerse yourself in the French village culture than by staying at one of the many whimsical B&B's or small-scale hotels that populate the area? Short answer: There isn't. Most hotels in Montaban de Bretagne have in-house restaurants run by familial staff, and offer unparalleled levels of coziness. It's like renting a vacation home equipped with an entire wait staff, talk about convenience!
Leaving Montauban de Bretagne, take the N12 as it connects to the E50 expressway towards Rennes. Numerous back roads stretch the region, providing access to a number of oft-forgotten haunts, chateaus, and scenic vistas, all of which are accessible via the E50. As you approach Rennes, be sure to stop off in Saint Gilles, bordered by a beautiful lagoon that makes for a perfect picnic spot, offering unrivaled views of the region's lush scenery.
Additional Vacation Resources: Montauban de Bretagne
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After the long, 3-day journey through Brittany, from the shores of St. Malo, through the historic hotbeds of Dinan and Montauban de Bretagne, you've finally made it to Rennes. Though often overlooked in travel guides, Rennes is well worth the visit, and one of the best cities to end your multi-day road trip in. A variety of historic attractions call Rennes home, but the most notable is the tranquil grounds of the Thabor - a massive park with a stunning collection of rare flora, featuring over 100 different species of rose, African and European trees, and a variety of domestic and foreign bird species.
Rennes is surprisingly lively for a small city, and every Saturday from 6:00am to 1:30pm a large food market of brasseries, fromageries, and local produce vendors set up shop in the town center. Nothing captures the excitement of the bustling Saturday market and its quintessentially French energy, quite like experiencing it in-person. If you're eager to experience the many intricacies of French culture firsthand, a trip to the Saturday Market in Rennes is a must.
The restaurant scene in Rennes is widely varied, and you shouldn't have any trouble finding a restaurant that caters to your individual culinary interests. Much like St. Malo, Rennes is crazy for crepes, and a veritable cornucopia of culinary crepe creations are available around nearly every corner. Of course, the ever-popular traditional French cuisine is available in Rennes, though the city is also home to a variety of ethnically diverse eateries, offering everything from Turkish kebabs, to Mediterranean gyros. Regardless of where you decide to dine in Rennes, it's almost guaranteed you will enjoy it.
Rennes is famous for its vibrant nightlife, and for good reason, as the city is home to a diverse set of after-hours attractions, from dance clubs and party hotspots, to wine bars and beer tasting venues. If you're looking for a high-energy dance club to visit, try L'espace or Délicatessen, both are known for their frenetic energy, good tunes, and wide variety of cocktail offerings. For a quieter night out, head down to Couleur Café, a quaint late-night haunt, known for specializing in cocktails, and also offering over 2000 different drinks to choose from.
After a long night of partying in Rennes, nothing is more welcomed than a soft bed and a swanky hotel, fortunately for you, Auto Europe offers discount rates at some of the most popular and luxurious hotels in the city. If you're looking for a hotel within walking distance of all the bars and clubs in Rennes, we recommend Novotel Rennes in the heart of the city. On-site amenities include a restaurant and bar, WiFi, indoor swimming pool, and full-service room service. Another standout hotel is Lecoq Gadby, an urban resort capturing the energy of cozy ambiance, and ultimate attention to detail - nothing says luxury and pampering quite like Lecoq Gadby.
Wherever you decide to go from Rennes is up to you, and after embarking on such a fun-filled journey through Brittany, why not continue on towards Paris and bask in vacation-induced bliss for a bit longer? Or maybe, pick up on one of our other exciting France road trips, and explore further into the country on your way to Nice, Bordeaux, or wherever you heart desires.
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