Lorinet Submarine pens

Lorient – Introduction

Lorient in Brittany is a rather large city of some 60,000 inhabitants which has as main attraction an enormous harbour area that hosted during WWII, the German submarines.

The city dates back to the year 1666 and was constructed by a French trading company (the French East Indies Company) to be the base for their Asian trades. But the earliest signs of civilization dates back to the year 3000 BC!

The city itself is nothing to write home about, the most interesting area of the city is what is called “La Base“, the former German submarine base in the Second World War (WWII).

The city had been almost totally destroyed during the Second World War by the Allies trying to destroy the German submarine bases. The rebuilding of the city after the war was not managed (like in the city of Le Havre), hence the lack of a visual identify.

One of the big reasons people flock to Lorient is for its annual Interceltic Festival (click the link to find out when the next event is) when 100,000’s of people from all over Europe (mostly from Celtic areas like Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, etc) come together to celebrate the Celtic culture.

For the rest, when strolling the city, it’s pretty bland and uninteresting as cities go. No great buildings nor monuments – they were all destroyed.

ShopsShopping StreetTheatre/Stadium
Shopping streetsShopping streets

The City Hall (in French the “Mairie” or “Hotel de Ville”) is located next to a sports complex and theatre.

City HallCity HallMap
Mairie/Hotel de Ville'Mairie/Hotel de Ville
Mairie/Hotel de VilleMairie/Hotel de Ville

Religious Buildings

Most of the religious buildings, the vast majority are Catholic, are modern since the city had been levelled by the Allied bombings. The following church was built in 1953.

Notre-Dame De Victoire ChurchNotre-Dame De Victoire Church
Notre-Dame De Victoire ChurchNotre-Dame De Victoire Church
Notre-Dame De Victoire ChurchNotre-Dame De Victoire Church

Not all churches are modern, some are still classical. The following church is relatively new (for French standards) since it was built in 1849:

Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle churchNotre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle church
Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle churchNotre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle church

There are some statues, but not that many (again, the “blame” lies with the Allied bombings that levelled the city during WWII).

Statue of Hippolyte-Magloire Bisson
Statue of Hippolyte-Magloire Bisson

As for nightlife, there are of course many restaurants and bars. One of the more interesting bars we’ve encountered, one that merits a visit, is an incredible Irish pub:

Photo 1Map
The Galway Inn pub/restaurant in LorientThe Galway Inn pub/restaurant in Lorient

The Galway Inn is one of the most “authentic” and real Irish pubs outside of Ireland we’ve visited. Once inside, you can not see that you are in France, you’d swear you are in Dublin or Galway. It has a very lively atmosphere, live music and great food. And yes, they serve Guinness…the real kind on tap.

Like in almost any self-respecting French city/town or even village, you will find a covered food market (and almost always called “Halles”).

Photo 1Map
Halles (food market) of LorientHalles (food market) of Lorient

La Base

The harbour area where the Germans built enormous submarine pens is where the real attractivity starts. The area is called “La Base“.

There are several museums here, and many marina/harbours for fishing boats, shipyards, storage areas but there are also several race sailboats (this is an area where many professional skippers prepare their boats for races).

The sailboats used for races are sometimes enormous catamarans or yachts. Many sailors use Lorient as base for their preparations for race.

Ship yardsMarinaMap
Ship yardsShip yards
One of several sailboats marinaOne of several sailboats marina

Cite de la Voile Eric Tabarly

The first museum you will encounter when you arrive at the “La Base”, is the “Cite de la Voile Eric Tabarly“. This is a museum dedicated to the French legendary sailor & champion, Eric Tabarly.

Photo 1Photo 2Map
Cite de la Voile Eric TabarlyCite de la Voile Eric Tabarly
Viewing tower of the Cite de la Voile Eric TabarlyViewing tower of the Cite de la Voile Eric Tabarly

It’s an interesting museum, even if you are not into sailing.

Click here to read our review of the museum.

Flore Submarine

Another interesting museum on the “La Base” is the visit of a (real) diesel submarine, the “Flore“.

The submarine is already clearly visible when walking alongside the water, but you will need to go into the museum to be able to visit the inside of the sub.

Photo 1Map
The Flore submarine museumThe Flore submarine museum

Once inside, you can, after a presentation and several displays, visit the whole submarine from top to bottom, which, if you have never visited one, is an eye-opener.

Click here to read our review of the Flore submarine museum.

Submarine Museum of Lorient – Tour Davis

Another museum, dedicated to the Navy staff who operate under water, can be visited.

The museum is called “Submarine Museum of Lorient – Tour Davis – Base de Sous Marins de Keroman” and the museum is located in one of the German submarine pens (K2); a bunker with incredible thick concrete walls.

Don’t let the name fool you, it’s not a submarine that you will be visiting, but the life of the divers, including the Davis Tower (underwater simulator).

Photo 1Map
Submarine Museum of LorientSubmarine Museum of Lorient

The most interesting part of the museum is the actual building.

Click here to read our review of this museum.

When walking in the “La Base” alongside the marina, you will see the enormous German submarine pens. They are very big, tall, and made out of very thick concrete.

Photo 1Photo 2Photo 3
Concrete German submarine pensConcrete German submarine pens
Concrete German submarine pensConcrete German submarine pens
Ruins of a concrete German submarine pensRuins of a concrete German submarine pens

The submarine pens are by far the most interesting and visible aspect of La Base. There are three of them (K1, K2 and K3), capable of hosting up to 30 submarines.

15,000 people, mostly prisoners, worked on this submarine base. One of the pens (K3) is almost intact and can be visited.

HINT: You need to reserve to visit, since you can only visit the submarine pen with a guide. Click here to access the reservation website (in French only). The visit are also in English!


Lorient is not a place you will go out of your way to visit. But if you are in the city, a visit to “La Base” is of order. Just to see the enormous German submarine pens is worth the visit.

And since the area has several museums/exhibition areas, you can spend a nice day in the area.

Of course if you are interested in the Celtic culture, visit the InterCeltic event.

Taking a short ferry/boat-bus ride from La Base will take you to the other side of the bay, where you can visit the citadel of Port-Louis.

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