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Vannes France

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Vannes is at the east end of the Golfe du Morbihan and it is a major tourist attraction in southern Brittany. It is a very appealing town with a small medieval centre (surprisingly small considering the size of the town that has sprung up around the old walls), lively studenty atmosphere thanks to the part of the Université de Rennes that is based here, and it is near to the sea to boot.

Vieux Vannes has a long and interesting history. It was the capital of the Veneti, a tribe of Gallic sailors who were conquered by Julius Caesar in 1BC; then in the 9th century it was the seat of Breton unity, and finally Brittany's unity with France was proclaimed here in 1532 after a string of royal marriages.

The port is full of yachts and lies south of the town at the end of a canalized waterway, which leads to the gulf. The bustling place Gambetta just north of the port is overlooked by the Porte St Vincent, the main focus of and entry point to the old town. The tourist office is at 1 rue Thiers in a lovely half timbered 17th century building. Both the gares (SNCF and routière) are a good 25 minute walk north of the town centre.

Although Place Henri IV is the nicest spot in the old town, affording views down the narrow streets with their overhanging houses, the town centre is officially at place de la République with the smart Hotel de Ville. The 14th century building known as La Cohue, which has been a marketplace, a theatre and a prison in its 750 year existence, is now the Musée de Vannes (€4). Upstairs is the unexciting Musée des Beaux Arts, with mostly 19th century paintings, but there are more interesting temporary exhibitions downstairs in the main gallery.

There is a Musée d'Archéologie at 2 rue Noé in the 15th century Chateau Gaillard, but the fine collection of megalithic artefacts can be rather sterile. More exciting perhaps is the aquarium in the Parc du Golfe, south of place Gambetta (€8) which is home to a Nile crocodile that was found in the sewers of Paris in 1984, some four eyed, four sexed fish from Venezuela, and no eyed fish from Mexico.

Vannes has a good selection of hotels to choose from, ranging in style and price, although inside the city walls the prices get higher. The same rule applies for dining in Vannes. There are some attractive restaurants on the rue des Halles, such as the gourmet Restaurant de Roscanvec at number 17 (02 97 47 15 96) with €17 lunch menus or dinner menus from €23, or by the port, but these are inevitably more expensive than the "snackier" restaurants outside the walls.