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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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Top 5 sights for first-timers
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Festival Les Hivernautes
Written by World Travel Guide