Exploring the pretty mill town of Pont-Aven is a must-see for any holiday to Southern Brittany.
Whilst Pont-Aven has become famous for Gauguin and the Pont-Aven school of painters, you don’t have to be an artist lover to visit.
1. The art
Okay! I had to mention this first.
I know there are many other things to do but no matter what, if you are coming to Pont Aven you cannot avoid the subject of art.
It is deeply etched into the fabric of the town, not only from it’s history as the start of the post-Impressionist Synthesist movement by Gauguin, Bernard, Anquetin, Sérusier, Laval and others in the 1880s, but in the numerous galleries and studios dotted throughout the town.
The highlight of any visit has to be the newly opened museum.
My recommendation is to head straight to the Museé de Pont-Aven as soon as it opens in the morning (Well, perhaps after booking a space in a restaurant you fancy and putting your head into the Tourist Office nearby to see what is on for the day and book any trips!). This will help avoid the afternoon crowds and gives a good background to getting the best out of any afternoon meanderings through the village.
The museum is open all year round except January and is one of the best presented museums I have ever seen.
It’s beauty is that its primary focus is on explaining the Synthesist movement; there is not so much to see that you are overwhelmed and everything is clearly laid out and explained well, with films and interactive games.
We were on a tight timescale and rushed through in 1.5 hours but 2 hours would be better.
Remember to ask for the Audioguide (in numerous languages) which is included in the price – absolutely essential to get the best from your visit.
Not only is Pont-Aven famous for its art, it is also famous for its Galettes de Pont-Aven, Breton butter biscuits.
In the village centre, the workshop at La Galette offers free 30 minute demonstrations all year round. The factories of Traou Mad (3€) and Penven (free) run 1 hour factory visits depending on the time of the year.
Book at the tourist office.
An easy stroll around the town is essential to soak up all the artist galleries and beautifully presented boutique shops.
Look out for the Pension Gloanec where Gauguin first found lodgings because Mme Gloanec would kindly extend credit to impoverished artists. Gauguin’s statute is in the centre of the town and the placards show the inspirational spots for famous paintings. Our Day Trip guide gives plenty of hints and tips for your day out.
The tourist office can supply a map of three short walks ranging from 30 minutes to 1h which take in the many sites of the village.
The red route (30 minutes) is perfect for children and takes you around the Bois d’Amour and flowered walkways along the river. If time permits, we suggest you combine it with the yellow route which covers the town and port area, which should only add another 30 minutes to your walk.
4. River cruises
From April to mid-October, Les Vedettes Aven-Belon, offer 1h15 to 1h45 river cruises on the Aven and Belon with departures depending on the tides. Details of the sailing and tariffs can be found on their website. Reservations can be made direct (02 98 71 14 59) but must be paid for 15 minutes before departure.
Tickets can be purchased at the Tourist Office or 1 hour before departure at the port of Pont-Aven.
5. It’s just so pretty!
The artists came here for a reason! Well, there were another two. It was cheap compared to Paris and the beaches of Normandy, where the Impressionists gathered. There was also a rail link directly into the town.
And if you have the time, pop into the picturesque port of Doëlan or beaches of Le Pouldu.
Le Pouldu was also a favourite of the Pont-Aven school of artists for its seascapes and light. The Maison-Musée du Pouldu is a reconstruction of a hostel where Gauguin and Dutch artist De Haan both lived and where they decorated the dining hall.