Located in the Finistère départment of Brittany in northwest France, Douarnenez was once one of the most important fishing ports in the country, particularly well-known for its sardine fishing and canning industry. Today this represents only a minor part of the village's activity, as indeed does tourism. While it does have some beaches, this is not the main reason to come and visit Douarnenez - its ...
Located in the Finistère départment of Brittany in northwest France, Douarnenez was once one of the most important fishing ports in the country, particularly well-known for its sardine fishing and canning industry. Today this represents only a minor part of the village's activity, as indeed does tourism. While it does have some beaches, this is not the main reason to come and visit Douarnenez - its ports and walking paths are more of interest, especially during the summer months
There are a few different walking trails both inland and along the coast, with one sign-posted route designed to teach visitors the history of the town and its link to sardines. Perhaps the most pleasant walk however is that which leads to the island of Tristan, only around 50m from the shore, which is accessible by foot at low tide. On the island visitors can see a fort from the time of Napoleon III, a lighthouse and an exotic garden. The town boasts several different beaches one of which is great for surfing (La Plage des Ris) and another which has equipment for handicapped visitors to enter the sea (La Plage des Sables Blancs).
The main interest in Douarnenez is its three ports. The first, a museum, has a large collection of both old and new boats as well as thousands of other objects such as engines, nets and cannery tools. The second port is that of Rosmeur, meaning large hillside in Breton, which is the current fishing port and has some charming narrow streets to explore. The third is in Tréboul and serves as the marina from where there are great views of the bay. Down at Plomarc'h you'll find an archaeological site, a traditional village, curing vats and the starting points for several walking trails. In terms of architecture, there are some interesting villas and former factory worker houses around the town while there are several churches to visit both in and around Douarnenez.
Getting to Douarnenez is simple enough but can take a while. If you are coming direct from the UK then a ferry across from Portsmouth to Roscoff would be the best option, finishing the journey by road. From Paris, either take the train to Quimper and then a bus to Douarnenez or head to Rennes and then take the free expressway to Quimper before following signs to the town. The closest airport to Douarnenez is Quimper-Pluguffan, around 12 miles away.
Douarnenez is a quiet village by the sea and as such there is really nothing to be worried about. The only reason not to visit would be if you have a problem with fish, especially sardines!
Despite its size, Douarnenez does have a number of specialities which visitors should try. The most important of these by far is the sardine, which you can find everywhere, prepared in any number of ways. Then there are many other types of seafood available such as mussels and crab and lobster (the Brittany variety) as well as oysters and scallops. There are two dessert type specialities in these parts too: kouign amann and farz fourn. The former is a cake made with bread-like dough with sugar and butter and is baked until the sugar caramelises. The latter is a simple cake made with eggs, butter, sugar, flour and milk and usually contains raisins or prunes. You'll also find lots of restaurants serving crêpes and galettes.
There is no real typical souvenir to bring back from Douarnenez aside from sardines. There is still an active canning industry in the town and you will be able to find a wide variety of different cans.