Nicknamed the Cité du Ponant, located at the tip of Brittany, Brest is one of Europe’s maritime capitals and one of the most beautiful ports in France.
Thanks to its large military and commercial port, Brest has a rich and exciting history. Unfortunately, due to the bombings of World War II, only a few vestiges of its ancient past remain.
In spite of the inevitable reconstruction, Brest has managed to intelligently renew itself, rising from its ashes to create a unique and ever-changing city.
Located at the tip of Brittany, in northern Finistère, Brest is a city that will reveal itself to those visitors who take the time to discover it.
Obviously, the reconstruction of the centre has penalised tourism, compared to other picturesque towns such as Rennes or Quimper, but in recent years Brest has focused mainly on its maritime vocation.
The Brest Castle has the particularity of being one of the few historical buildings that have remained intact, within a city almost entirely destroyed by World War II. Today it is home to the National Maritime Museum, a medieval fortress that bears witness to Brest’s maritime and military past. Indeed, thanks to its strategic position on a rocky spur, the castle dominates the Penfeld river, its mouth and the port.
With the same ticket, it is possible both to visit the keep and ramparts of the castle and to retrace the city’s naval history through the museum: it houses a very rich collection of ship models, paintings and sculptures relating to the city’s naval tradition.
Once you have finished your visit, take a stroll along the Cours Dajot: from here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the port of Brest and see the Plougastel peninsula in the distance.
The Brest Oceanopolis is not a classic aquarium: it is a real ocean park, which also aims to be a Centre for Scientific and Technical Culture of the Sea. Its mission is to explain to the public the richness and complexity of the marine environment.
Spread over 9,000 square metres of exhibition space, it boasts three themed pavilions: Tropical, Polar and Brittany. The latter pavilion, also called the temperate pavilion, is recognisable by its building in the shape of a crab: here you can admire the biodiversity of the Brittany coast.
In the polar pavilion, you can meet seals and penguins in their habitat, with a reconstruction of the landscape of the Kerguelen Islands. The tropical pavilion is designed to explore the ecosystem of sharks, living corals and exotic fish.
In this study centre, science mixes with discovery: attractions, activities, workshops, lectures, exhibitions and the chance to watch biologists at work with the animals.
This is one of the most picturesque places in the city: strolling along the yachting quays, bustling with bars and restaurants, you can admire sailing ships and large yachts docked at the piers.
A picture postcard image that well reflects the city’s seafaring soul
Erected on the other side of the Penfeld river, just opposite the National Maritime Museum, is the Tour de la Motte-Tanguy.
Dating back to the 14th century, this tower is a beautiful testimony to the ancient architecture of Brest. Transformed into a city museum with huge dioramas, the tower accurately reconstructs pre-war Brest. Take the time to look at old photographs and old maps of the city, for an unprecedented plunge into the city’s past.
Another corner miraculously untouched by the bombings is Rue Saint-Malo. For a moment, you will feel as if you are in another city.
This enchanting glimpse is made all the more charming by the presence of old Breton stone houses, sandstone cobblestones, granite walls embellished with flowers and embellished by shops. Over time, a thriving community has grown up around this alley, which works to keep the most picturesque corner of Brest alive and well.
The Ateliers des Capucins are located in the Recouvrance District. Located on a promontory overlooking the Penfeld River, these buildings steeped in history are becoming the new symbol of urban renewal in the Brest metropolis.
Indeed, they have rapidly become the new pole of Brest’s cultural life, reflecting the urban dynamism experienced by the city. The huge buildings, which once housed the Arsenal machine shops, have been transformed into the largest covered public space in Europe.
Three monumental naves adorned with 200 bay windows offer a magnificent view of the city. Here you will find music, climbing walls, brasseries and microbreweries, shops, street art, bookshops, media libraries, cinemas and art galleries. On the ground floor, industrial machines bear witness to the past and engage the imagination of passers-by.
The Ateliers des Capucins is both a public place and a cultural site, rich in discovery and exchange, a large space dedicated to all citizens, of all ages and backgrounds. You can get there by car or by tram, but the way we prefer is definitely the cable car, from which there is an exceptional panorama of the city. In fact, you will ‘fly’ 420 metres, from one bank of the Penfeld river to the other, at a height of 60 metres.
For a green getaway, we recommend the Botanical Conservatory National De Brest: located in the Vallon du Stang-Alar, this 2-km-long green space stretches over 47 hectares to the Moulin Blanc beach. It houses a public park, a botanical garden, tropical greenhouses and plant exhibitions.
Crossed by a stream, the valley offers sheltered and varied areas with a mild and protected microclimate. You can wander around discovering endangered plant species from the five continents.
Another undiscovered corner of Brest is the Maison Blanche district. Far from the hustle and bustle of the city, on a small pebble beach, you will find some sixty colourful and picturesque fishermen’s huts.
Having survived the Second World War, the hamlet resists modernity: the narrow passages between the houses bear street names, like a true neighbourhood of Brest life.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Brest is a modern and lively city that combines Breton culture with a strong university vocation: as many as 23,000 students live in the city.
Unfortunately, Brest attracts few tourists, due to its image as a rebuilt city, but it can become a strategic base for visiting its rich hinterland.
Brest is undoubtedly one of the most geographically remote locations in Brittany. In fact, it is located at the tip of the Finistere peninsula. The nearest airport is certainly Nantes Airport, but if you are arriving from Normandy, then you might consider landing at one of the airports in the French capital, namely Paris Orly, Paris-Charles de Gaulle or Paris Beauvais.
If you plan to reach Brest from Paris, the journey takes an average of 5½ hours, while you will have to allow 3½ hours for Nantes and 4 hours from Caen.
The fastest way to get to Brest is to use the SNCF company: the journey takes 4½ hours from Paris and 3½ hours from Nantes.
What's the weather at Brest? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Brest for the next few days.
Brest is a modern port city located in the westernmost part of Brittany.