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A fascinating mix of mediaeval streets and Napoleonic architecture

If you’re looking for an idea for a day trip: head to the pretty town of Pontivy! You’ll be spoilt for choice there, with the mediaeval Château des Rohan and corbelled houses in the old town, which contrast with the Napoleonic buildings standing to attention, and, yonder, a medley of small chapels.

Experience Pontivy

Built by the prominent Breton family, the Rohans, in the 15th century, Pontivy’s massive fortified castle is an impressive sight to behold. Set off from its two towers with conical roofs on an enthralling walk back in time through the narrow winding streets of the old town around Place du Martray. Half-timbered houses and mediaeval façades hark back to the town’s heyday when it traded leather and cloth on the banks of the River Blavet.

Napoleon’s ties to the town

You might be surprised to see wide, straight avenues just next to the mediaeval town centre, lined with Neoclassical façades from the Napoleonic era. What a contrast of styles! Together with La Roche-sur-Yon, Pontivy was one of the Emperor’s flagship urban projects, you see. Over the space of a decade, the town even became known as Napoléonville, which just goes to show its significance during these imperial times.

Did you know

Travel back to AD 1000!

Here’s an outing that the kids will love! Ten or so miles from Pontivy, on the remains of an old mediaeval settlement, a village has been rebuilt at Melrand, just as it would have looked back in AD 1000. Thatched cottages, a blacksmith’s and gardens give you a wholly realistic insight!

Chapels by the dozen

The surrounding countryside is dotted with little chapels well worth a visit too. Their unassuming exteriors belie their exquisite interior décors. Their beautifully painted and panelled ceilings are typical of the region. A particular favourite is Sainte-Noyale Chapel, dating back to the 15th century. Many of them organise contemporary art exhibitions for the annual summer festival, L’art dans les chapelles.

Main points of interest

  • Château des Rohan (summer exhibitions)
  • The mediaeval quarter (15th- and 17th-century half-timbered houses) and the Napoleonic quarter
  • Notre-Dame de Joie Basilica and St Joseph’s Church
  • Îlot des Récollets where the River Blavet meets the Canal
  • The old town
  • The Napoleonic quarter
Official website of tourism in Brittany