In this guide, we shine a spotlight on six of the best coastal towns to buy a home in Brittany. They’re towns built on a human scale, featuring well-preserved vernacular architecture, vibrant cultural traditions, a fabulous natural environment and a thriving jobs market.
Anchored on the far western tip of France, Brittany with its superb coastline, authentic way of life and cultural richness is a popular destination for home-seekers, particularly in the post-Covid era. Not only is the quality of life high, but also the cost of living is modest here. Recently, it’s become increasingly attractive for job seekers and remote workers, with a flourishing jobs market in many sectors such as technology, and a vibrant start-up scene.
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Brittany, at 28,000 square kilometres, is the size of the entire south-west of England, so you have a lot of choice. It has a mild maritime climate similar to that of Cornwall or Devon, and its coastline looks familiar too: wild cliffs, rocky inlets and pretty bays flanked by attractive villages. You can surf here, or enjoy days walking along the well-signposted coastal paths.
Noted for its joie de vivre, it plays host to numerous festivals each year, from the inter-Celtic festival at Lorient, Fest-Noz (now recognised by UNESCO for its contribution to Breton culture), and the more contemporary Route de Rock being notable examples. And if you’re a foodie, you’ll love it here; think platefuls of fresh fish, seafood, crepes and delicious desserts such as the unctuous far Breton flan.
Brest, situated in the Finistère (Land’s End) department is located in a sheltered bay, close to the far western extremity of France. A major harbour and home to a million inhabitants it’s a city rather than a town, but we’ve included Brest in this edit because of its dynamism, the exceptional beauty of the location and youthful ambiance. It’s renowned for a multidisciplinary university as well as a prestigious naval academy and has an excellent quality of life.
Plus, thanks to attractive property prices, it’s a favourite for new arrivals, particularly young families. Healthcare in Brest is excellent too, with a university hospital and numerous clinics. Expect to pay around €200,000 for a 100sqm house, €180,000 for an apartment. Plus, you can fly to Brest with Ryanair from London Stansted.
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You’ll find historic Lorient located in the magnificent Morbihan. Life’s quiet here, and the cost of living is lower than in similar coastal towns. In terms of property prices, you’ll pay around €250,000 for a 100sqm house, €200,000 for an apartment. From elegant mid-century villas to modern flats, there’s something for everyone in Lorient. Wherever you are in this town, the sea and the countryside are close by, and it’s renowned for its conviviality, leisure activities and exceptional natural beauty.
Life revolves around the sea, from the submarine museum to the high-tech yacht racing centre at the Cité de la Voile. What’s more, it has a bustling port – the second largest fishing port in France – and an excellent football team, in the top rungs of French soccer. Lorient is three hours by train from Paris with 11 trains a day. You can reach it by ferry and car from St Malo or Roscoff in around 2 – 2.5 hours.
Not far from Brest, Quimper is proud of its Celtic cultural tradition, and it’s a pleasure to stroll around the half-timbered alleys of the town, steeped in Breton ambiance. It’s also famed for nearby beaches such as Bénodet, Fouesnant and Concarneau, an imposing cathedral and medieval houses. Even in the centre of town, water isn’t far away, whether that be the ocean or the rivers Odet and Steïr. The town recently ousted Bayonne as the best place to live in France for families, thanks to its proximity to the natural environment, the quality of life and employment possibilities.
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House prices? They’re relatively modest, with an average of €190,000 for a house, and €175,000 for a flat. Typical homes include modern estate-style properties in traditional style, or you could opt for a cosy apartment in a half-timbered property. You can reach Quimper in 2.30 hours from the ferry port of Roscoff, 2.45 hours from St. Malo.
Port town St-Malo finds itself in Ile-et-Vilaine, northern Brittany. Sitting on the Emerald Coast, it boasts an ancient citadel, medieval city and cobbled streets lined with shops, bars and restaurants. There are beaches, stunning views, marinas and museums. A town in fact with bags of charm. You can visit the beach, enjoy a plateful of seafood, or simply enjoy soaking up the maritime ambiance of the town famous for its massive tidal range. Plus, thanks to its location at the crossroads of three separate ecosystems; the Mont St. Michel bay, the Rance estuary and the wetlands of the Marais, it’s a haven for naturalists, walkers and lovers of natural beauty.
This town has oodles of cultural capital, with clubs and societies centred around sports (water sports in particular), music, gardening and nature. Temperatures range from 3°C and 22°C annually with plenty of sunshine. House prices range from €400,000 for a house and €373,000 for a flat. Ferries arrive here directly from Britain, so if you’re looking for a home from home, St. Malo is a great choice.
The medieval town of Vannes is one of the most popular towns in Brittany for families. While it remains relatively old-fashioned, its health care facilities are excellent and the ambiance relaxed. Think cobbled streets, fine restaurants and a lovely park.
Since Vannes is further south than our other picks, the weather’s slightly warmer too. House prices reflect Vannes privileged position and refined way of life, with houses averaging €400,000 and flats €350,000. You can reach Vannes by Eurostar from Paris in around 2.30 hours, and by car from Roscoff in 2.30 and St. Malo in two hours.
Set on the Paris to Brest train route, or easy to reach via the port of Roscoff by ferry and car, Morlaix is one of the prettiest French towns in Brittany. It’s at the mouth of the river between the sea and the foothills of the Monts d’Arree mountains.The main part of the town of around 15,000 people sits in a valley across which runs the impressive train viaduct. There are ancient timbered houses, and one in particular, the Maison de la Duchesse-Anne has retained its medieval interior too.
Morlaix has the usual vibrant weekend market, alongside some classy shops and restaurants in its alleyways and steep side streets.
Heading out of town, you’ll find some excellent surf locations, such as the village of Locquirec, about 20 kilometres away.
If you’re thinking about a second home in Brittany, the visa requirements depend on how long you plan to stay there. If you’ll visit for fewer than 90 days in any six months you won’t need a visa, but from three to six months, you’ll need a temporary long-stay visa. Planning to stay for more than six months? You’ll be considered a resident and need a long-stay visa.
And don’t forget insurance. Accidents can prove costly, so make sure you have an appropriate policy that covers visits to a GP as well as a hospital stay.