Administrative centre of the département of Finistère in Brittany, northwest France, situated about 58 km/36 mi southeast of Brest on the River Odet; population (2005 est) 64,900. The city is an important centre for banking and finance. Other major employers include the agribusiness sector, chemical industry, distribution companies, and local government. The nearby port of Roscoff provides access to the UK.
Quimper, originally Aquilonia, was settled by the Romans and was used to unload ships coming into port. In the early Middle Ages, it became the largest town in the Cornouaille region and was granted an Episcopalian see in the 9th century. Stone ramparts were built in the 12th century and the construction of the Saint-Corentin Cathedral began in the 13th century; work was completed in 1858. The town grew around the local Benedictine monastery. In the 14th and 15th centuries, it was ravaged several times by wars with the English and in 1594, bombardments by the French military commander Maréchal D'Aumont reduced the city to ashes. An accidental fire in 1662 resulted in the destruction of many half-timbered houses. In 1690, French businessman Jean-Baptiste Bousquet moved to Quimper and set up a pottery works. The local clay deposits supplied him with the raw material and the business soon began to prosper. In the middle of the 19th century, Quimper underwent a major economic boom, becoming the major trading centre of southern Brittany. A railroad was built in the area in 1863.
Features include the 13th-century Gothic cathedral, possibly the earliest example in Brittany. A museum within the 16th-century Bishop's Palace features the culture of Brittany, especially clothing and pottery. The town also has a notable art collection and is the venue for the annual festival of Breton music.