Worth its salt
On the peninsula of the same name, the medieval walled town of Guérande is a must-see on any visit to the Loire-Atlantique department. Overlooking salt marshes to the south and the peat bogs of Brière to the north, Guérande and its surrounding area make a great day out for all the family.
A bit of history
Guérande developed in the 11th century but it wasn’t until the 14th century, during the Wars of Succession, that it took the fortified form that we see today. The town is entirely surrounded by ramparts, which are pierced by four gates; the Porte St Michel now houses the Musée et les Remparts de Guérande where you can find out about the town’s salty history and walk along part of the fortifications.
The most enjoyable thing to do in Guérande is wander around its narrow streets filled with arts and crafts galleries and speciality food shops before pausing for lunch in one of its many crêperies. Be sure to stop by the Collégiale St-Aubin, a magnificent collegiate church in the centre of Guérande, which was home to a chapter of canons from the 9th to the 18th century.
The salt industry
Guérande prospered in the Middle Ages and again in the 19th century thanks to its salt marshes, which cover about 7 square miles. Around 10,000 tonnes of coarse salt is produced each year but only 300 tonnes of the delicate fleur de sel, which is highly prized by chefs. To find out about this fascinating industry, which dates back more than 1,000 years, head to Terre de Sel in Pradel; here you can learn about salt harvesting and visit a salt pond with a paludier (salt harvester) before buying some goodies to take home from the on-site shop – the salted-butter caramels are delicious.
With the kids
Kids are not forgotten in Guérande. As well as the Musée de la Poupée et du Jouet Ancien, which has a fine collection of antique dolls and toys, there is a colourful medieval festival at the end of May. Instead of tiring young (or old) legs by walking around the salt marshes, take a tour in a horse-drawn carriage at Attelage Breton en Marais Salants in La Turballe.
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