MAY 11,2017 - MAY 11,2017 (1 DAYS)
Main Attractions: Château de Vitré, Rue de la Baudrière, Rue de la Poterie, Norte Dame Church, Promenade du Val, Rue de la Bridolle, Rue Sévigné, Rue d'en Bas, Place Saint-Yves, Rue du Château. District of Rachapt (optional detour).
Duration: 1/2 day. Distance: 3-4 km. Weather: any weather.
Our Hotel: Minotel, 47 rue de la Poterie, 35500 Vitre. Low-budget, good sleep, convenient beds, quiet, a small room, friendly owner, good breakfast, charming decor, no sockets. 61 euros/couple including breakfast. The reception is closed everyday 13.00 - 15.30.
The cat of Hotel Minotel, Vitré:
Orientation: Go to Vitré for no crowds and excellent photo , opportunities. Vitré is perhaps the most impressive medieval town in Brittany. It is one of the few places in France where you can see a complete Gothic style town. With its small sheer size and its narrow roads - Vitré can be explored within a few hours. At nightfall Vitré is illuminated and in 2000 won an award for its night time illuminations. Note: the town is very rainy and exposed to storms. Market days are Monday and Saturday mornings until 14.00 for Vitré and are held on the square in front of the church of Notre Dame. The town is very clean, lots of little shops (not touristic shops) and restaurants, very helpful and friendly locals. Most of your walk will be along cobbled-stones alleys. The architecture in Vitré is largely unspoilt and it is very enjoyable to just wander and marvel. The town is quite compact. The streets are narrow and cobbled so there is very little traffic to worry about and you can walk all over it in 1-2 hours if you don’t stand around too long. BUT, we recommend allowing 3-4 hours for the town. You can get a little map of the key sites from the Tourist Office at the railway station. The inner courtyard of the chateau is free to visit as are the local buses.
Introduction: About 25 kilometres east of Rennes. Vitre is 275 km from Paris. In 1999, Vitré obtained the label "Town of Art and History" because of its rich cultural inheritance. The town's monuments attract many tourists each year. Vitré is a perfect example of a town of 500 years ago - with its houses with porch or timber-framed, its ramparts, its religious heritage, old streets, etc. Many 15th and 16th century buildings remained much as they were in the days when it was one of the most powerful towns in Brittany. A significant part of the original ramparts of the town is also still intact.
History: The site of Vitré was occupied in Gallo-Roman times. Around year 1000 a small wooden castle, on a feudal mound, was built on the Sainte-Croix hill. The castle was burned down on several occasions. A stone castle was built in 1070 by Robert Ier on the current site, on a rocky outcrop dominating the Vilaine's river valley. Certain parts of the original stone castle are still visible today. In the 13th century, the castle was enlarged and equipped with robust towers and curtain walls. During this period the church of Nôtre-Dame, developed on the eastern side of Vitré. The city was encircled by fortified ramparts and ditches. Since the 13th century, Vitré has integrated together all of the elements of the traditional medieval city: a fortified castle, religious buildings, churches, colleges, and suburbs. In the 15th century, the castle was transformed from a military post to become a comfortable residence for Jeanne of Laval-Châtillon and her son Anne de Montmorency. At the same time, many half-timbered houses and private mansions were built inside the city. These medieval districts are characterized by their sturdy timber frame construction and their narrow, dark streets, as well as by a network of lanes. The fronts of the houses are made either of half-timbering or stone. They protected pedestrians from bad weather, and they channeled rainwater into the central gutters, helping preserve the wooden facades. The names of the Vitré's streets often originated from the trade guilds in the region. Vitré's economy flourished during the Renaissance as any city in Brittany. The merchants built large private mansions with ornate Renaissance decorations that are still visible today with the city walls. During the 17th century the city lost much of its vitality, becoming a town of secondary importance. This situation lasted through 18th century and until the arrival of the railroad in the middle of the 19th century. To prepare for the arrival of the railroads, the city decided to destroy the southern fortifications of the city to open up the closed city and to improve visibility. Vitré has been a railway hub since the first lines were opened on 15 April 1857 on the Paris-Brest line. Vitré did not suffer massive destruction during the two World Wars, and preserved its historical inheritance. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Vitré experienced an economic boom along with the rest of France. The population of Vitré expanded from 8,212 inhabitants in 1931 to around 19,000 in 2018.
From Gare de Vitré to Chateau de Vitré - 450 m. easy walk: Head west on Place du Général de Gaulle, 25 m. Turn right to stay on Place du Général de Gaulle, 35 m. On your left the Office de Tourisme de Vitré. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Prom. Saint-Yves, 260 m. Turn right onto Place Saint-Yves, 20 m. Turn left onto Rue Rallon, 95 m. Turn right at Place Galbrun, 45 m. In front of you - Vitre Chateau or Château de Vitré, Place St-Yves. Dating from the 13th century, the castle, with its pointy slate turrets, hosted the Parlement de Bretagne on three occasions in the 16th century when plague ravaged Rennes. These days it houses a museum with an extensive range of sculptures and artworks from the region, mostly paintings, sculpture and tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries. The museum which is housed in the castle has been built in 1876 by Arthur de La Borderie, a Vitreans Historian to provide an encyclopedic history of the period. Opening hours: July & August: Everyday from 10.00m to 18.00, April, May, June & September: Everyday from 10.00 to 12.30 am and 14.00 to 18.00, March & October: Everyday from 10.30 to 12.30 am and from 14.00 to 17.00, January, February, November & December: Everyday from 10.30 to 12.30 am and from 14.00 to 17.00 BUT closed on Tuesdays (all the day) and on Saturdays and Sundays mornings. Prices (pricey !): adult : 6 €, concessions : 4 €, Free -12. As we said before - the inner court is open for FREE visit. The castle, an imposing building with many towers inset in the high walls and reached across a drawbridge, surely competes with Chateau de Jumilhac in the Dordogne for being the castle with the most pointed turrets. Wonderful for those of us who like old military architecture. The Chateau is unusual in that, with its attached buildings, it has been built in a triangular pattern. This is because of the shape of the raised rocky area it was built on. The Mairie of Vitré is housed in one of the buildings in the Chateau complex - wander into the triangular courtyard to see the lovely building. Well, the castles in Fougeres and fortifications in Dinan are BETTER than the ones in Vitré ! NOT MUCH to see in the various rooms (or halls) - but fun to climb around and enjoy the view from the windows. It is all in French with no English explanations or audio guide. NOTE: to exit the castle - press the white wide button and DO NOT use the bar-code ticket (see below):
You use the ticket's bar code to scan at the door on the building on the left to enter. You scan every other room' door with your bar code ticket (7 different rooms). Each floor is a mini museum on its own. The spiral stairs are beautiful but do be careful when it's wet. There's one level where you can walk around the tower. My guess is it was once used as a watch tower to look out for enemies. The 1st floor has a small collection of artifacts. The second floor is the bedroom. Then you have the watch tower. Then another bedroom. The very top floor is a circular room with some beautiful oil paintings of the castle and surrounding areas. Then you head down to one of the levels to get across to the other 2 towers in the north side, which have more artifacts. The last one used to be a chapel and it has religious artifacts left behind. Unfortunately, the other wing is used as the city (Mairie) hall with no public entry.
View from the castle windows - in the centre - Restaurant La place:
Vitré old city houses from the castle windows and turrets:
View from the 2nd floor to the inner court:
Views from the 3rd floor:
3rd floor wooden ceiling and coupola:
Château de Vitré in a sunny day:
In the south-west corner (outside) of the castle - there is a splendid viewing platform:
The Place du Château, outside (east to) the castle, used to be the castle forecourt where stables and outbuildings were. It is now a car park that properly shows off one of the most imposing castles in France. We dined in La Place Restaurant, 8 Place du Château. 10.50 euros for the main portion/person. Good quality Plat du Jour. Efficient, professional service. Modern looking restaurant. Expect full capacity and heavy traffic in the rush hours - with loads of tourist groups. Check the parking lot - before sampling this restaurant. Stunning view of the castle from the dining hall (partial) and the terrace.
The strong point of this city is its historic centre as a whole. The town is basically north of the train station and there are signs around for touristy locations so you won't get lost. A superb, well preserved historic town centre. The most atmospheric street in Vitré is Rue de la Baudrière (street of people who worked with leather), where you’ll find grand high-rise half-timbered houses (colombage). These were built by merchants who made their money from the cloth trade; the town had a thriving canvas industry from the 14th century. They look like they belong in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. So we head to the southern end of Rue de la Baudrière. From Vitre Chateau - head northwest toward Rue Rallon, 45 m. Turn left onto Rue Rallon, 95 m. Turn right onto Place Saint-Yves, 20 m. Turn left onto Prom. Saint-Yves, 180 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Baudrairie:
If you walk along Rue de la Baudrairie from south to north- Rue de la Poterie (Pottery Street) is the second to the right (east). Rue de la Poterie is also worth a look for its preponderance of ‘porch houses’, whose first floors extend over the street creating an arcade underneath. Rue de la Poterie is the only street in Vitré on which such a large number of half-timbered houses, also known as porch houses or overhangs, remain intact. Note particularly the house of Isle, at the intersection of rue Poterie Street and rue Sévigné, double corbelling (east end of Rue de la Poterie). these overhangs created a covered market alley perfect for displaying produce. We'll return to Rue de la Poterie later in this itinerary (see below):
From the north-east end of Rue de la Poterie (where it meets Rue Sévigné - you turn left onto Rue Duguesclin, 65 m. Turn left onto Rue Notre Dame and walk 110 m. to find Church of Our Lady of Vitre on your right. The Norte Dame Church is well worth entering and looking upwards to the fascinating ceiling paintings and stunning stained glass windows. The attractive 15th century Church of Notre-Dame is quickly recognizable because of its decorated spire. Don't overlook this church because the castle is the principal monument in Vitré. The spiritual life was immensely important . The Basilica of Vitre is dedicated to Our Lady and responds to a common model of the region. It was built during the last medieval period, so the Gothic style dominates the construction. Although being dated near the Renaissance, the finishing is simpler than in other churches of the same period. The church also contains interesting items including an impressive stained glass windows. Note: the Gothic style south side is the most interesting part of the cathedral so don't rush straight in the front entrance without looking around the outside ! Another tip: near the church - there is an a viewing terrace with a wonderful view of the town and the surrounding fields.
From the Church of Our Lady of Vitre (Notre Dame) - we continue east on Rue Notre Dame toward Rue Saint-Louis, 180 m. Continue onto Place de la République, 35 m. Here, the weekly market takes palce. Here, stands the Post office building:
At the intersection of Place de la republique (its south-west edge) and Rue Notre Dame, with you face to Rue Notre Dame - you can turn RIGHT (north) and walk along Promenade du Val to see the majestic ramparts of Vitre. The ramparts of Vitré are the fortifications built between the 13th and 17th centuries to protect the town of Vitré and Brittany against the French Kingdom. The city was located near the Breton border, near Maine, Anjou and Normandy. They cover a length of 500 m long and 200 m width. The fortifications of the thirteenth century are the best preserved in Brittany. The ramparts were built in 1240 by Baron Andrew III and reinforced with the development of artillery in the 15th century. Vitré was a Protestant city, rich and prosperous. But during the religious wars, attacks by the Catholic leagues destroyed a part of the towers and ramparts east of the ancient city. At the end of the 16th century, a bastion was built in 1591. The fortifications were destroyed in the south in the 19th century to connect the old town with the modern neighborhood. The towers you see from south to north are: Tour des Prisonniers, Tour Doré, Tour du Géomètre, Tour Rompue or Tour de la Fresnaye:
When you arrive to the north end of Promenade du Val - turn RIGHT (north-east) (here, you see the Bastion), and, again, RIGHT (south) to return back via Rue de l'Éperon - Back to Place de la Republique. Here, turn RIGHT to meet, again, Rue Notre Dame. Turn LEFT (south) to Rue de la Bridolle. Here, we can see the famous Tour de la Bridole (or Tour du Coin or Tour du Marché). The tower of the Bridole is built in the 13th century. It has three levels with archers still visible but only from the inside. The tower is not accessible except during guided tours, Heritage Days , and exhibitions. The lack of access to the floors does not allow a wide opening to the public:
After arriving to the southern end of Rue de la Bridolle we turn right onto Rue de la Borderie, 100 m. Turn right onto Rue Duguesclin, 50 m. Turn left (again) onto Rue de la Poterie, 35 m:
Slight left onto Rue Sévigné, 50 m. Walk down along Rue Sévigné from north-east to south-west: marvelous wooden houses, some of them with striking bold colors:
Between Borderie Street (main facade, south side and garden side) and Sévigné Street stands Hotel de Sevigne. The mansion dates from the 18th century. It was built by the Hay family of Nétumières in 1750 at the southern fortifications, on the house of the Sévigné tower, property of Madame de Sévigné (Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné, born Feb. 5, 1626 in Paris - died April 17, 1696 in Grignan, French writer whose correspondence is of both historical and literary significance, of old Burgundian nobility):
Head southwest on Rue Sévigné toward Rue Garengeot, 20 m. Continue onto Rue de la Tremoille, 80 m. Turn right (again) onto Rue de la Baudrairie, 35 m. Turn left onto Rue d'en Bas. At #1 Rue d'en Bas stands a red wooden house with the sign of "Au Vieux Vitré": a well-reputed restaurant:
Rue d'en Bas is fluent with colorful wooden houses. We walk along this road from east to west until it ends with Place Saint Yves.
#5 Rue d'en Bas:
#19-21 Rue d'en Bas:
More wooden houses in Rue d'en Bas:
#30 Rue d'en Bas:
#32-34 Rue d'en Bas:
End of Rue d'en Bas and entering Place saint-Yves:
Place Saint-Yves is THE place for festivals, concerts and spectacles in Vitré. From this impressive square you get another insight of ancient Vitré walls:
We RETURN northward to Rue de la Baudrière:
The third turn to the left is Rue du Château:
La ville de Vitré a ses Heroes:
Here, we returned to Rue de la Baudrière - to our Minotel hotel.
In case you have time and you are, still, in fit- make a detour to Rachapt (1.5 - 2 km. walk both directions). You have to repeat several roads, we've already explored, to pave you way to Rachapt. From Rue de la Baudrière - turn right onto Rue d'en Bas, 120 m. Continue onto Place Saint-Yves, 40 m. Continue onto Rue Rallon,150 m. Turn right onto Rue des Augustins, 40 m. Turn left onto Rue Pasteur, 150 m. Slight left onto Rue du Rachapt. On the north side outside the 13th-century town walls is the district of Rachapt, where old stone cottages are built into the slopes. The area is reached through St Pierre postern, a medieval covered gateway that was big enough for riders and walkers but not carriages. This district was occupied for several years by the English during the Hundred Years' War whereas the town and castle withstood all attacks. The people of Vitré paid the invaders to leave and the district took its name from this event. This peaceful place at the foot of the castle is situated in the Vilaine valley and offers a fine view of the fortress: