An adorable Breton town nestled on the banks of the Aven, Pont-Aven seduces its visitors with the charm of its streets, the richness of its artistic life and the sweetness of its famous galettes de Pont Aven.
This delightful river port, framed by windmills and picturesque views, is one of the most enchanting villages in Brittany: so charming that it became a refuge for Parisian artists, fleeing the hubbub of the city and seeking rural inspiration, first and foremost Paul Gauguin. Pont-Aven’s artistic tradition continues to this day and the town is home to some sixty galleries and artists’ studios within its walls.
The history of Pont Aven is closely linked to the generations of painters who came here to capture the beauty of its paths and the picturesque nature of its inhabitants.
The first wave occurred around 1860 and mainly concerned academic art. It was followed by a migration of Impressionists and Synthetists: Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard and even Paul Sérusier were to be the leaders of this pictorial renewal, known as the Pont- Aven School. A veritable colony of artists was born, with various painting styles, united by sharing the same subjects of inspiration.
To understand the deep connection between the city and art, we recommend you start your visit at its most representative museum. This marvellous building, spacious and bright and recently modernised, houses 4,500 works: they are part of an interactive itinerary tracing the artistic life of the city, organised in chronological and thematic order, illustrating the enormous influence that the artists of the Pont-Aven school had on modern painting.
On the first floor, the dining room of the Hotel Julia, where the group of artists used to meet to discuss art and current affairs, has been faithfully and meticulously reconstructed.
The Pont Aven Tourist Office proposes several circuits to discover the deep intertwining between the town and art. Our favourite route is the one that winds its way through delightful woods and windmills: it starts at Promenade Xavier Grall, a path surrounded by greenery and leads to the Bois d’Amour, where Gauguin and Sérusier used to discuss art and life.
This little grove bordering the Aven, close to the town centre, is one of the most fascinating places in the village: it was here that Paul Gauguin’s famous lesson to Paul Sérusier, the ‘Talisman’, took place in September 1888.
A corner of peace and harmony, where all the painters of the Pont-Aven colony took refuge, seduced by the calm of the place, the beauty of the large trees, the richness of the reflections of the river breaking on the granite rocks, the clouds passing by and blurring the contours, and the light changing with the seasons.
An unmissable walking route is the path of the old mills: the Aven river sees its course slowed down by huge granite blocks forming natural dams. Taking advantage of this natural conformation, some 15 mills were installed, creating a veritable hydraulic system formed by diversions, causeways and weirs. Today, none of the mills are in operation, but they all retain an incredible charm, set in a bucolic natural context: commemorative plaques mark each of their locations and allow visitors to discover the elements that have now disappeared.
The first three mills are located in the Bois d’Amour area. The first mill you come across is Moulin du Haut Bois3, which dates back to 1724 and was in operation until 1951. The second is Le Moulin du Plessis4 and the third Le Moulin Neuf5 that was part of a power station built on the site.
Near the Pont Aven viaduct, there are two other mills: the Moulin David, immortalised by Gauguin in 1894, and the Moulin Kerniguez, on the left bank of the Aven.
Along the harbour are some of the most fascinating mills: Rosmadec Le Moulin6, where the two large millstones are still visible, and Le Moulin du Grand Poulguin7, transformed into a restaurant where you can admire the two wheels and valves. It was the setting for the famous film ‘Les galettes de Pont-Aven’.
At the heart of the village is the small marina, one of the most important in the Cornouaille: the image is postcard-perfect, with sailboats moored along the colourful quays.
Excursions and boat trips on the river depart from here. It is possible to reach the charming port of Kerdruc, which preserves pretty thatched-roof houses, and then on to Port Manec’h, where the Aven and the Bélon flow into the ocean.
Dedicated to a famous Breton poet, the Xavier Grall promenade is an oasis of peace: in the heart of the city centre, this little footpath follows footbridges overlooking the Aven river and offers an idyllic view of the surrounding landscape.
From this walk, you can admire the most striking views of the village, including a spot where the river is hemmed in by huge blocks of granite, rounded by erosion, rain, wind and the current of the Aven: they will be an irresistible playground for younger visitors.
To taste the best oysters in the area, head to the pretty port of Riec-sur-Belon10where you can sample the belon, a flat nut-flavoured variety. Then you can continue to Brigneau11 with its fishermen’s cottages that look like something out of a postcard.
Finally, you come to the tiny Port de Merrien12, where Breton smugglers used to hide. Another section of the customs path starts from here.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Nestled in the Finistere countryside, Pont Aven is easily reached by car: it is about 5.20 hours from Paris, following the A11, the A81 to Rennes and then the N24. The last stretch is on the N165 motorway, exit Kerampaou.
Parking is free in the city centre but regulated and limited to between 30 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes. There are convenient pay car parks.
Alternatively, you can choose the direct TGV train from Paris-Montparnasse arriving at the Rosporden, Quimper or Quimperlé station. You then continue by bus to Pont Aven.
The village of Pont Aven is truly charming and tiny. Staying here means savouring all the charm of the village in the evening, when the bulk of day-trippers continue on to other destinations.
Obviously, the accommodation scene is not very extensive and consists mainly of charming B&Bs in old stone houses.
What's the weather at Pont-Aven? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Pont-Aven for the next few days.
Pont Aven is located in the Finistere department, about 55 minutes' drive from Brest.