Rochefort-en-Terre is a village on a raised promontory in the quiet countryside of the Morbihan department (south-west Brittany) between Vannes (to the west) and Redon (to the east). It is officially classified as one of the ‘beautiful villages of France’.
35 kilometers east of Vannes, on a rocky hill surrounding the valley of Gueuzon, the little Breton town of Rochefort-en-Terre shows a high homogeneity despite the different architectural styles cohabiting: half-timbered houses, gothic monuments, Renaissance hotels, 19th Century’s architecture… Stone, which is everywhere, is here the thing in common between all these traces of History.
High above the River Arz, Rochefort-en-Terre has been voted one of France’s most beautiful villages and as a result is one of Brittany’s most visited sites. Park near the bottom of the village and then walk up through the village to appreciate the charming houses on the edge of town. Make your way through the narrow streets, past ateliers and workshops, admiring the geranium-bedecked houses along the way. When you get to the main street – the Rue du Porche you will be stunned by the beautiful architecture.
The town is based around an attractive central square and main street which has some lovely ancient houses from the 17th century, a few in colombage but mostly built in the sturdy granite typical of the region. One of the most impressive is the Tour du Lion hotel, an imposing granite house with a tower in the Rue du Porche.
The attractive mix of colombage and granite, medieval and Renaissance means that most of the pleasure of a visit comes from simply strolling around the centre of Rochefort-en-Terre admiring the buildings and stopping for a coffee in one of the cafes but there are also two or three individual monuments that you should also pay attention to.
An American in Brittany
Rochefort was put on the map in the early 20th century after a wealthy French-born American painter called Alfred Klotz bought the local château in 1907. Dating back to the 12th century, the château was destroyed by Republicans in 1793 and only the façade remains; the current building was constructed by Klotz. The château is open from May to September and houses some of Klotz’s paintings as well as a collection of objects from rural life in times past.
A flower fest
Klotz encouraged the local residents to dress their houses with geraniums, a tradition which continues, leading to Rochefort winning many awards for being one of France’s most beautiful villages in bloom.
A mixed bag
The best way to explore Rochefort is to wander around its attractive streets admiring the mix of architectural styles, which range from 16th-century half-timbered buildings like the Café de la Pente to symmetrical stone-built Renaissance structures like the Post Office in Rue Notre Dame de la Tronchaye. From April to September, the streets are illuminated from dusk until midnight.
Take the biscuit
As you’d expect from a ‘little town of character’ with an arty past, the streets are dotted with artists and craftspeople: potters, a candle maker, a toymaker… but don’t leave town without visiting one of the artisan biscuit makers like Le Rucher Fleuri in Rue du Porche, which is highly regarded throughout the region for its pain d’épices. Whichever shop you visit look upwards: Rochefort is known for its unusual and colourful signs.
A watery interlude
About a mile outside Rochefort is the Moulin Neuf, a lakeside complex where you’ll find a supervised beach in summer as well as activities including tennis, fishing, cycling and paths for walkers.