From its peninsula in northwest France, hugged by the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay, Brittany boasts the longest coastline of any region in France. Just think of all that bucket and spade territory – not to mention the bustling bistros lining up to serve the freshest catch of the day, dished up with a flourish and a refreshing glass of the local cider.
Of course there’s more to Brittany than seafood and cider, but like any region in France, the local specialities tend to take pride of place. And quite right too – which is why you’ll find no end of festivals focused on gastronomic delights, ranging from the scallop festival in April to the traditional Celtomania festival across September and October. Whichever festival tickles your fancy, whether it’s rock music or traditional folklore, you certainly won’t go hungry.
Here’s our take on the top ten festivals in Brittany:
1) Mandinka Nights Festival, Nantes
25th – 26th March 2013
The Festival Nuits Mandingues is an annual event that was started in 2005 to celebrate the Mandinka regions’ rich cultural history of music, dance, storytelling and traditions. This popular festival is a boisterous affair and a great way to enjoy African music and popular forms of blues, jazz and reggae.
2) Panoramas Festival, Morlaix
28th – 30th March 2013
Contemporary music comes to Morlaix in a big way in Spring. Every year, the Panoramas Festival hits the town – bringing big names from the world of rock, R&B, rap, dance, and pop to kick off the summer festival season in style. Taking place at various venues including the Parc de Langolvas and the Théâtre du Pays de Morlaix, get ready for big beats, thumping rhythms and plenty of fun.
3) Nantes Carnival, Nantes
14th – 20th April 2013
The Nantes Carnival is a bizarre affair that celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. Every year it’s marked by a lively procession of colourful floats, giant puppets, brass bands, musicians, dancing, stacks of confetti and silly-string. Hundreds of thousands of people line the streets to welcome the celebrations in this big and bubbly occasion – with visitors encouraged to join in by spraying foam at the passing floats.
4) Scallop Festival, Various Locations
27th – 28th April 2013
Brittany is famous for its delicious seafood and fresh shellfish – so what better way to celebrate this delectable delight than a festival dedicated to scallops? The coastal towns of Saint-Quay-Portrieux, Loguivy-de-la-Mer and Erquy mark the end of the scallop-fishing season with the Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques – a range of festivities including live music, parades, street parties, brass bands and of course, plenty of opportunities to taste scallops in various guises.
5) Pancake Festival, Gourin
27th – 28th July 2013
Love pancakes? Then the Fête de la Crêpe really will cut the mustard. The crêpe has pride of place in Gourin, and every July this delectable festival serves up mountains of pancakes in every shape, size and flavour imaginable. As with any good festival there’s also a lively programme of entertainment including Breton bands, traditional games, dancing and concerts. The crème de la crème of the festival is the pancake competition, which pits pancake-makers against each other to see who can serve up the biggest crêpe.
6) Fêtes Historiques de Vannes, Vannes
18th – 21st July 2013
Every year in July, the attractive medieval town of Vannes re-enacts its turbulent history with a series of processions, battles, jousting contests, street performances and concerts. It’s the perfect excuse to explore this attractive, historic city and discover its rich cultural heritage.
7) Jazz à Vannes, Vannes
22nd – 27th July 2013
Barely have the jousts and costumes of Vannes’ Fêtes Historiques been packed away before the town comes alive again with another summer celebration. One of Brittany’s biggest jazz festivals, the long-established Jazz à Vannes, provides a spectacle of music covering various styles and genres. Attracting big-name musicians, the lovely port town of Vannes is transformed into a jazz-lover’s haven – with most concerts and performances taking place outside in the Jardin de Limur, on the streets, and even down by the port.
8) Fête des Remparts, Dinan
July 2014 (biennial)
This fun-filled medieval festival brings history to life in many different ways. Step back in time and enjoy a spectacle filled with jousting, battles, medieval markets, dances, music, parades, hearty food and plenty more. The beautiful town of Dinan and its impressive fortifications provides the perfect backdrop to this rich historical event, which combines myth, legend and entertainment – a great day out for all ages.
9) Festival La Route du Rock
15th – 16th February / 10th – 12th August
Rock music comes to the lovely port town of Saint-Malo twice a year in the form of La Route du Rock, with a summer festival in August and a winter event in February. Its setting on the Emerald Coast is a definite plus point, as is the line-up – which features both big names and undiscovered acts across a wide range of rock and metal.
10) Les Celtomania Festival, Various Locations
27th September – 27th October 2013
The Celtomania Festival has been going for over 20 years and spans several locations across Brittany, all of which come together in a diverse and fascinating display of Breton culture. From Pornic to Montluc, Bouvron to Nantes, the villages and towns come alive with live music, concerts, singing hikes, exhibitions, dancing, great food and a whole host of other events.