Brittany, France

Brittany is the westernmost region in France, framed by rugged coasts and a varied hilly landscape. It is the French region where the Celtic heritage is most present.

Brittany is just right for everyone who, in addition to sun, sand and sea, also wants high-quality food. Nowhere do oysters taste better than in Cancale, and there are sea snails, spider crabs and crayfish.

In ancient times, this land was called Aremorica, which means "land by the sea". This is where the (fictional) Gaulish village from the Asterix & Obelix comics was located. Unlike in these, the whole of Brittany was actually ruled by the Romans and was also culturally Romanized. The original mainland Celtic language disappeared. When the Roman Empire was in decline in the early 5th century AD, Roman troops and administrators were forced to leave and Brittany declared independence in 409.

From the middle of the 5th to the 7th century, groups of island Celts migrated from Wales to Brittany in spurts, who had come under pressure from the Anglo-Saxons in their homeland. The Gallo-Romans (the result of a mixture of Roman and Gallic cultures), who made up the majority of the population everywhere else in present-day France, were pushed out of Brittany around 580. So it is that while all of the rest of France has been Romanized, Brittany has retained a Celtic heritage to this day. Today's Breton language does not belong to the former languages of the Gauls, but with Welsh and Cornish (and, somewhat more distantly related, Irish and Scottish Gaelic) to the group of island Celtic languages. Brittany is therefore - along with Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Wales and Cornwall - counted among the "Celtic belt" or the "six Celtic nations", which have survived into modern times. The name Brittany derives from Britain, in the past the region was also called "Little Britain" (in contrast to Great Britain).

Around 600, the Bretons founded their own kingdom, which was only conquered by the Frankish Empire under Charlemagne in 799. From the Breton Mark, which was under Frankish supremacy, a duchy developed which, despite military conflicts with the Normans, French and English, retained relative independence until the 15th century. From 1341 to 1364 the War of the Breton Succession raged, in which England and France intervened on opposite sides. France prevailed. The last autonomous duchess, Anne de Bretagne, married two French kings one after the other. Her daughter Claude eventually married King Francis I of France, who in 1532 carried out the final annexation of Brittany to the French kingdom. However, some Breton nationalists still regard their almost 500-year affiliation with France as an "occupation".

Due to its sea-washed location, Brittany has several important ports (Brest being the most notable) and the region has produced a number of prominent seafarers (e.g. the explorer Jacques Cartier or the corsair Robert Surcouf).

The area around Nantes, today's Loire-Atlantique department, belonged to the province of Brittany until 1790 and was also still culturally and historically counted as part of Brittany. Nantes was even home to one of the residences of the Breton dukes. When the French administrative regions were introduced in 1955, the department of Loire-Atlantique was assigned to the Pays de la Loire - more for economic reasons. This decision is still controversial to this day. A distinction must therefore be made between Brittany in the historical and cultural sense (including Nantes) and Brittany in the administrative sense (excluding Nantes).



Upper Brittany

Saint Malo


Lower Brittany



In addition to French, some of the inhabitants also speak Breton. Signposts, place-name signs or tourist attractions in particular often have the corresponding Breton translation in addition to the French name. However, less than 10% of Bretons speak this language, and it is hardly ever used in everyday life. There are clear regional differences: while there are areas in the western half of the peninsula (Lower Brittany) with over 25% Breton speakers, in the eastern part (Upper Brittany; around Rennes and Saint-Malo) almost nobody speaks the Celtic language.

Due to its proximity to England, quite a lot of English tourists come to Brittany and some English people have even settled permanently in the region. Knowledge of English is therefore somewhat more common than in other parts of France, especially in tourist facilities.


Getting here

By plane
Commercial airports with significant scheduled flights are - sorted by size - Brest-Bretagne Airport (IATA: BES) , Rennes Airport (IATA: RNS) , Lorient Bretagne Sud Airport (IATA: LRT) , and Quimper-Cornouaille Airport (IATA: UIP) . None of them can be reached by direct flights from German-speaking countries. As a rule, you have to transfer at one of the Paris airports – Paris-Orly Airport (IATA: ORY) or Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport (IATA: CDG).

If you want to go to the south of Brittany, you can fly to Nantes (IATA: NTE) (direct access from Germany, Switzerland and Austria) and rent a car there.

By train
A high-speed line runs from Paris to Rennes. There are TGV trains every hour from Gare Montparnasse in Paris to Brittany, the journey to Rennes only takes 1½ hours. From there it goes more slowly, so that you can reach Saint-Malo in 2½ to 3 hours, Lorient in a good 3 hours, Quimper or Rennes in about 3 hours 40 minutes (each from Paris-Montparnasse).

Coming from the German-speaking countries, you have to change trains in Paris and also change the train station (from Gare de l'Est or Nord to Gare Montparnasse). Overall you are z. B. from Stuttgart to Rennes 5½ hours on the way, from Basel a little under 6 hours, from Cologne or Frankfurt a. M. around 6½ hours.

By bus
Individual bus lines connect larger cities with each other, but the public transport system is by no means as developed as it is in Germany.

On the street
Brittany is connected to the French motorway network via various routes. The special feature: all motorway and motorway-like routes within Brittany are toll-free!


Get around

The road network in Brittany is well developed and the expressways, which are similar to motorways, are not subject to tolls.

Local public transport is well developed on the coast, but inland there are gaps in supply or poorly served areas.

The railway network is sufficiently developed in the larger cities, in the flat country the supply is rather patchy.



The wine made from apples, cider, is the national drink of Brittany.

First up is the good Breton cuisine for freshly prepared fish including sea bream (daurade), John Dory (St-Pierre) and red gurnard (grondin), grilled hake (merlu), tender spotted wrasse (vieille), ray (raie) , as well as monkfish (lotte) and sea eel (congre). Seafood platters are usually stocked with sea spider (araignée), edible crab (tourteau), sea urchin (oursin), lobster and shrimp (crevettes). The small black periwinkle (bigorneau), which is often served as an aperitif and is considered to be particularly healthy, is taken out of its shell with a wooden stick similar to a toothpick. Also a delicacy: Breton blue lobster (homard).

The galette, a hearty pancake made from buckwheat flour, is also a specialty of the region. They are filled with fried eggs, ham, salad and much more and then served with cider. The better-known crêpes (pronounced egg) later developed from the galettes, which use soft wheat instead of buckwheat flour and are often topped with sweets. The traditional crêpes are sweet, for example with sugar, jam, fresh fruit or nut nougat cream. At lunchtime it is also customary to serve the national dish created by farmers with ham, grated cheese and fried eggs. Both variants are offered in crêperies. Butter is an important, even essential part of many dishes. There is a saying that a Breton cannot survive without his butter.



You go to Brittany for the scenery, not for the nightlife. Aside from the larger towns like Brest or Rennes, there are few facilities to make the night into day other than the usual restaurants, cafes and pubs.



Via the tourist information of Brittany z. B. a large number of rooms and holiday homes can be searched for and booked. Brittany is well developed for tourism and therefore there are rarely bottlenecks in the supply of accommodation, even in the high season. In addition to hotels, guesthouses, private accommodation and holiday homes, there are a large number of campsites and camper sites, especially on the coast, which in many cases are closed off-season.



In terms of security, Brittany is not critical.




Armor is the Breton word for sea, but it doesn't just mean the coast, but also the islands, the amphibious zone of the mud flats and the broad coastline. The woodland (backcountry) is called Argoat.

Brittany is a large peninsula in the extreme west of mainland France. In the north, west and south it is surrounded by the Atlantic (Breton: Meurvor Atlantel). Here, Brittany separates the English Channel (Breton Mor Breizh) in the north from the Bay of Biscay in the south. On the mainland, it borders on the Normandy region to the north-east and the Pays de la Loire region to the south-east.

In Brittany, the center of the land hemisphere is at the coordinates ♁47° 13′ N, 1° 32′ W near the city of Nantes, i.e. that hemisphere (hemisphere) of the globe that (calculated) has the largest proportion of land.



Geologically, Brittany is part of the Armorican Mountains that were folded up in the Carboniferous. Much of the land mass of Brittany rests on very old and hard rock. Brittany has a very rugged coastline, which - especially in the west - is formed over long stretches of cliffs. At Cap Fréhel, near the old Fort La Latte, the granite cliffs rise more than 70 meters out of the Atlantic. Elsewhere, the landscape is more hilly; one looks in vain for particularly steep or high mountains. The highest elevation is the Roc'h Ruz (385 meters) in the ridge of the Monts d'Arrée (Breton: Menez Are).



Due to its location near the Atlantic on the western edge of mainland Europe and in the sphere of influence of the Gulf Stream, Brittany has a distinctly oceanic climate with relatively mild temperatures averaging between 9 and 12 °C. Snow and frost are rare, summers are moderately warm with over 2000 hours of sunshine a year.

The course of the weather is characterized by a rapid alternation of high and low pressure areas moving in from the Atlantic. The prevailing westerly winds often reach gale force, especially in winter. Rain showers and strong winds can occur at very short notice, but are usually short-lived. With an average of between 700 and 800 mm per year, the rainfall is relatively low; while the rainfall in the coastal areas is lower, the interior is wetter.

The influence of the strong tides on the course of the weather is clearly noticeable, as is the iodine content of the air, which reaches very high levels in Brittany. The strong winds also mean that the air has a low level of pollutants.



In the Neolithic period, Brittany was mostly covered by forest, but this no longer existed in antiquity and was fragmented into many individual forests. There are numerous larger remains of this vast forest area, e.g. B. the three largest forests of Paimpont west of Rennes, Le Gâvre near Nantes or the forest of Lanouée in the north of the Morbihan. Some forests are attributed a legendary or mythical role, such as the Paimpont forest, identified by the romanticizing Celtomaniacs of the 19th century with the Brocéliande of the Arthurian sagas, or the Scissy forest in the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, which is said to have perished in a storm surge at the beginning of the 8th century.

The original landscape in the interior has changed significantly since the medieval clearing. It has now largely given way to industrialized agriculture. There are only a few larger beech and oak forests in the interior of Brittany. Today the landscape is dominated by fields and grassland, which is divided up like a chessboard by countless hedges (bocage) and stone walls.


Origin of the name "Brittany"

In Roman times, the peninsula between the Condate/Civitas Redonensis region, present-day Rennes, to the east and the ocean to the west was part of a geographically vaguely defined coastal region in western Gaul known as Aremorica.

During a relatively brief period in the 4th century, the Nama Letavia appears as a designation for the peninsula. The origin of this name is unclear. Some think it derives from the name of the peasant soldiers of the Roman army installed here, laeti. The name could also come from a similar-sounding word from a Celtic language of the British Isles, meaning "wide country, continent". In modern Breton, ledan means 'far', in modern Welsh Llydaw means Brittany. At that time, the Romans called Britannia the British Isles.

In the writings of Gregory of Tours and Procopius of Caesarea in the second half of the 6th century, the name Britannia appears for those from the Britonnes, i. H. by Breton immigrants who had immigrated from the British Isles, dominated parts of the peninsula. At the end of the 9th century, people spoke of the Britannia minor, the small Brittany, in contrast to the "big", today Great Britain.



Brittany was already inhabited in the Paleolithic, as evidenced by isolated tool finds from the Acheulean culture. Only a few traces of human settlement are known from the Mesolithic period, namely scrapers from the Mousterian industry, while rock paintings and carved flints are missing. While people had previously lived by hunting, fishing and gathering, from 5000 B.C. sedentary and practiced cattle husbandry and agriculture in the Neolithic Age. The megalithic complexes were also built during this period. Most (dolmens, tumuli and standing stones) were built between 4500 and 2000 BC. built or used.

Rich grave finds (series I and II dagger graves) from the subsequent Early Bronze Age (beginning between 2000 and 1800 BC) document contacts with England (Wessex culture), Denmark and southern Germany (Singen group). In the Bronze Age, Brittany was an important trading center because of its metal deposits, which can be concluded from numerous other extensive hoard finds. The Breton straight-shafted bronze axes (1200 to 1000 BC) were widespread throughout northern Europe.

The comparatively late in Brittany, namely from the 6th century BC. The beginning of the Iron Age was marked by the immigration of the Celts, who called the country Aremorica or Armorica (“land by the sea”). They did not displace all of the already resident population, but they did end the Bronze Culture on the peninsula entirely. While iron finds from this era are rather rare, ceramic finds bear witness to a diverse pottery culture. Fortified settlements (oppida) were located on promontories, hills and in fenced fortifications. In the 2nd century B.C. Five Celtic tribes lived on the Breton peninsula: the Veneti in the south, the Osismians in the north-west, the Redones in the east, the Curiosolites in the north and the Namnetes in the south-east. They did not form a unit, but lived in competition with one another. The most powerful were the Veneti, who in the 1st century BC all other tribes ruled. They were at the head of the league of all the tribes of this region, which was conquered by the Romans from 58 BC. resisted.

In the year 56 BC Gaius Iulius Caesar and his legions defeated almost the entire Venetian fleet in a devastating naval battle, thus ending the economic prosperity of this tribe as well as the Gallic supremacy in shipping. The Romanisation of Brittany began immediately after the conquest and, in addition to the triumph of Roman administration, architecture and road layout, consisted primarily in the founding of Roman cities such as Portus Namnetus (Nantes), Condate (Rennes), Darioritum (Vannes), Vorgium (Carhaix-Plouguer). ) and Fanum Martis (or Civitas Coriosolitum, today Corseul). However, it was only completed towards the end of late antiquity. By this time the Celtic language of Gaul, Gaulish, had probably almost completely disappeared.


Breton immigration

Already at the time of the Roman colonization there were intensive contacts between the Aremorican peninsula and Great Britain. In the late 4th century the fortified towns and forts on the coast belonged to the Limes of the so-called Saxon Coast, whose garrisons were under the command of a Dux tractus Armoricani et Nervicani. After the Roman army withdrew at the beginning of the 5th century under Emperor Honorius, the provincials expelled the Roman administrative officials around 409 and declared themselves independent. Germanus of Auxerre traveled to the imperial court in Ravenna in 437 to obtain leniency for the inhabitants of Aremorica. The influential Roman general Flavius Aëtius had sent Alanian troops on a punitive expedition against the local Bagauds, who had risen up under the leadership of a certain Tibatto. The Aremorican tribal leaders and cities subsequently formed a protective alliance against Anglo-Saxon plunderers, which existed until the conquest of the country by the Frankish king Clovis I around 500.

During the decline of the Western Roman Empire, from about 450 AD, Christianized Celts from Britain (Britons) immigrated to the Breton Peninsula, while the settlement areas of the still pagan Saxons, Angles and Jutes expanded on the British Isles. The immigrating "island Celts" settled and Christianized Aremorica and brought their language to this part of the already Romanized Gaul. Accordingly, Breton does not go back to the Celtic language spoken in Brittany around the time of Caesar. With the cultural revival brought about by British immigration, the influence of the Gallo-Romance language was pushed back until it lost its dominance around 580. Some authors assume that remnants of the old mainland Celtic language of Brittany survived and merged with their Celtic after the arrival of the British. Thus, according to François Falc'hun, the Breton dialect of the Vannes area goes back to the original Celtic language of Aremorica.


Kingdom, Carolingians, Duchy of Brittany

In 497, the Bretons submitted to the Frankish king Clovis I, but the suzerainty of the Merovingians remained relaxed in nature before it was thrown off after the first division of the Frankish Empire and the death of Clovis' son Childebert I. Around 600, after internal fighting, the Bretons founded a kingdom that lasted 200 years and was crushed by Charlemagne in 799.

In 786 Charles made eastern Brittany the Breton Mark and thus part of the Frankish Empire; Hruotland became the first Margrave. After the division of the empire in 843, the Breton Count Nominoë defeated the West Frankish King Charles the Bald in 845 at the Battle of Ballon and conquered Nantes in 850. In addition to the area of the four departments mentioned above, the core area of historical Brittany has also included today's department of Loire-Atlantique (Breton: Liger-Atlantel) since 851.

After Nominoë's death (851) there were disputes between individual territories. It is true that Nominoë's nephew Salomon allied himself with the Norman Vikings and received the title of king and rulership of the Cotentin peninsula from the West Frankish King Charles II in 867 in order to persuade him to help defend against the Normans. But in 886 and 919 the Loire Normans overran Nantes and expelled the Breton rulers; By 930 at the latest, the Contentin, in which the Seine Normans were established, fell to Normandy. From 952 to 980, Brittany itself had to recognize the suzerainty of the Norman dukes. This is how the time of the Breton kingdom ended, followed by the formation of smaller Breton duchies, between which there were numerous territorial disputes. On the other hand, the West Frankish Empire stabilized as the Kingdom of France, and in Normandy the Duchy of Normandy, which repeatedly expanded into Brittany, arose.

Nevertheless, Brittany retained its independence in military conflicts with the Normans, French and English until the 15th century.


French feudal period

Eventually, unable to withstand threats from their neighbors, the duchies called for help from France and England, who in the years that followed asserted their own claims to rule over Brittany. Both powers were also involved in the 20-year War of the Breton Succession in the mid-14th century. England's favourite, Jean de Montfort, succeeded in gaining power and asserting himself as Duke of Brittany. A period of cultural and economic prosperity followed, until Duke Franz II was defeated by the French in 1488 at the Battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier.

Anne de Bretagne (1477–1514), daughter of Francis II, was the last independent ruler of Brittany (and the sixth woman to hold that position). She married two successive French kings: Charles VIII in 1490 and his third uncle and heir apparent Louis XII. 1499. In order to ensure the succession to the throne, Anne gave birth to her first children (of a total of eleven) at an early age, but only three of them lived to be more than three years old. Her daughter, Claude de France, married Francis I. At a meeting of the estates in the southern Breton city of Vannes in 1532, he proclaimed the annexation of Brittany to the kingdom of France. Even 400 years later, Breton nationalists felt "occupied" by France, which was manifested, for example, in the demolition of the Unification Monument in Rennes (Breton: Roazhon) in 1932, attributed to Célestin Lainé.


Modern times

Within France, Brittany mainly played a maritime role. From 1631 Brest was expanded to become the most heavily fortified naval port in France. Many outstanding officers of the French Navy were born in Breton port cities and coastal towns; Jacques Cartier, René Duguay-Trouin, Robert Surcouf and Martin Fourichon came from Saint-Malo alone. For example, the naval architect Jacques-Noël Sané came from Brest, Admiral Luc Urbain du Bouëxic de Guichen from Fougères, and Admiral Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte from Rennes. As the home ports and shipyards of the French Atlantic fleet, Brest, Lorient and Saint-Malo have been of great strategic importance since the 17th century. The French naval school (École navale) has been located in Lanvéoc near Brest since the 19th century.

As a province of France, Brittany was given the right to its own assembly of estates (French États). There was also the Parlement in Rennes, the supreme court of Brittany, which had to protect Brittany's rights against the French crown. It was dissolved in the French Revolution. Economically, the period after the annexation to France was characterized by growing prosperity, especially in the coastal towns, while the hinterland remained poor and backward. The seething discontent found expression in the Stamp Paper Revolt of 1675, a rebellion against royal taxation.

From about 1700, medieval Breton developed into Neo-Breton, largely thanks to scientific research into the language. While it had previously been difficult to preserve the Breton language and culture under French rule, this became more difficult after the French Revolution. For the revolutionaries, the Celtic idiom, like the Catholic culture of the Breton population, was seen as an expression of backwardness and superstition. Thus a counter-revolutionary guerrilla, the Chouannerie, developed. Similar to the Vendée south of the Loire, it took the French Republic many years and considerable troop contingents before it was overthrown. However, the Breton language and culture initially survived, even if French continued to gain ground as the administrative and later school language of the French Republic.

Fearing that French would dilute Breton, the Union Régonialiste Bretonne was founded in 1898 with the aim of popularizing the idea of an independent Brittany. In addition, there was the Fédération Régionale de Bretagne, founded in 1911, which campaigned for the autonomy of Brittany and published the newspaper Breiz Dishual (“Free Brittany”). Both companies had to stop their activities during the First World War.

Instead, right-wing intellectuals founded the newspaper Breiz Atao (Brittany Forever), which advocated a free Brittany in a Europe without borders, while more extreme nationalist circles founded the Nationalist Breton Party (PNB) in 1934, which leaned towards fascism and founded the underground organization Gwen ha du ("white and black"), named after the colors of the Breton flag. The latter tried to enforce their aspirations by force of arms.


Second World War

After the economic boom of the 1930s, the Second World War broke out. At the beginning of the war, the modern and powerful battleships Richelieu and Dunkerque and the submarine cruiser Surcouf were anchored in Brest. The light cruiser De Grasse was being built in Lorient in 1940. In Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique department) were the sister ships of the Dunkirk and the Richelieu, the Strasbourg and the Jean Bart, which was also not yet completed. Two aircraft carriers, the Joffre and the Painlevé, were also to be built at Saint-Nazaire.

In 1940, the French government initially considered withdrawing to the Breton Reduit after the fall of Paris and entrenching there with the help of the French and British fleets. Due to a lack of protection against German bombers, the plan was rejected and the government fled to Bordeaux and Vichy. On June 16, the commander of the Brest naval district, Admiral Jean de Laborde, had the gold reserves of Belgium and Poland stored in Brest shipped to Dakar. The Richelieu, the Dunkerque and the Surcouf, along with 80 other warships and 76 civilian ships, left Brest for French West Africa and French Algeria respectively, and 15 warships and 35 minesweepers escaped from Lorient on June 18. 32,000 Allied soldiers were evacuated from Brest and 57,000 from Lorient. The Strasbourg and the Jean Bart also escaped from Saint-Nazaire to French North Africa. The unfinished De Grasse at Lorient fell into the hands of the German conquerors on June 19, as did the unfinished Joffre at Saint-Nazaire.

After Brittany fell to the German troops almost without a fight, they built the coasts into a line of fortifications (see also the Atlantic Wall). The Germans rebuilt the port and arsenal of Brest, which the French had destroyed when they left, as well as Lorient as a submarine port. The 1st and 9th submarine flotillas were stationed in Brest, the 2nd submarine flotilla in Lorient and the 6th and 7th submarine flotillas in Saint-Nazaire. From his headquarters in Lorient, Admiral Karl Dönitz led the U-boats into the Battle of the Atlantic. Submarine ports and coastal fortifications were targets of Western Allied bombing; most of the coastal towns were largely destroyed.

The German occupying power promoted the idea of autonomy directed against Paris. Despite the many victims of the war, some Bretons (e.g. Célestin Lainé) saw collaboration with Germany as a way to achieve the desired state independence for Brittany. Members of the Nationalist Breton Party (PNB) participated and around 40 Bretons wore the uniform of the Waffen-SS (Bezen Perrot). In July 1940, a Breton "National Council" was set up in Pontivy, and in 1941 the French Vichy government, under pressure from Germany, had to allow classes in Breton language and history.

Also in 1941, the department of Loire-Inférieure (today: Loire-Atlantique) with its capital Nantes and the port of Saint-Nazaire was separated from the rest of Brittany by the collaborationist government under Philippe Pétain and assigned to the prefecture of Angers, with probably also the interests of the German occupiers played a role, as well as the rivalry between Nantes and Rennes for the role of the capital. However, Pétain's decree was repealed before the liberation by the provisional government of the French Republic based in Alger by the ordinance of June 3, 1944. When the Régions des Programms were founded in 1955, however, Pétain's geographical organization was pulled out of the drawer again.

This separation still exists today, although, according to Breton autonomists, surveys revealed a willingness among the population of Loire-Atlantique to reunite with the Brittany region.

However, there was also resistance against the occupiers (Resistance). After the Western Allies landed in Normandy in June 1944, British and French parachute troops also landed in Brittany and reinforced the Resistance. By August 1944, most of Brittany was liberated; in September, after the Battle of Brittany, Brest also fell. Only in the naval ports of Lorient and Saint-Nazaire did the German crews hold out until the end of the war in May 1945 - on the one hand following a senseless order from the Führer to hold the naval bases at all costs and to the last man, on the other hand because the Western Allies wanted a quick push north and East against Germany was more important than the laborious fight against the last German garrisons in the extreme west of France, which were blocked anyway.


After 1945

After the Second World War, the regionalists, discredited as collaborators, went into hiding and liberal forces took up the revival of Breton language and culture. In 1951, French President de Gaulle set up a committee to promote the interests of Brittany. With government support, the region experienced an economic boom that reduced further migration from Bretons to other regions of France. Brittany became the most important agricultural region and the second most important tourist region after the Côte d'Azur.

With the beginning of the dismantling of centralism in the French state structure and the establishment of the regions in 1960, the Brittany region was created within the current borders. In 1972 the region received the status of a public establishment headed by a regional prefect. The decentralization laws of 1982 gave the regions the status of collectivités territoriales (territorial authorities), a status previously only enjoyed by communes and départements. In 1986, the regional councils were elected directly by the population for the first time. Since then, the powers of the regions vis-à-vis the central government in Paris have been gradually expanded.

The arsenal of Brest was the place of manufacture in 1957 and the home port of the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau from 1961 to 1997. Since 2001, the port of Brest has been the home port of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which was also built there in 1994.

In 1978, a tanker accident (Amoco Cadiz) happened off the coast of Brittany, polluting the coasts. In 1999 the tanker Erika sank south of Brittany.

In autumn 2013, protests against French and European economic policies broke out in Brittany.




The population of Brittany mixes Celtic immigrants from south-west England with Normans and French who have invaded from the north and east.



In addition to French, there are two regional languages in Brittany, in the western parts Breton is still spoken by parts of the population, in the eastern parts Gallo, a Romance language that developed from late and vulgar Latin parallel to the other French dialects and the developed later high-level language. Both languages have influenced each other and were also under the influence of Standard French, which was gradually developing.


"Be Breizh!"

Breizh is the Breton word for Brittany. Because the Bretons feel very connected to their region, the abbreviation 'BZH' as well as other Breton symbols such as the black and white 'gwen ha du' flag and the triskell are still commonly found on cars, houses and elsewhere in Brittany today find. With the exclamation "Be Breizh!" Bretons also wish a good friend "Good luck!" or "Good luck!". Since 2011, the Brittany Tourist Board has used the international motto "Be Breizh!" to convey Brittany's strong identity.


Breton in school lessons

With the introduction of compulsory schooling in France in the late 19th century, all “minority languages” were suppressed. After a brief phase of toleration (enforced under the impression of the weakness of occupied France) in the 1940s and a subsequent period of renewed repression (accused of collaboration), the Breton language is now tolerated by the French state, albeit not encouraged. It was not until 1951 that the state lifted the ban on the regional languages, but Breton is still not officially recognized. Years would pass before the introduction of general education. In 1967, 150,000 signatures were collected to demonstrate for teaching Breton in schools. Since the 1970s, the Diwan schools run by an association have taught in Breton – with French as the second written language from the second school year. It is now possible to choose Breton in the Abitur, later also in the lower classes. While there were only a few students at the beginning, around 3,000 students are now learning Breton through immersion classes. In state schools (Parents' Association Div Yezh), a few thousand pupils can follow part of their lessons in Breton. Cultural groups, private institutions (Dihun and Diwan associations) or organizations (Ofis publik ar Brezhoneg) promote the language. In addition, there is still the possibility at individual schools to learn the language as an optional subject, which is made more difficult due to savings in the education sector and the bad will of the French government, since many positions are not filled.


Breton in culture and everyday life

Under the impression of the imminent extinction of the language, the Breton regional council decided at the end of 2004 to promote Breton as far as it is feasible with the very limited financial and political possibilities. Chairs in Breton and Celtic languages were established at the Universities of Brest and Rennes. The universities also publish four periodicals: Ar Vro (The Country), Hor Yezh (Our Language), Skol (School) and Skrid (Essays).

Books are also published, mostly in editions of 1500 to 2000 copies. The bestsellers, on the other hand, are the “Kan an Douar” (Songs of the Earth) and the Breton-French dictionary, which have sold 20,000 copies within ten years. There are now Breton newspapers, radio stations and TV shows (but in very small numbers compared to countries like Wales).

Breton is only spoken by an estimated 250,000 people, and just as many understand it. In everyday use, however, the language is used regularly by far fewer people. More than two thirds of the speakers are over 60 years old, and at the time of F. Broudic's study in 1992 the proportion of those under the age of 15 was well below 5% of Breton speakers. The majority of the speakers are native speakers, but the weight shifts towards the approximately 30,000 language activists who learned Breton at school or later and not as a mother tongue.



In Brittany, the majority of people are Catholic. The influence of the Church on society was enormous up until the mid-1950s, particularly in the Breton-speaking western part of the country (Breiz-izel). A famous saying is proof of this: "Ar brezoneg hag ar feiz zo breur ha c'hoar e Breiz" ("Breton and the faith are brothers and sisters in Brittany"). However, today that influence is diminishing and fewer and fewer people go to church on Sundays.

In the Huguenot Wars, some reformed nobles tried unsuccessfully to win the Breton Côtes-d'Armor for themselves.



Among the Bretons, there have been significant attempts at autonomy since the beginning of the 20th century, which manifested itself in attacks on state institutions, especially in the 1970s, which were carried out by the ARB (Breton: ADB, Arme Dispac'hel Breizh - Breton revolutionary army), including a terrorist attack on the Palace of Versailles. The "Breton Liberation Front", which was increasingly slipping into terrorism, was banned and smashed in 1974. In the 1990s, too, a number of attacks were carried out (in Cintegabelles, home of then Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, and in Belfort, home of then Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement). As a sign of their desire for independence, Brittany has, among other things, a regional anthem ("Bro gozh ma zadoù") and a national football team.


Economy and Infrastructure

Economic structure

For a long time, Brittany was considered the “poorhouse” of France. In the 1960s, the drive for independence prompted the central government in Paris to invest in the industrialization of Brittany. This high level of investment has enabled tourism, fishing, agriculture and industry to become lucrative industries. However, the unfavorable situation in relation to the major sales markets, which together with the region's low purchasing power hindered the upswing, proved to be an additional obstacle. Domestic family businesses in particular developed successfully.

Economically, Brittany is one of the structurally weaker parts of France. Especially in summer, it benefits greatly from tourism, which takes place mainly on the coasts. In comparison with the gross domestic product of the European Union, expressed in purchasing power standards, the region achieved an index of 96.7 in 2003 (EU-25: 100). In 2017, the unemployment rate was 7.3 percent.

There are a number of nationally and internationally successful family businesses in Brittany, particularly in the food industry (processing of fish and seafood, meat and dairy products and vegetables). The roots of the retail chains Leclerc and Yves Rocher are also in Brittany. Shipbuilding and, through the Renault factory in Rennes, the automobile industry also play a certain role. Nevertheless, the landscape - especially inland - is predominantly agricultural. The Léon (Breton Bro Leon) in northern Finistère is known for growing vegetables (artichokes, cauliflower, new potatoes), in the Côtes-d'Armor pig farming, turkey fattening and dairy farming predominate.


Oyster farming

Because of the long coastline, fishing and oyster farming also play a role. Oysters are farmed on 450 hectares in Cancale on the north coast and 1500 hectares in the Gulf of Morbihan on the south coast. For centuries, those from Cancale have generally been considered to have the highest quality and taste in France (traditional transport of Cancale oysters to Rome; delivery privilege for the French royal court).



On the English Channel coast between Saint-Malo (Breton Sant Maloù) and Mont-Saint-Michel (Breton Menez Mikael) there is an enormous tidal range of 9 to 15 m (depending on the tidal coefficient). This tidal difference is used in the La Rance tidal power station, completed in 1967, in the Rance estuary, between Dinard (Dinarzh) and Saint-Malo, to generate electricity. This power station has a visitor center that provides interesting insight into the technology used to generate electricity using tidal power.

Furthermore, the coastal country with its almost constantly blowing winds from north-west and west directions is ideal for generating electricity from wind energy. The first wind farms on the cliffs were already producing electricity in 2002, and further expansion is being planned. In recent years, numerous wind power plants have also been built on the hills inland.

An experimental nuclear reactor, the Brennilis Nuclear Power Plant, which used heavy water, operated at Brennilis from 1967 to 1985. Despite the good geographical conditions, the Bretons were able to prevent the construction of further nuclear power plants in their region through vehement protests. The Brennilis reactor, the oldest nuclear power plant in France, is currently being dismantled.



The traffic routes follow the coastlines in connection with the port cities. Apart from the capital Rennes, the sparsely populated center of Brittany (Kreiz-Breizh) is only accessible by national roads. There are no motorways (therefore no motorway tolls), instead there are four-lane national roads on which the speed is limited to 110 km/h.

Brittany is connected to the French TGV network via the LGV Bretagne-Pays de la Loire. At Rennes, the western terminus, the TGV traffic splits into a northern branch (Paris–Brest railway line) via Saint-Brieuc to Brest and a southern branch (Rennes–Redon railway line and Savenay–Landerneau railway line) via Vannes and Lorient to Quimper. The southern route is also served by intercités trains connecting Brittany with Nantes and Bordeaux. The TGV journey from Paris to Rennes takes 1h26 and to Quimper 3h50.

The regional rail passenger transport is carried out by the TER Bretagne. The departments are responsible for local public transport and the municipalities for local public transport. Rennes has a fully automated metro and Brest has a tram.

Commercial airports are Brest, Rennes, Lorient, Dinard, Quimper and Lannion. Due to its size, Nantes Airport, located in the Pays de la Loire region, is also important for Brittany.


Education and Science

Brittany is home to a number of prestigious higher education institutions. In addition to the University of Rennes 1, the University of Rennes 2 and the University of West Brittany, the ESC Rennes School of Business is one of the best in the world.




Neolithic and Celtic heritage

Culturally, the diverse megalithic monuments have nothing "Celtic" about them, but rather date from the Neolithic period. The names for the various types of megalithic structures in German are pseudo-Breton (i.e. composed of Breton roots in a way that does not correspond to the Breton grammar): dolmen, for example (from Breton taol - table, board and maen - stone). The correct Breton name is taol-vaen. The same applies to the term menhir (from Breton maen - stone and hir - long), which does not exist in Breton, where the word peulven is used instead.

Cultural similarities with the other Celtic regions can be seen not only in the language but also in other cultural areas, such as in literature (which includes the large field of oral tradition) and cuisine.


Archaeological Sites

There are numerous prehistoric sites in Brittany.
Long Tombs of Brittany
Megalithic sites in Brittany
Menhirs of Brittany
Basements in Brittany
Stone enclosure of Brittany
Petroglyphs on Brittany megaliths



The traditional Breton cuisine, like that of the other Celtic countries, is primarily the product of an old cattle breeding and farming culture, despite its variety of fish and seafood. In addition to meat, dairy products such as salted butter and buttermilk (cheese production remained underdeveloped for a long time), cereal porridge (Breton yod), sterz cooked in small bags (Breton farz) and crêpes (Breton krampouezh) played the main roles in the traditional diet of the rural population.


Breton festivals

Due to its long tradition of music and dance, which has been developing since Celtic times in Brittany, numerous festivals are held on the peninsula every year; some are also of international importance:


Scallop Festival

Annual festival in April, held alternately in the north Breton coastal towns of Erquy, Saint-Quay-Portrieux and Loguivy-de-la-Mer in the Côtes-d'Armor department. The month of April is the harvest time of the scallop, which is often referred to as the queen of all mussels. The program includes tastings and sales, boat parades and excursions on fishing boats.
Brest International Port Festival
Dedicated to maritime culture, this festival takes place every four years in the port of Brest (Brest 2000, Brest 2004, Brest 2008, Brest 2012, etc.). From July 13th to 19th, 2012, the Seamen's Festival will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. Up to a million visitors, 30 participating countries, over 2500 different boats (traditional ships, historic sailing boats, classic yachts), regattas, harbor tours.
Festival de Cornouaille
This multi-day music and dance festival, which has been taking place every year since 1947 at the end of July in the city center of Quimper (like Brest, also in the Finistère department), is one of the oldest Breton festivals still in existence.
Lorient Interceltic Festival
Annual ten-day Celtic festival held in August in Lorient in the Morbihan department, first held in 1971 and currently the world's largest Celtic gathering with around 800,000 visitors and several thousand musicians and dancers from Scotland, Ireland, Galicia, Cornwall, Wales, Asturias and others, Celtic embossed regions.
Festival des Vieilles Charrues
This music 'festival of the old ploughs' takes place annually in July in the inland town of Carhaix-Plougouer. It was first organized in 1991 by a group of friends; it has grown into a major event that now attracts more than 230,000 visitors every year. Since then, the Scorpions, David Guetta, Snoop Dogg, Jack Johnson and other international artists have performed at Vieilles Charrues.
Festival Yaouank
The "Young Festival" has been held annually in the university town of Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine department) since 1999. It has its focus in the newer Breton light music; the concerts will be performed at various locations in the city, spread over the month of November.



Remains of a verse form called kenganez have survived in Middle Breton literature, which closely resembles Welsh cynghanedd and is characterized by a complicated combination of staff, inner and end rhymes. In addition, the motifs of the Arthurian literature may have reached the European continent through Breton mediation from Great Britain.



The Breton music scene is extremely lively. Where youngsters go to discos in other parts of the western world, young Bretons are still drawn to the fest-noz (“night party”), where traditional music such as binioù kozh (bagpipes), bombard (bombard) or treujenn gaol ( clarinet) - as well as modern instruments to traditional folk dances.

Young and old alike dance at weddings, village festivals and other happy occasions. Despite the musical affinity with other Celtic dances such as the plinns, jigs and reels, many Breton variants are more like chain dances in which all present can participate.

There is also a tradition of purely vocal dance music performed in the style of kan-ha-diskan ("singing and counter-singing"). The genre of gwerzioù (lamentations/ballads/moritatas) is also of great importance in Breton vocal music. Notable performers include Yann-Fañch Kemener, Denez Prigent, Alan Stivell, Nolwenn Leroy, Annie Ebrel and Erik Marchand.


Sightseeing features

A peninsula in northwestern France, Brittany is surrounded by 2,700km of coastline. This coast is characterized by its diversity: the Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast) is located in the north of Brittany in the department of Côtes-d'Armor. It extends over 30 km from Plestin-les-Grèves to Louannec. The pink colored granite is very rare and can only be found in three other places on earth: Ontario in Canada, Corsica and China. One of Brittany's most characteristic and well-known headlands is the wild Pointe du Raz in the south-west, which rises 70 meters above the sea. The panorama over the wild Atlantic once inspired the French authors Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert. In the distance, the small island of Sein can be seen amid numerous lighthouses, including the famous Ar Men. The rugged landscape of the Pointe du Raz is contrasted by the white sandy beaches and green islands of the Gulf of Morbihan, whose name means "little sea" in Breton. The Gulf of Morbihan is an inland sea connected to the Atlantic with 42 green islands in southern Brittany in the Morbihan department.

The more than 800 small and large islands that surround Brittany are as diverse as the coast. Some of them are:
Île de Bréhat: also known as the "Island of Flowers" because of its flora
Île de Batz: The island, which lives from fishing, vegetable cultivation and tourism, attracts numerous visitors every year with its tropical garden.
Ouessant: westernmost island of mainland France
Île-Molène: The Molène archipelago is not found on every map. This green ring of islands is a wild paradise with its white sand beaches and reefs.
Île-de-Sein: The island is so flat that it has been completely submerged by water several times in its history. In the only village on the island, the houses are close together to protect themselves from the gusts of wind.
Glénan Islands: Located off the coast of Concarneau, the archipelago resembles tropical countries with its paradisiacal landscapes.
Belle-Île: natural harbours, small beautiful coves, extensive beaches of fine sand, dunes and cliffs with numerous coastal caves
Ile aux Moines
Sept Îles: The "Seven Islands" have been a nature reserve since 1912 and a paradise for rare bird species.

The so-called "villes et pays d'Art et d'Histoire" (French Cities and Regions of Art and History) are cities that have been recognized by the French Ministry of Culture for their rich cultural and historical heritage and have signed a common charter for the to preserve and promote this heritage. These cities include Brittany

Vitre (Ille et Vilaine)
Saint Malo
Over 6000 megaliths and 1000 dolmens can be found in Brittany. The largest collection with more than 3000 stones is in Carnac.



Brittany is one of the four French regions with the most football players; In 2007, 167,000 residents were organized in a football club. In 2014/15, six men's teams played in the two French professional leagues (Stade Rennes, FC Lorient, EA Guingamp, FC Nantes, although the historic capital of the Bretons administratively belongs to the Pays de la Loire region, in Ligue 1, while Stade Brest in Ligue 2 and OC Vannes is active in the semi-professional third division); Guingamp/Saint-Brieuc is represented in the top women's league. Brittany also has its own football "national team".