Vannes, Brittany’s Royal Seaside City

Mar 28, 2014 by

Brittany, or Breizh as it is known in its native language, is the beautiful Celtic region of France, rich in history and a unique cultural legacy.  One of the most visited cities in Brittany is the seaside town of Vannes.   Founded over 2000 years ago, Vannes is situated on the Gulf of Morbihan–mor bihan means “little sea” in Breton– at the mouth of two rivers, the Marle and the Vincin, in Brittany.  It is a thriving market and tourist town, one of the busiest in southern Brittany.

Vannes takes its name from the Veneti, a seafaring Celtic people who lived in the region before the Roman invasions in the 1st century BCE.  Julius Caesar’s naval fleet attacked the Veneti in 56 BC at the nearby town of Locmariaquer; all the Veneti were either slaughtered or sold into slavery.   The Romans named the area (which was the chief town of the Veneti) Darioritum;  after the fall of the Roman empire in the 5th century , the town was renamed Venetis, then called Vennes for a long period ( pronounced “jwened” and spelt “Gwened” in Breton), before finally settling on its current appellation, Vannes. 






Vannes was the preferred residence of the Dukes of Brittany during the Middle Ages and became the Prefecture (County town) of Morbihan in 1791.   The Chateau de l’Hermine, also known as the Hotel Lagorce, was built in 1785 on the ruins of the original 14th century Chateau built by Duke John V, or Yann V in Breton, which formed part of the city walls of Vannes.    The original fortress was the seat of the Dukes of Brittany, and the present building is now a cultural museum.


Vannes is the birthplace of Claude-Michel Schönberg, actor, singer, songwriter, and musical theater composer, who created the idea and wrote the music for the Tony award-winning musical, Les Misérables, a huge international success, as well as The Pirate Queen, a musical about the life of Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate, which was a huge box office flop.



To learn more about Vannes and the lovely Celtic land of Brittany, try any of the following sources:

Discovering Vannes

Morbihan Guide

Mairie de Vannes (Facebook)

TripAdvisor: Vannes

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