Nestled on the banks of the Aven, Pont-Aven will enchant you with the charm its streets, the richness of its artistic life and the sweetness of its famous butter cookies!
From a commercial town ensuring the transport of goods between sea and river, Pont-Aven has turned into a great vacation spot for a colony of painters during the second part of the 19th century. The artists will then build up the artistic reputation of the city. Pont-Aven perpetuates this tradition today with its many art galleries and artists’ studios.
The history of the Pont-Aven is closely linked to the several generations of painters who came to capture the beauty and the charm of its streets. If the first artists who settled in Pont-Aven around 1860 were mostly academic , they were soon followed by the Impressionists and Synthetists: Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard or Paul Sérusier were the leaders of a pictorial renewal worldwide known as “School of Pont-Aven”.
The Xavier Grall promenade in the city center combines walkways and pedestrian paths dedicated to this famous poet, journalist and writer. This path goes along the river in the shades of the trees and is one of the most charming spots of Pont-Aven! This small walk is located right in the city centre, however you might feel like you are walking in a place out of the world, an enchanted path under the blooming trees.
The many granite chaos of the Aven river have encouraged the establishment of dams and the development of mills in the city and in the surrounding area. The famous local saying “Pont-Aven renown city, 14 mills, 15 houses” referred to these 14 water mills that were once in operation. Nowadays, visitor can discover them by strolling along the water.
Le Bois d’Amour, “the Wood of Love”: a mythical place in Pont-Aven, mysterious, inspiring and poetic. Along the banks of the Aven river, this one-hour walk under beech trees is an enchanted break in a high place of the History of Art: the shades of the Bois d’Amour and the advices of Paul Gauguin would have inspired the painter Paul Sérusier for his legendary painting “The Talisman”, a true manifesto of the Nabi movement and a prelude to abstract art.
The harbour of Pont-Aven used to be a source of prosperity for the country and one of the most important ports in Cornwall. Boats from all over the coast used to stop there to deliver salt and wine, and turn back loaded with cereals, granite, wood… The sailors often had to wait for the tide before being able to leave, which explains the many inns in town as well as the common use of French among the population, where the rest of Brittany was mainly Breton-speaking. These specificities have played an important part in the choice of Pont-Aven as a holiday destination for foreign artists during the second part of the 19th century. Today the port is a starting point for hikes or boat trips along the river.
Pont-Aven is also the birthplace of another masterpiece: the little butter cookie, so-called “galette de Pont-Aven”, a local specialty and a gourmet’s delight! This tasty Breton sweetness, simple and authentic, is nowadays so popular that it became emblematic of Brittany! During your artistic and cultural journey, don’t forget to take a gourmet break…