Bécherel in Brittany

Escape to Bécherel

7 good reasons to pay a visit to the town of books

Looking for a relaxing getaway within striking distance of Rennes? In the mood to kick back, go for a wander or recharge your batteries? Look no further than Bécherel, Brittany’s very own book town. Located a mere 30 minutes away from Rennes on the way to Saint-Malo, Bécherel is an unmissable day trip for all bookworms, ramblers and culture vultures. Here are our top seven reasons why this little city packs a powerful punch.

1. Head over to a bookworm’s paradise

Bookstore in Bécherel
Bookstore in Bécherel © CRT / Emmanuel Berthier

In 1989, Bécherel followed in the footsteps of Hay-on-Wye (Wales) and Redu (Belgium), becoming Europe’s third official book town. The city was awarded Brittany’s Town of Character label in 1978. The old weavers’ houses are still standing, testimonies to the city’s past and now home to around fifteen bookshops and artists’ ateliers, flinging open their doors to usher in lovers of old books, pocket novels, graphic novels, second-hand books, tomes on calligraphy and book-binding. Bécherel is also home to the Maison du Livre et du Tourisme, a book-focused tourism office dedicated to providing information on all the events the city hosts throughout the year, from exhibitions and workshops to conferences and beyond. Come and get lost in the 400,000 books that await here, and spend the weekend relaxing and reading…

Fête du Livre - Bécherel
Fête du Livre à Bécherel © Destination Rennes / Julien Mignot

2. Book lover experiences

Book market held every 1st sunday of the month

Among the many regular events not to be missed, every first Sunday of the month (except for January and February) sees this little city play host to a book market. Over the course of a day, bookshops and libraries set up shop on the Place des Halles, rubbing shoulders with the merchants who trade here all year round. Expect bookish events and a weekly farmers’ market to keep you fuelled as you browse.

The book festival: a major literary event over the easter weekend

Every Easter weekend for close to 30 years now, the book festival has served as the apex of the city’s literary streak, bringing visitors exhibitions, a book market, talks from authors, workshops, performances, concerts, readings, screenings and more.

Book night every summer

Bécherel’s Book Night is a lively evening held every summer on the first Friday of August.

Workshops for calligraphy and book-binding fans…

Throughout the year, the village’s artists run course and workshops where members of the public can learn or perfect calligraphy, book-binding and library skills. An artistic experience in the heart of the city. 

3. Heritage frozen in time in the upper brittany region

Le lavoir de la Couaille
© Destination Rennes / Charles Crié

At 178 metres above sea level, Bécherel is one of Brittany’s highest points, an ancient fortress town to be explored during a city break or weekend away. This Town of Character-labelled town owes its architectural heritage to the linen and hemp trade that flourished here in the 17th and 18th centuries. From the Thabor garden and ramparts that overlook the surrounding countryside, wander down the narrow little streets and admire the weavers’ houses, such as the Filanderie, as you stroll from square to square soaking up the peaceful atmosphere.

Travel back in time

The Notre-Dame de Bécherel church was rebuilt in the 19th century and is another landmark well worth seeing. Nestled at the foot of the village, the Lavoir de la Couaille washing place and ponds tell the tale of the washerwomen and retting that were once commonplace. This serene ramble back in time is one you may want to extend with visits to the surrounding castles, manors and megaliths. Wandering around Bécherel is a way of flicking back through the chapters of history, dipping in and out of Brittany’s heritage through these guided tours.

4. Follow the castle trail

Castle of Montmuran
Castle of Montmuran © CRT / Emmanuel Berthier

Bécherel is also a step along Upper Brittany’s castle trail. Just 800 metres away from the town is the famous Château de Caradeuc, known as the Versailles of Brittany due to its majestic grounds, and open to visitors. The gardens here are truly remarkable, and are the biggest in Brittany.

Another monument you won’t want to miss awaits in the neighbouring town of Iffs: the Château de Montmuran is a tranquil spot with guest rooms that are perfect for a peaceful stay in the shadows cast by its 12th-century towers. Medieval history buffs will delight in delving into the past of Bertrand Du Guesclin, a knight in 1354, who left his mark on this formidable fortress steeped in history. The Château de Combourg, infused with all the beauty of Brittany’s romantic side, is also within striking distance of Bécherel.

5. Recharge your batteries on a digital detox weekend

Typography in Bécherel
© Destination Rennes / Julien Mignot

Peace and quiet is the name of the game in Bécherel: this is where people come to relax, read and marvel in the town’s art galleries. It’s also the ideal place for pulling the plug on modern technology and the stress of city living. Why not literally disconnect from it all during a digital detox weekend? Cut off your smartphone and treat yourself to a breather, far from the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced modern world. There’s no better place to indulge in a bit of slow tourism! A “journey outside of time and inside books”: this perfectly sums up the Bécherel mindset, courtesy of Bruno Foligné from the Abraxas-Libris bookshop.

6. Hitting the trails

Horse riding in Bécherel
Horse riding in Bécherel © Bécherel

Walk, cycle and ride your way down the many trails and paths that intersect at Bécherel. 170 kilometres of hiking trails (most notably of all the GR37) or bridle paths (3 Equibreizh routes intersect at Bécherel) for you to enjoy alone, as a couple or with family, giving you ample opportunity to explore the region. Cyclists are in for a treat here, with the Voie Verte 3 path leading from the Rhuys peninsula to Saint-Malo via Brocéliande and Bécherel: expect some tough climbs that will work your calves! Last but not least, themed walks are a chance to explore the local heritage differently, or set off on a geocaching treasure hunt.

7. Regional dishes and world cuisine

Restaurant in Bécherel

Richard Lempereur, a long-term Bécherel local and calligrapher, says that “many people come here to enjoy a taste of peace and quiet”… But that’s not all visitors can expect to sample: tuck into local specialities near the church at the Bouquine, a well-named restaurant (‘Bouquine’ means ‘read’ in French!) that serves traditional crêpes and galettes. Another town-centre eatery to check out is La Part des Anges, a Creole bistro that whisks you away on an exotic culinary adventure where local produce and spices collide. A perfect place to grab a bite to eat on your tour of Bécherel. If you’re planning on visiting the Parc de Caradeuc, the Orée du Parc is another fine choice, especially for groups, and is set amidst beautiful greenery.

Some of the town’s bookshops also boast café and tea room areas, where you can sit and read with a drink and a slice of sweet or savoury tart: we recommend the Petit Bazar Breton at the Gwrizienn and Les Perséides.

Foodies will be thrilled to hear that every November, Bécherel hosts the Foire à la Volaille et aux Produits du Terroir (local produce and poultry fair) and the Salon du Livre Gourmand (gourmet book fair) in partnership with the Grand Ordre de la Frigousse, another local speciality you simply must try during your time in Upper Brittany.

Your essentials in Bécherel

Fête du Livre à Bécherel
Fête du Livre à Bécherel

Getting here

  • By car: take the Rennes-Saint-Malo motorway
  • By bus: the Star network run by Rennes Métropole (bus 82)
  • By train: Rennes (40 km) or Combourg (30 km)
  • By plane: Rennes or Dinard airport

All things bookish

  • Maison du Livre et du Tourisme, 4 route de Montfort, 35190 Bécherel
  • Calligraphy and book-binding workshops
  • Events: Book market (first Sunday of every month), the book festival (every Easter weekend), Book Night (August).

Things to do nearby

  • The Clos du Puits is an art boutique, bric-a-brac shop and gîte all rolled into one and run by a couple with a passion for art, ceramics and antiques.
  • The Château de Caradeuc is known as the Versailles of Brittany and is home to sweeping grounds you absolutely must visit.

Where to stay

  • The maison de la Porte Saint-Michel, 1 porte Saint-Michel. B&B in an 18th-century building in the heart of the city. 
  • The Tilleul B&B, 5 rue Saint-Michel in Bécherel

Where to eat

  • La Part des Anges, Creole bistro, 5 Place de la Croix in Bécherel
  • La Crêpe Bouquine, Crêpe restaurant, 4 Place Jéhanin in Bécherel
  • L’Orée du Parc, near the Château de Caradeuc.

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