Capital of the ancient diocese, kingdom and later duchy of Cornouaille, Quimper is the oldest city in Brittany. Its first bishop, St Corentin, is said to have come with the first Bretons across the English Channel at some point between the fourth and seventh centuries.
Still “the charming little place” known to Flaubert, Quimper takes at most half an hour to cross on foot. Though relaxed, it’s active enough to have the bars and atmosphere to make it worth going out café-crawling. The word “kemper” denotes the junction of the two rivers, the Steir and the Odet, around which lie the cobbled streets (now mainly pedestrianized) of the medieval quarter. To the east of the Gothic cathedral, towering over place St-Corentin, ancient half-timbered buildings hold lively shops and cafés.
With no great pressure to rush around monuments or museums, the most enjoyable option may be to take a boat and drift down the Odet, “the prettiest river in France”, to the open sea at Bénodet. Overlooking all is tree-covered Mont Frugy; climb to its 87m peak for good views over the city.