Douarnenez travel guide

Photo of Douarnenez

Visit Douarnenez (Brittany, France)

Photo Gallery Book hotels, flights, car hire

The town of Douarnenez is situated in the Douarnenez Bay, in the Finistère department north-west of Quimper. It is a workaday town with an active sardine fishing and canning industry.

As with many Brittany coastal towns tourism is coming to play a larger part in the town as the fishing industry declines, and not surprising, because this port town has much to commend it, not least the harbour area and the easy access to beaches.

Explore Douarnenez

The town centre is pleasant, mostly 18th century houses built around the flourishing fishing industry.

You will find several churches and chapels of interest in this part of the town, known as the Quartier du Vieux Port, so this is a good place to start exploring and also a chance to visit the Douarnenez tourist office.

The small Chapel of Saint Helene dates from the 16th century and the origins of the village as the sardine industry started to develop and the village rapidly grew in size. Take a look at the ancient carved stone on the front of the chapel that shows a gannet diving towards a shoal of sardines, thus indicating their position to the fishermen.

old port area

The most picturesque parts of Douarnenez are found along the waterfront and can be seen in several different parts of the town, including the Quartier du Grand Port in the town centre. You will also find a wide choice of cafes and restaurants along and near the port.

The marked route to explore this part of Douarnenez is called the Chemin de la Sardine (details from the tourist office) and is worth following to ensure you see the interesting historical sites and avoid the more recent industrial part of the port.

The route starts from the Belvedere des Ploumarc'h at the eastern end of the Rue des Ploumarc'h: from here you can follow the sardine medallions to find the route!

Communism in Douarnenez

For much of the first half of the 20th century the town was a leading centre for the communist struggle in France, due to the problems faced by the workers in the sardine industry including decreasing catch sizes and increasing automatisation of the fish treatment process.

Douarnenez had a communist council from 1921 and 1940 and was often referred to as the 'red town'.

You can walk a short distance west from Douarnenez Tourist Office along Rue de Port Rhu then left along the Quai du Port Rhu to walk about one kilometre along a waterfront promenade where you can admire numerous small boats and a pretty view to the tree lined shore opposite.


You can also use a footbridge here to cross the estuary and take a stroll around the pleasure port.

The Port Museum is also here and is well worth visiting to see its collection of old ships and boats, many meticulously restored to their former glory. The museum takes up a large part of the harbour around Port-Rhu and is a fascinating place to visit.

town seen from sea

In the east of the town you will want to follow the coast path that continues to the Plage du Ris and also to explore the Plomarc'h Natural Site which is a calm natural environment where you can also see some traditional fishing cottages and an archaeological site.

To the west there is another coast path from the pleasure port that carries on to the headland with the Plage des Sables Blancs. This westerly region of Douarnenez is called Tréboul and contains a popular spa centre and is the more recently developed part of Douarnenez.

Douarnenez beaches

There are several beaches close to Douarnenez, including the small beaches called Plage des Dames and Plage Saint Jean near the centre of the town: these beaches are convenient if you are staying in the town but otherwise you will want to travel a short distance to the nearby larger beaches.

The most popular of these are the Plage des Sables Blancs in the north-west of the town and the Plage du Ris at several kilometres to the east (these two larger beaches have lifeguards during the summer season). The Plage du Ris is in a lovely setting with views to the town in one direction and to a rocky headland to the east.

Plage du Ris in Douarnenez

Attractions nearby

Just off the coast of Douarnenez is the Ile Tristan, with stories that both the island and town are linked to the original story of Tristan and Isolde. The island can be visited on foot during low tide and is an attractive mix of natural environments, woodlands, parks and an exotic garden.

There are also some nice walks along the coast around Douarnenez and it is possible to take a boat trip around the harbour for a different view of the town.

A few kilometres east of here be sure to visit the picturesque village at Locronan, one of our favourite villages in France.

See more seaside resorts in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Finistere guide and the Brittany guide.

See also Find Douarnenez hotels

Photos of Douarnenez

Click any picture to start the gallery

  • chapel-saint-helene
  • harbour-houses
  • harbour
  • pretty-house
  • ris-beach-east-view
  • ris-beach-west-view
  • town-centre
  • view-from-sea
  • waterfront

Arrange a visit to Douarnenez

Book hotels, car hire and flights

Organise your visit using the options shown...

Hotels in Douarnenez best prices

See Douarnenez hotels

Reserve excursions

Map of Douarnenez and places nearby


Visit near Douarnenez with France This Way reviews



Locronan, listed among the 'most beautiful villages in France' is one of our favourite villages in Britany

Locronan guide


The Collegiale Church of Notre-Dame de Roscudon and the narow surrounding streets are the highlight of your visit to Pont-Croix

Pont-Croix guide


The picturesque harbour area and the proximity of beaches combine to endure the popularity of Audierne

Audierne guide


The long sandy beach at Morgat has been the centre of activity here for more than 100 years, since the resort was first established

Morgat guide


The important town of Quimper is also one of the most visited in Brittany, especially for the half-timbered houses and the cathedral

Quimper guide


The Crozon peninsula in western Brittany has an ideal combination of villages, coastline and beaches

Crozon guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Finistere

Address: Douarnenez, Quimper, Brittany, 29100, France || GPS coordinates: latitude 48.0928, longitude -4.32917

Plan your visit to Douarnenez, Finistere

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Locronan: most beautiful village (9 km)
  • Menez-Hom: site of natural beauty (16 km)
  • Argol: enclos-paroissial (17 km)
  • Quimper: town of art and history (20 km)
  • Jardin du prieuré de Locmaria: remarkable garden (20 km)
  • Jardin du château de Lanniron: remarkable garden (20 km)
  • Armorique: regional natural parc (25 km)
  • Parc botanique de Cornouaille: remarkable garden (26 km)
  • Baie de Douarnenez: site of natural beauty (28 km)
  • Pointe de Penhir: site of natural beauty (28 km)
  • Camaret-sur-Mer tour dorée (Vauban fortifications): heritage site (29 km)
  • Pleyben: enclos-paroissial (31 km)

Market days in Douarnenez, France

Regular market(s) are held in Douarnenez each Wednesday & Monday & Friday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Douarnenez (Francais)