Already fortified by the Romans, the town developed inside its ramparts in medieval times, then outside them in the 17th century, with the construction of many mansions.
The former residence of the Dukes of Brittany, Vannes has a very beautiful historic centre, with 171 half-timbered houses! You can explore it on a guided tour, aboard a little train or on your own at your leisure.
To start with, admire the medieval ramparts, some of the best-preserved in Brittany. This provides an opportunity to take a charming walk along the Garenne, a path that runs alongside them and is dotted with gardens and scenic washhouses.
After exploring the harbour, with its tree-lined quays including the Rabine quay, go through the 17th-century St. Vincent's Gate, created to connect the harbour and the historic quarter. You will enter the old town via a street lined with old buildings, mansions and half-timbered houses. Go up to Place des Lices, where the market halls of 1912 await you. Devoted to culinary products, they are open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday mornings, as well as all day on Saturdays.
Not far from there, the Cathedral of St. Peter, built in the 15th century and modified until the end of the 19th century, contains the tomb of the town's patron saint, St. Vincent Ferrer.
Two unmissable sites await you: the Garenne washhouse, which dates from the 19th century, and "Vannes and his wife", at the corner of Rue du Bienheureux Pierre-René Rogue and Rue Noé. These two painted, smiling figures appear on the façade of a 16th-century house that is a listed Historic Monument.
Nearby is the museum of history and archaeology at Château Gaillard, a mansion from the early 15th century. Other sights to see are the Museum of Fine Arts, which has some fine collections about Breton heritage, on Rue Cohue, an old medieval market hall, and the Saint-Patern district, the oldest area of the town.
When it comes to events, the Fêtes historiques de Vannes history festival is celebrated in mid-July. Jazz has pride of place at Jazz en Ville, in July-August.
Vannes is an ideal starting point to explore the Gulf of Morbihan by boat: around forty islands have been counted, excluding islets, each with its own characteristics. They include Arz, Moines Island, Houat, Hoëdic, etc.