The centre of the town today is the place de la République, with its eighteenth-century Hôtel de Ville. In a neighbouring square, linked to the place de la République by rue du Lait, is the seventeenth-century church of St Gildas, with its fine Renaissance porch. A covered market adjoins the Hôtel de Ville, but on Mondays an open-air market fills the surrounding streets with colour and stops all traffic for a considerable radius.
However, Auray's showpiece is undoubtedly the ancient quarter of St-Goustan, with its delightful fifteenth- and sixteenth-century houses. The bend in the River Loch, an early defended site, was a natural setting for a town and, with its easy access to the gulf, it soon became one of the busiest ports of Brittany. Today, as you look at it from the Promenade du Loch on the opposite bank, with the small seventeenth-century stone bridge still spanning the river, it's not difficult to imagine it in its heyday. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin landed here on his way to seek the help of Louis XVI in the American War of Independence.
The gare SNCF is twenty minutes' walk from the centre; buses run from the station through the centre of Auray and on to Carnac and Quiberon. Auray's tourist office is up in town at 20 rue du Lait, very near the Hôtel de Ville on place de la République (mid-June to mid-Sept MonSat 9am7pm, Sun 9amnoon; mid-Sept to mid-June MonSat 9amnoon & 26pm; tel 02.97.24.09.75, www.auray-tourisme.com). A small annexe is maintained in July and August at the train station. The most appealing place to stay would be by the port in the St-Goustan quarter, but in the absence of waterfront hotels the best option is the Hôtel Le Branhoc, about 300m from the waterfront at 5 route du Bono (tel 02.97.56.41.55, firstname.lastname@example.org; €4055; closed mid-Dec to midFeb), which offers clean, well-equipped rooms and a reasonable restaurant. Up in town, Hôtel Le Cadoudal, 9 place Notre-Dame (tel 02.97.24.14.65; under €30), is a cheaper, more basic alternative.
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