Café culture with bells on

Picture 1 Cafés-Bars Picture 2 Cafés-Bars Picture 3 Cafés-Bars Picture 4 Cafés-Bars

In Brittany, the cities, towns and villages have pubs and cafés on every corner – it’s a part of the culture that should make British and Irish visitors feel right at home. And their counterparts across the water, the Bretons, know that nothing enhances the atmosphere of a locale like live music. A gig in a small venue, accompanied by food and a good beer or cider, is one of the simple pleasures of Breton life.

Music and laughter

In actual fact, the unique feel of cafés-concerts in Brittany is about something Bretons are particularly good at: the mingling of different traditions. Of course, the Celtic influence is obvious in the love of music played in accessible settings, where it forms part of the fabric of daily life and a relief from the pressures of work, a soundtrack to eating and socialising. But equally present is the very French café culture, which has also long gone hand-in-hand with intimate performances of chanson – popular French song. To that potent cocktail, you can also add the proximity to the sea; whatever other images you might have in mind about sailors and what they get up to, there’s no denying that where there are salty sea dogs, there will also be places for a lively night out!

Impromptu stages

You’ll find your fair share of old-style taverns and traditional music in Brittany, as well as Irish pubs celebrating the shared Celtic heritage, but pubs and cafés are also great places to catch up-and-coming local rock groups or songwriters and jazz performers. Go to Rennes in December for the Bars en Trans festival and it feels as though every bar and pub has become a music venue – most have stages of some kind. These are also great places to catch jam sessions, where local amateurs can rub shoulders and stage and whip up an improvisational storm.