5 Must Do Things at Concarneau, France
Concarneau is France’s third most important fishing port. The 14th century “ville close” (walled town) is the main tourist attraction and is built on an island in the harbour and surrounded by massive lichen covered granite ramparts. You access the “ville close” by walking over the stone bridge from Place Jean Jaurès. These 5 Must Do Things at Concarneau are suggestions for the ville close however there is lots more to do in the newer part of town also. The covered market dating back to 1855, the temporary winter ice rink in the town square and contemporary church proudly displaying its Bazaine mosaic are just a few things the newer part of Concarneau offer to visitors. Today we are exploring what to do in the ville close…
1. Attend Les Filets Bleu Festival
Go to Les Filets Bleu Festival, the Blue Fishing Net Festival, is a celebration that has been held every year in August since 1905. This festival, now well over 100 years old started when hard times hit the fishing industry and the inhabitants of the town decided a festival would help. Back then, the quays of Concarneau were covered in the blue sardine-fishing nets that have since given their name to this festival. Over 1,500 participants dress up in local Breton costume and participate in a street parade with blue fishing nets held by fisherman as the centre piece of Le Grande Parade. As well as the parade, and the crowing of Miss Filets Bleus there is dancing, fresh fish for sale, fish on the menu every day and culinary demonstrations.
2. Take a Walk around the old town ramparts
Taking a walk around the walled town’s ramparts gives you spectacular views of the surrounding harbour and town houses. I loved the different colours of the town houses that seemed to brighten even a dull wintery day (as seen in photo above). Even in mid-winter with a biting cold wind rushing across the town’s walls the walk is well worth the effort. You cannot circumnaviate the whole town like at Saint Malo but there is something special about climbing up stairs and walls that have a history of armies shooting arrows and later firing cannons from. A medieval dream of my boys when they were younger, although I’m sure glad we never lived in those unforgiving periods of history.
3. Play spot the cat
For some reason there seemed to be quite a few cats enjoying the winter sun when we have visited this ancient town. We played spot the cat to entertain our children and our guests’ children. It was fun checking out alleys, window sills and sunny spots looking for these feline residents. Maybe it is the sardine heritage that these felines enjoy!
4. Shop for maritime themed clothing and other goodies
If you are looking for traditional french marine clothing or souvenirs, the quality of the nautical clothing in the stores was very good. There were many options for souvenirs and also good quality family warm clothing. There’s something very nautical and french about a striped blue and white jersey, yellow rain coat, demin jeans and yellow gumboots. Thick marine woollen jumpers are plenty, unfortunately they are just too warm for wear in Australia… due to our extreme heat they would seriously be more like a personal sauna. Pity!
Of course you can also drink hot coffees to warm up in winter or enjoy in the summer sun at the many cafes in the old walled town. I would suggest buying some famous french caramels and macarons for a late night snack at one of the sweet shops.
5. Visit the Maritime Museum
The Musee de la Peche is in the port’s ancient barracks and it explains the local fishing techniques and the history of sea fishing. The museum describes themselves as a “conservatory of fishing history and observatory of fishing techniques and contemporary shipbuilding”. It shows the importance of fishing to the region and together with a shipbuilding workshop there are over 150 ship models, charts and ancient documents. This museum is an interesting place with access to an outside marina and larger boats to look at. My boys, aged 6 years and 10 years at the time, liked the models and wandering along the marina the best.
Have you visited a fishing museum? It is quite a specific area of interest for a museum but is done well here at Concarneau. Weather can determine what attractions you visit when holidaying, particularly with children, and indoors out of the rain or snow often makes museums, art galleries and theatres a good choice.
Useful French words and further Information
un pêcher = a fisherman
un bateau de pêche = a fishing boat
un chalutier = a trawler
Les Festival Filets Bleu information and tickets can be found here.
For more on and around Brittany visit the official tourism site here.
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Best wishes… Annette xx
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