A Traveller's Guide to Brest, France
Brest - more than just seafood and crepes
Located on the western tip of the Breton peninsula, the city of Brest on the coast of north-western France was one of the country’s most historically important ports. Domestic and international visitors flock to Brest to enjoy its beautiful beaches, range of water-sports and fine cuisine.
Getting to and around Brest
Brest is connected with Rennes along the N12 highway and Nantes by the N165, both of which are toll-free roads. There are eight train services per day running from Paris to Brest on the TGV high speed rail line. Regional train routes also run to Rennes and Quimper. Daily ferry services run between Plymouth and Roscoff which is a one hour drive northeast of Brest. By plane, domestic routes as well as services from some UK cities land in the regional airport located 25 minutes northeast of the city. A shuttle bus connects the airport with the town and train station, with nine services running per day.
Things to see and do in Brest
The English controlled Brest in medieval times until the marriage of the daughter of Anne of Brittany and Francois I returned the town to the French crown. The harbour and wharves were constructed under Cardinal Richelieu and Brest consequently became an important naval base. During WWI, American troops landed in Brest on their way to the front lines. The Germans occupied the city during WWII and used the harbour as a submarine base. Only three buildings survived the Battle for Brest in 1944. The restored city has a grid-like layout and consists of new granite and concrete buildings.
The few historical monuments left standing after the war are worth a visit. The town’s oldest monument is Château de Brest located at the mouth of the river Penfeld. It is over 1700 years old and is the oldest castle in the world still in use. Tour Tanguy is a medieval tower on the Penfeld river facing the castle and now houses the Museum of Old Brest. The tower is accessible via the massive Pot de Recouvrance drawbridge, the largest vertical lift bridge in Europe.
To take in some of the seaside attractions of Brest, visit the giant Oceanopolis aquarium containing pavilions displaying the difference marine life of the polar, tropical and temperate regions. Enjoy fishing, yachting or windsurfing in the waters around Brest. The granite cliffs, sandy beaches and grottos are a great place to just sit back, relax and enjoy a picnic or sunbathing.
Located on the coast, seafood is a specialty at most restaurants in town. There are an abundance of restaurants, cafes and brasseries to suit all budgets. For something lighter, just head to one of Brest’s many creperies.