The heart of Brittany
Not only is Quimper the administrative capital of the Finistère department, it is also generally regarded as the cultural heart of Brittany. The town is known for its cathedral, atmospheric old quarter and museums but most of all for its annual festival celebrating Breton culture.
Quimper gets its name from the Breton kemper, which refers to the junction of two rivers: the Steir and the Odet. The Odet, generally regarded as Brittany’s prettiest river, runs east to west, parallel to the old town, and enters the sea at Benodet – why not take a boat trip? The river is crossed by little bridges, which are lined with pretty geranium-filled boxes.
Quimper’s most impressive building is its cathedral, which is said to be the best example of Gothic religious architecture in Brittany. Building started in the 12th century and continued at intervals until the 19th century, when the two spires were constructed and new stained glass windows were installed. The cathedral is named after St Corentin, Quimper’s first bishop.
Museums for all
Next to the cathedral is the former Bishop’s Palace, which is now the Musée Départmental Breton. The museum displays finds from archaeological digs around Brittany and is highly regarded for its collection of Breton costumes and furniture. Quimper’s other museum of note is the Musée des Beaux Arts, which has a fine collection of paintings from renowned Breton artists and the Pont Aven School.
The old town
West of the cathedral is the atmospheric old town, where you’ll find many half-timbered houses dating from the 14th century. The streets are named after old job titles and Place au Beurre, where butter was sold, is one of Quimper’s prettiest locations and good place to stop for a crêpe. The old market hall burned down in 1976 but the new Halles St Francis (open daily) are particularly lively on Saturday mornings.
Quimper is known throughout Brittany and the Celtic world for its Festival de Cornouaille, which takes place for a week each July and celebrates Breton culture in all its forms.
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