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Top Sights and Attractions in Brest
Its identity as one of the most important naval bases in France began with the founding of a naval academy in the mid-18th century; since then, its history has been inextricably linked with the sea. During the Second World War the harbour was used as a German U-boat base and suffered heavy Allied bombing as a result. Nevertheless, Brest has since reinvented itself, with fine examples of modernist, neoclassical and art nouveau architecture helping it to become one of Brittany's Towns of Art and History. Every four years, tourism in Brest focuses around the Brest International Maritime Festivals, a celebration of seafaring history that sees hundreds of boats of all ages and origins gather in the bay for parades, races and reenactments. At all other times, the port city is a popular destination for visitors wishing to explore everything from naval museums and world-class aquariums to mouthwatering Breton cuisine. If you plan on staying longer than a weekend in Brest, be sure to discover the stunning valleys, mountains and beaches of the surrounding Finistère countryside and coastline as well.
Botanical Garden Visits, Beaches and Boat Trips
Some of the best activities in Brest are centred around its oldest monuments – Château de Brest and the medieval tower known as Tour Tanguy. These two landmarks are situated on opposite sides of the Penfeld River. The first houses the Musée National de la Marine, a fascinating museum that explores Brest's naval and shipbuilding history through a series of exhibits containing everything from model ships to exquisite paintings and sculptures. Afterwards, cross the Pont de Recouvrance (once the largest vertical lift bridge in Europe) to reach the Museum of Old Brest at Tour Tanguy. Here, the highlight is a collection of dioramas that depict the city in all its pre-Second World War glory. Brest's other great claim to fame is the ocean discovery centre and aquarium known as Océanopolis. Located directly on the waterfront, it takes visitors on a journey through the tropical, temperate and polar oceans of the world with the opportunity to meet more than 1,000 aquatic species along the way. Kids will be particularly impressed with the otter trail and the clinic for rescued seals. Looking for other family-friendly activities in Brest? Les Ateliers des Capucins is the biggest covered public square in Europe, with a climbing wall, virtual reality adventure park and the freedom to explore on roller skates or skateboard.
Dining and Drinking in Brest
If the great outdoors is more your thing, don't worry – Brest has plenty of that, too. Start with a visit to the Jardin du Conservatoire Botanique National de Brest, where gardens and greenhouses showcase a spectacular collection of rare plant species from all over the world. For wooded walking trails interspersed with views of the old city walls, head to Les Remparts de Brest in the city centre; or pack a picnic and drive east of Brest itself towards Parc du Bois des Sables Rouge. With breathtaking views of the bay and its Albert Louppe and Iroise bridges, this is one of the most popular hiking areas for local residents. To experience the water at closer quarters, explore the nearby beaches. Moulin Blanc Beach is conveniently close to the city, with a wide crescent of sheltered sand for swimming and sunbathing in summer. Alternatively, book a boat trip with Compagnie Maritime Penn Ar Bed, a local ferry company specialising in year-round sailings to the islands of Ushant, Molène and Sein. Here, crystal-clear waters, windswept beaches, historic lighthouses and regular sightings of bottlenose dolphins await. For lighthouse sightseeing on the mainland, visit the 19th-century Phare du Portzic.
Best Hotels in Brest, France
With so much to see and do, it's easy to work up an appetite. Fortunately, bars and restaurants in Brest have plenty to offer the hungry (or thirsty) tourist. In particular, Brittany is famous for its seafood, with Breton lobster, clams, mussels and a traditional fish stew known as cotriade often featuring on regional menus. Many dishes make use of the region's famous cider – including poulet à la Bretonne, or chicken simmered in a cider, crème fraiche and mustard sauce. If you try just one local specialty in Brest, however, make it a Breton crêpe. These savoury buckwheat pancakes are typically filled with eggs, ham and mushrooms, and served at dedicated crêperies alongside sweet alternatives.
How to Get to Brest
Accor offers some of the best places to stay in Brest, including the 4-star Hotel Mercure Brest Centre Les Voyageurs. Ideally located in the heart of the city centre near the train station and Place de la Liberté, it uses authentic local artworks and expansive sea views to provide a sense of place while welcoming all kinds of travellers. In Brest on a romantic weekend? Spend leisurely afternoons sipping cocktails in the nautical-themed bar before heading out for an evening of culture. Looking for a family hotel in Brest? Luxury suites with a living room and double sofa bed provide all the space you need to relax in between sightseeing tours. Many hotels cater specifically to corporate guests, with meeting rooms that double as convenient spaces for coworking in Brest. And, if you're travelling on a budget, our ibis styles property offers some excellent bed and breakfast rates. Book direct on the ALL Accor website for the best possible price.
Located in the city centre, Gare de Brest hosts regional TER and long-distance, high-speed TGV trains. Using the latter, you can reach Brest from Rennes in just over two hours – while the journey from Paris-Montparnasse takes approximately 3 hours, 40 minutes. Looking for a Brest train station hotel? Accor has several choices within a few minutes' walk. Alternatively, those flying into Brest Bretagne Airport can stay 10 minutes from the terminal at our affordable Brest airport hotel. The airport offers flights from destinations across France including Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse. UK flights depart seasonally from Birmingham. If you plan on bringing your car over, take the Eurostar from London to Calais, or the ferry from Poole to Cherbourg.