Quiberon is a tiny city perched on the point of a 15-kilometer-long peninsula (known as the Presqu’île de Quiberon, or “almost” island), with the wild, rugged, and highly attractive Côte Sauvage (“wild coast”) bordering the city to the west.
Quiberon stretches outward from its central beach and ports, where many boats leave daily for the wildly popular Belle-île and where fishing boats arrive to unload their hauls.
Winters in Quiberon are usually cold, wet, and windy, hence, the town serves primarily as a seasonal resort. Sea winds (particularly on the Côte Sauvage) might make a light jacket or windbreaker useful throughout the summer months despite the high temperatures. Layer up, but July and August tend to be perfect for trips to the beach.
History of Quiberon
The bay saw action between French and British vessels in 1759 during the Seven Years’ War. In July 1795, during the French Revolution, French Royalist refugees used Quiberon as a base for a failed invasion of Brittany (traditionally a royalist territory), with support from the British. The Revolutionaries, led by General Lazare Hoche, were able to overcome the invasion.
A scientist named Nicolas Appert invented a process that allowed for the safe sterilization of food in the nineteenth century. As a result of this method, Quiberon surpassed all other French ports as the primary location from where sardines were caught and processed into canned goods.
During the fishing season (May–October), many people from the Finistère département moved to Quiberon. Women worked at the sardine can manufacturers while the males went fishing.
In 1882, the Auray–Quiberon railway opened for business. The event had a profound impact on Quiberon’s lifestyle. Seaweed harvesting, canning, and fishing have all been supplanted by tourists. During this period, Gustave Flaubert, Anatole France, and Sarah Bernhardt, among others, made Quiberon a favorite vacation spot.
In 1924, the peninsula officially became a health resort, which was a major turning point in its history. Quiberon now relies heavily on tourism for its economy.
The Germans took Penthièvre Fort on the narrow peninsula during WWII and included it in their Atlantic Wall defenses. Several blockhouses were located there, although their primary use was by the army. They tortured and buried alive 59 members of the resistance in July 1944.
Those who fought are honored by a Cross of Lorraine affixed to a stone pillar, with a plaque bearing their names. A gallery (tunnel) where the victims were discovered is open to the public despite the fort’s continued military use (as a training station).
Best things to do in Quiberon
The Grande Plage, Quiberon’s expansive sandy beach, is a popular spot for summertime swimming and sunbathing. Along the length of this beach is a boardwalk filled with tourist trap businesses offering everything from salt water taffy to gaufre and crêpes. People go to the boardwalk and beach in the summer to shop and relax in the sun.
The rocky and windswept Côte Sauvage can be found on the western side of the Quiberon peninsula, and while it is just about 5 minutes from town, it gives the impression of being in a distant and unspoiled area of the coast. Take in the wild beauty of the Brittany coast as you watch the waves crash against the magnificent cliffs and bays.
Quiberon is a relatively small city to explore on two wheels. A bike is a terrific way to get around, and it’s also exciting to feel the wind in your hair as you go around like a native, especially since there’s a fabulous boardwalk and great seafood markets to explore.
Belle-île, the biggest island in Brittany, is a popular tourist destination, but its size ensures that there is still plenty of space to explore even in high season.
Belle-île is a day excursion from Quiberon, but those who choose to spend the night may do so by either camping or checking into one of the island’s hotels. Whether you want to stay the night or not, you should rent a bike and explore the island to take in its beautiful scenery.
There is a market in the middle of town every Wednesday (during the summer) and every Saturday morning. The market is a wonderful spot to not only buy food for a picnic but also to savor freshly chopped oysters and other seafood from the region.
How to get to Quiberon?
The train station at Quiberon is open during the summer months, and you may reach there by taking autoroute D768 down the peninsula. Take the street de Verdun into town, which will bring you to the harbor and Grande Plage. Commuters who drive to the beach during the summer may want to leave their vehicles in the big Semaphore car park and walk or ride the free shuttle for the remaining 1.5 kilometers.
The Gare de Montparnasse in Paris is where you can get a TGV to Auray, which will bring you to trains that will take you on to Quiberon.
During the months of July and August, passengers can take the Tire-Bouchon (the French word for “corkscrew”) from the nearest train station in Auray to Quiberon. Several times a day, for around €3, the Tire-Bouchon departs. The ride lasts for 40 minutes. Auray to Quiberon may be reached through an hour-long, €6.50 SNCF bus ride from September through June.
Tourists flock to the roughly 30 kilometers of shoreline that make up the Quiberon Peninsula in both Brittany and France. It’s well-known for its stunning stretches of coastline, but there’s much more to this destination than meets the eye. It’s not all clear water, brown rocks, and white beach. Along the shore, you’ll find a wealth of interesting monuments, while inland, you’ll find quaint little villages.