Nestled comfortably on the westernmost edge of Brittany, France lies Brest - a beautiful port city steeped in maritime heritage. Brest’s rich history dates back to mediaeval times, when it gained a reputation as a strategic seaport town.

Harbouring a legacy of rebirth after the ravages of World War II, Brest is now a unique tapestry where modern edifices blend seamlessly with ancient ramparts. There is no shortage of things to do in this picturesque city.

Whether it's delving into its rich naval history, exploring marine biodiversity, or enjoying the panoramic views along its quaint waterfront, Brest offers you a multitude of experiences waiting to be discovered. So, without further ado, let’s discover all there is to do in this city with our three-day Brest itinerary.

Day 1

Morning: Château de Brest

Begin your three-day itinerary in Brest by visiting its oldest surviving landmark, Château de Brest or Brest Castle. It perches high on the banks of the Penfeld River and is classified as a monument historique.

Step back in time as you journey through Roman France and on to mediaeval times as you discover the history of this ancient city. Brest Castle also offers unparalleled panoramic views over the city and toward the Atlantic. Open daily from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm.

Musee National de la Marine

Chateau de Brest is home to the Musée national de la Marine. Brest’s National Navy Museum's impressive collection charts centuries of history surrounding the port city’s arsenal and its seafaring fleets.

Its model ships and naval installations date back to 1748. Other artefacts such as the Neptune sculpture by Yves Collet and Stern decoration of the Galley La Reale are just some of the treasures housed in the Musée National de la Marine for you to marvel at. As with the castle, the museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm.

Brest Museum of Fine Arts

It’s a short walk along Rue de Chateau to the Brest Museum of Fine Arts. This post-war museum is home to an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and graphic arts. You will notice that almost all works displayed share the same maritime theme.

Take your time in exploring the museum and be mesmerised by the artistic genius of masters such as Canaletto, Ivan Aivazovsky, Maurice Denis, and others. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (closed between 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm for lunch).

Pont de Recouvrance

After exploring the museum, take a leisurely stroll across the scenic Penfeld River using the Pont de Recouvrance bridge. The towering vertical-lift bridge connects you to the Quartier de Recouvrance, Brest’s historically Breton quarter with lots to explore.

Day 1 - Morning Brest Tour Map

Afternoon: Le Jardin des Explorateurs

If you are looking for a tranquil corner to escape to, visit Le Jardin des Explorateurs on the other side of the river and across the Pont de Recouvrance.

The Explorers' Garden is a botanical garden that houses plants from all over the world brought back by explorers and botanists from Brest. Enjoy your walk amidst the lush greenery, admire the sculptures dedicated to explorers, and take in the serene maritime landscape.

Tour Tanguy

You may have spotted Tour Tanguy from Brest Castle, as it stands on the opposite shore. While the precise origins of this mediaeval tower are unknown, historians trace it to the Breton War of Succession.

Today, it is home to the Museum of Old Brest. Begin with the ground floor, where you can view old city plans, photographs, postcards and a coat of arms collection. Next, head to the first and second floors to see the museum’s celebrated collection of dioramas by renowned painter Jim Sevellec. The third floor sometimes holds exhibitions, so be sure to check the website before your visit to see what’s going on. Open daily from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Maison de la Fontaine

Continue along Rue de l’Eglise to Maison de la Fontaine, one of the vestiges of old Brest. It survived against incredible odds after being bombarded multiple times during WWII. This captivating mediaeval building has since been converted into a cultural venue.

It often organises exhibitions, events, and meetings with artists. Its 17th-century aesthetic sets it apart from other buildings and adds to Brest’s historic allure. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

Église Sainte-Thérèse-du-Landais

Visiting the Sainte-Thérèse-du-Landais church will take you to the Landais district, located west of Recouvrance. This church, dedicated to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, is a modern-style structure erected during the reconstruction of Brest. It was constructed to provide the Landais district with a religious building.

Day 1 - Afternoon Brest Tour Map

Day 2

Morning: Rue de Siam

On the second day of your 3-day Brest itinerary, pay a visit to Rue de Siam, one of the main arteries of the city. This long avenue stretches southwest towards the Recouvrance Bridge, crossing the Penfeld River.

Here you can find a lot of shops and restaurants, making it one of the most vibrant areas of the city. If you’re after some souvenirs to take home or a shopping spree, Rue de Siam is where you ought to be. Visit the famous Siam Street Lakes and jump on the tram to go about the avenue if your legs are getting a little sore.

Monument aux Morts

At the northeast end of Rue de Siam you’ll see the Monument aux Morts memorial; a large grey-stone column dedicated to those who perished during wars from the Franco-Prussian War of the late 1800s to the First and Second World Wars, and later conflicts in Southeast Asia and North Africa.

Kiosque à Musique

Grab some coffee and a Kouign-Amann from an eatery and head toward the Kiosque à Musique. This rather odd-looking structure is located on Place Wilson. Before taking its currency concrete shape, it was a bandstand where multiple open-air music auditions took place.

Musicians from different regiments would perform military music. These performances were quite popular in Brest and gathered large audiences. The location is ideal for taking a breather during your stroll around the city.

Porte antique de l'Herminier

The mystical ancient door of the Herminier is the ideal ending to your morning in Brest. This gateway into the past is located in the heart of the city, on a square of the same name. While it may look like a teleport device, it is actually the remains of the door of the former Jesuit seminary built in 1686. This makes it one of the oldest surviving partial structures in Brest.

Day 2 - Morning Brest Tour Map

Afternoon: Le Quartz

There are plenty of cultural events in Brest that you can attend in the afternoons. The Le Quartz is a performing arts theatre in the city that often hosts plays, live performances, and concerts. You can reach Le Quartz by bus lines 1, 2, 3 and 5. Get off the bus at the “Liberte Quartz” station. Brest’s tram line A will also get you there.

Jardin Kennedy

Across the street from Le Quarts is Brest’s popular Kennedy Garden. This is a great spot to rest in the afternoon. There are cafes and restaurants all around it, as well as a children's playground. A recently added skatepark has made the garden a hit with both locals and tourists. There are public toilets available in this area.

Square Alphonse Juin

Leave Kennedy Garden to visit the Alphonse Juin Square, named after the leading Free French commander in WWII. The area is known for its beautiful pathways and biodiversity. Locals commonly refer to it as one of the city’s green lungs. There are parking spaces available in the vicinity.

Bastion de Daoulas and Beautemps-Beaupré Square

Both of these locations are near the Alphonse Juin square and are stark reminders of Brest’s rich history. When passing by the Beautemps-Beaupre square, visit the monument that was erected in memory of the victims of deportation. These areas have an alluring aura in the afternoon and should not be missed.

Cours Dajot and Escalier du Cours Dajot

The Dajot Road is ideal for afternoon walks when you just want to unwind after a long day of sightseeing. It takes you through the heart of Brest, adorned with greenery and tints of history here and there. Walk this path until you reach the famous symmetrical Dajot staircase. It descends from Our Dajot toward Port de Commerce and the city’s Chain Park.

US Naval Monument at Brest (Pink Tower)

Midway along Cours Dajot you’ll find the Monument Américain aux Morts. Otherwise known as the US Naval Monument or Pink Tower thanks to its rose-coloured hue, this 30-metre tall tower was erected in the 1930s to commemorate the US Navy’s first arrival in Europe during WWI. The tower was destroyed by the Germans during WWII, however it was rebuilt in 1958 as an exact replica of the original monument.

Day 2 - Afternoon Brest Tour Map

Day 3

Morning: Monument aux Victimes de l'Amiante

Start your third day in Brest with a visit to one of the more curious monuments in Brest. This one is dedicated to the victims of asbestos. The use of the material was prevalent in naval and shipbuilding history, and it claimed the lives of many. The monument is a bleak yet beautiful reminder of occupational hazards and France’s efforts toward solving them.

La Consulaire

La Consulaire or the Consular is a historical landmark in Brest that certainly merits a visit. It is also known as the Baba Merzough, which translates to Lucky Father in Arabic. You might first think of it as a column. However, it is actually a 7-metre-long cannon that was brought to France in 1830 as a war trophy after the Algiers expedition. Weighing at 17 tons, it is a monument to military history in Brest.

The Brest Cable Car

The Telepherique or Brest cable car is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. It connects the two banks of the Penfeld river and the districts of Siam and Capuchins. There are two cabins, each transporting up to 60 people. It has a total capacity of 1,200 passengers per hour. While it is a rather short ride, you will be treated with a panoramic view of the river, Pont de Recouvrance and Brest Harbour. It costs 1,6 € a trip or 2 € two trips.

Les Ateliers des Capucins

Take the Telepherique to reach the lively Les Ateliers des Capucins. This is the largest covered public square in Europe. It is an immense industrial cathedral that offers a formidable belvedere over Brest Harbour. It is full of events, exhibitions, shops, eateries, a cinema, and recreational activities. There will certainly be no shortage of activities here, or just sit and sip a coffee as you watch the world go by.

Day 3 - Morning Brest Tour Map

Afternoon: Batiment aux lions

After exploring the Les Ateliers des Capucins, start your afternoon by visiting Batiment aux lions. The “Lions Building” is a structure located under the northern part of Rue de Pontaniou. The building takes its name from the ten lion heads that act as gargoyles on the arsenal side facade. It was built from 1807 to 1809, and had military significance.

Prison de Pontaniou

Continuing on with the military theme, head to the former Pontaniou maritime prison building. The prison was used from 1670 when Brest became the largest naval base in Ponant. It was designed and gained a reputation as a building with exemplary detention conditions for its time. It was shut down in 1990 due to deteriorating conditions. The imposing structure is one of Brest’s most well-known landmarks.

Rue St Malo

Spend an unforgettable afternoon in Brest by taking a stroll along Rue Saint-Malo, the oldest street in the city. Adorned with 17th and 18th-century houses, it is overlooked by terraced gardens and takes you through the levée de Pontaniou before ending at the Madeleine staircase.

Lavoir de Pontaniou

From Rue St Malo, walk toward the Lavoir de Pontaniou. This is an old historic washhouse that has been renovated as an exhibition centre. It reflects Brest’s past, prior to modern household conveniences. This is where you will likely meet friendly Brest residents who are passionate about the city’s history. Make sure you visit Un cabinet de curiosités, an exhibition that played an important role in preserving Lavoir de Pontaniou.

Day 3 - Afternoon Brest Tour Map

Best Day Trips from Brest

  • Le Conquet: This delightful fishing village is a 30-minute drive from Brest along the D67. Its quaint houses, beautiful beaches, and coastal paths will delight you with its Breton charm.

  • Pointe de Saint-Mathieu: If you like old ruins, lighthouses, and breathtaking views of the sea, take a detour from Le Conquet to visit Pointe de Saint-Mathieu. You can climb the lighthouse to bask in the sheer beauty of maritime landscapes.

  • Île d'Ouessant (Ushant Island): Ushuant is located in the westernmost point of mainland France and is a two-hour drive from Brest. It is known for its iconic lighthouses, coastline, and island culture. If you are planning on hiking on your trip, Ushant is the place for you. There are direct ferries from Gare Maritime de Brest, so getting there from the city is a piece of cake.

  • Locronan: There is a reason why Locronan is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. This mediaeval town will impress you with its cobblestone streets, artisanal shops, and vistas of the Breton countryside. It’s just an hour's drive from Brest along the N165.

  • Quimper: The administrative capital of Finistere is an hour’s drive away from Brest along the N165. Quimper is renowned for its beautiful Gothic cathedral, quaint half-timbered houses, and scenic river setting. You can also indulge in traditional Breton faience pottery while you are there.

  • The Crozon Peninsula: If you are a fan of the great outdoors, then drive an hour from Brest to visit this marvellous peninsula. With stunning cliffs, sandy beaches, and secluded coves, this is a place where you can fully soak up the serene coastal atmosphere. Take the N165 and then onto the D791.

Other Things to Do in Brest

  • Fort Montbarey is a military stronghold with a history that spans 3 centuries. Today, it is the site of the Memorial Gallery of the People of Finistère. This museum is a sombre reminder of the turmoils of war, and is dedicated to the memory of Brittany's victims of World War II. It displays a vast collection that includes photographs, tour records, a death carriage, anti-aircraft batteries and an English Churchill tank. You can reach it using the Brest tram. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

  • Brest Arsenal: The Brest Arsenal is a must-see if you are a naval enthusiast. It was established in the 17th century under the direction of Cardinal Richelieu and continues to serve the French Navy today. During the Age of Sail, it was instrumental in outfitting ships for exploration, trade, and military campaigns. The arsenal's heritage, architecture, and role in maritime affairs reflect Brest's importance in French naval tradition.

  • Le Comoedia Galerie d'Art: If you’re interested in contemporary art, head over to the Le Comoedia art gallery, just two minutes away from the fine arts museum. This contemporary art gallery is located in the cultural district of Brest. The building itself was established during the city’s reconstruction phase. The gallery is only open from Thursday to Saturday between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm.

  • Saint-Louis Church: The original Saint-Louis church was destroyed during WWII. The one you can see in Brest today is a modern-style monument erected on the remaining ruins of the old church. It is the largest French church that was rebuilt after the war. You can easily reach it from Rue de Siam. The Brest Centre Catholic Parish is also nearby if you are willing to take a detour.

Top Things to Do With Kids in Brest

Brest offers a variety of family-friendly activities with its rich maritime history and vibrant culture. Here are some top things to do with kids in Brest, aside from taking a stroll in the city’s many parks:

  • Take them to Océanopolis: Oceanopolis is an ideal place to visit with families. It offers interactive exhibits, touch pools, and a collection of marine species, making it both educational and entertaining. In fact, you can easily spend a whole day exploring this vast marine centre. It has three thematic pavilions dedicated to polar, tropical, and temperate marine ecosystems. If you and your kids are keen on learning about marine biodiversity, a trip to Océanopolis is a must!

  • 70.8, musée pour l'océan: The science museum "70.8, musée pour l'océan" is situated in Brest, France. With exhibits covering subjects including marine biology, oceanography, and climate change, it focuses on the ocean and humankind.

  • Visit Plage de Sainte Anne du Portzic: Kids will love the Plage de Sainte Anne du Portzic. Its calm waters and sheltered location are ideal for swimming and it is a lovely spot for a picnic and some serious sand castle work!

  • Magicien, mentaliste et spectacle de magie Finistère par Stéfane Laurens: Kids love magic tricks. Luckily, there is a great one in Brest. Stéfane Laurens is a local magician and mentalist who regularly stages shows. Take your kids to Magicien, mentaliste et spectacle de magie Finistère par Stéfane Laurens for a day of magical fun.

  • Le Vallon du Stang-Alar: This verdant valley is home to the Brest Botanic Garden, or Jardin botanique de Brest (Jardin du Conservatoire botanique national de Brest). Originally constructed on an abandoned quarry, it is now a tranquil area home to a wide variety of international flora. Tropical plants are even housed in separate greenhouses! They have a specific interest in protecting uncommon plants that may not be around for very long. The gardens are free to enter, making it a fantastic option for a leisurely day trip.

  • Square de Bazeilles Aire de jeux pour enfants: If you are visiting Brest with children, then taking them to Square de Bazeilles Aire de jeux pour enfants is a must. The square is located right near the river. Children can enjoy playing in the playground full of swings, slides, and climbing structures. Meanwhile, you can immerse yourself in the scenic view.

Where to Eat and Drink in Brest

Brest’s culinary experiences reach far beyond traditional restaurants and bars. Here’s how you can partake in the port city’s culinary landscape.

  • Local Markets: These make up the heart and soul of Brest’s culinary scene. Check out the Marché de Saint-Louis, for instance. It is a treasure trove of local produce, fresh seafood, artisan cheeses, and much more. Local vendors in Brest are always happy to hand you some ready-to-eat treats.

  • Food Tours: Just like any Breton experience, a trip to Brest would not be complete without food tours. Immerse yourself in the city’s culinary offerings. Walk through historic districts and sample local dishes such as savoury galettes, sweet crêpes, freshly shucked oysters, and rich, buttery kouign-amann.

  • Craft Beer Pubs, Seaside Cafés, and Wine Bars: Brest is beaming with cafes, pubs, and wine bars. Grab a pint at a local pub and support the local breweries. If you are more of a wine person, there is a wide range of local Breton wines to taste here - with small plates of tapas. And, of course, a lot of caffeine at the city’s many seaside cafés.

Traditional Breton/French Restaurants

  • Crêperie La Chaumine: This traditional dine-in Breton creperie serves crêpes and galettes, staples of Breton cuisine. You can also try their local Breton ciders and beer to complement your dining experience. It’s a 10-minute walk from Brest Castle and is across the street from Jean Beart Park.

  • Les Maraichers: If you are on the hunt for vegetarian food on Brest, visit Les Maraichers. It is within walking distance from the téléphérique and offers a great selection of Breton cuisine. They offer both dine-in and takeaway, and are known for their friendly staff.

  • Aux Tours du Château: This traditional restaurant serves French and European cuisine and is located near Gaulle Garden. They also offer vegetarian meals. Aside from its delicious menu, the restaurant is also known for its stunning view of Pont de Recouvrance.

  • Crêperie Blev Hir: This popular creperie is one the most top-rated in Brest. It is not far from the Brest Museum of Fine Arts and offers dine-in services. Customers rave on about their crepes and galettes being the best in town. Their apple cider is also highly spoken of.

Fine Dining Experiences in Brest

  • L’Embrun: For contemporary French cuisine in upmarket surroundings, head to the Michelin-starred L’Embrun. Head chef Guillaume Pape was featured on television’s France’s Top Chef and the restaurant has attracted significant media attention (worthily) as a result. Booking advisable!

  • Hinoki: Hinoki is a fine-dining sushi restaurant in Brest, not far from the Le Quarts theatre. It offers both dine-in and takeaway and is recommended if you plan on tasting Asian cuisine while in Brest.

  • Jardin d'hiver: This rustic restaurant offers a fine dining experience that involves natural wines and organic food. Their produce is locally sourced and always fresh. There are parking spots all around the area, and it is easily accessible. It is located near l'Herminier Square.

Golfing in Brest

If you are planning on golfing in Brest, there are three golfing courses that come highly recommended. You can try Le Golf de Pen Ar Bed, Golf de Brest Les Abres, or Golf de Brest Iroise. The latter has a woodland course. All three are 18-hole courses and you can hire equipment on site.

Where to Stay in Brest

You are really spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation in Brest. From charming boutique hotels with harbour views to cosy B&Bs, Brest offers a whole spectrum of options that cater to different tastes and budgets.

  • Couett'Hôtel Brest: This 3-star budget-friendly hotel is located next to Moulin Blanc beach and is 2 km from Brest’s National Botanical Conservatory. It is also in the vicinity of Oceanopolis. Free parking is available, and the is pet-friendly so you can bring your four-legged friend with you.

  • Hôtel Restaurant L'Amirauté Brest: This 4-star hotel and restaurant is a 20-minute walk from Brest Castle and a 2 minutes' walk from the shops on Rue Jean Jaurès. The rooms are equipped with everything you need for a relaxing stay including en-suite bathroom, free toiletries and tea and coffee-making facilities. The hotel serves Breton cuisine as breakfast.

  • Hotel & Spa Oceania Le Conti: This 4-star luxury hotel has a historic allure as it dates back to 1913 and features stunning art deco architecture. It’s a short walk from Place de la Liberte and has plenty of amenities nearby. The hotel has a spa with an indoor pool for guests to enjoy, as well as an onsite bar and restaurant.

Best Time to Visit Brest

Brest has a maritime oceanic climate meaning the city can get a fair bit of rain. Summers in Brest are warm and the winters are mild. Keeping this in mind, the best time to visit Brest would be in the warmer months from May to September, though expect more crowds during the school holidays.

Spring and autumn are wonderful times to visit Brest as there are fewer people and accommodation prices are cheaper than in peak season.

Festivals in Brest

  • Fetes maritimes internationales de Brest: The Brest International Maritime Festival invites a spectacular array of traditional boats from across the globe to the historic city and is held every four years. Over the course of one week, Brest turns into a hub of maritime culture and showcases an unmatched diversity of sailing heritage. The next edition will take place between the 12th and 17th July 2024.

  • Astropolis Festival: This large dance music festival takes place each June at the Port of Trade. The next festival will be held between the 26th and 30th June 2024.

  • Atlantic Jazz Festival: Jazz lovers should be sure to head to Brest in the autumn to witness the annual Atlantic Jazz Fest.

  • The Port Thursdays: Every Thursday throughout the summer months the port area is home to a series of events from concerts to workshops, food stalls and fun activities for kids and adults alike.

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