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Brest’s buzz comes from its status as an international maritime centre, set in a sensational location overlooking the inland sea of the Rade de Brest. It’s very much a split site as the lively commercial port area contrasts with the sober grid-plan of the centre above, softened by green nooks and modern art installations along the new tramway. Modern architecture and resources are to the forefront, as the city had to be almost completely rebuilt after WWII attempts to bomb the German submarine base. The Moulin Blanc pleasure port just to the east of the city is also an important piece of the Brest jigsaw, with one of the most visited attractions in France in Oceanopolis.
Our top five activities
Sailing on the Rade de Brest
Azenor offers daily boat trips around the Rade de Brest and Crozon peninsula in the summer months.Moulin Blanc, 02 9841 4623
Visit the Atlantic island
Take a boat further afield to visit the Atlantic islands of Molène (ideal day trip) or remote and mysterious Ouessant. If you’re lucky, there may be dolphins near Pointe Saint-Mathieu. Penn Ar Bed operates from the Port de Commerce.02 9880 8080
The Centre Nautique du Moulin Blanc is the best base for sailing or floating off across the Rade, with tuition and equipment hire, and there are also diving possibilities with Eau Libre (rue de Amiral Trude).02 9802 3673
Two courses (18 and 9 holes) designed by Michael Fenn and renowned for their beautiful setting are available at Golf de Brest Iroise, about 20 minutes from the city in Saint Urbain. Parc de loisirs de Lann Rohou, Saint Urbain, 02 9885 1617
For the ultimate thrill, what about an accompanied parachute jump over the island of Ouessant? Aéro Tandem Celtic will hold your hand.06 6250 4464
Brest is known for its sophisticated boutiques in and around the central Rue de Siam. There’s everything from traditional hats (48 rue de Siam) to the hip streetwear of Since Street (182 rue Jean-Jaurès, 02 9082 5236). Try the full chocolate experience at Histoire de Chocolat (60 rue de Siam, 02 9844 6609) or the enormous Dialogues nearby for books and music, with coffee while browsing. For Breton products, the best range is at the Roi de Bretagne in the Port de Commerce. There are local markets every day in Brest but the best are foodies’ favourite on Saturday mornings in Saint-Martin and a large collection of mixed stalls on Sunday morning at Saint-Louis.
Food & Drink
Brest’s restaurants mostly specialise in seafood, from Michelin-starred L’Armen (21 rue de Lyon, 02 9846 2834) to the famous Crabe Marteau (8 quai de la Douaine, 02 9833 3857) whose name says it all – you get a crab and mallet (with sauces and potatoes alongside). L’Imaginaire (23 rue Fautras, 02 9843 3013) offers stylish dining with an emphasis on quality local products, like fashionable Le M (22 rue Commandant Drogou, 02 9847 9000), an off-centre venue popular with locals. For a real marine experience and absolutely delicious seafood, visit Aux Vieux Gréements (145 quai Eric Tabarly, 02 9843 2048). Just out of town in a verdant valley near Moulin Blanc is the Crêperie du Stang Alar for a simple meal of traditional tasty Breton pancakes.
The liveliest night scene in Brest is to be found around the Port de Commerce where bars and restaurants line the quays. On Thursday evenings in summer, huge music stages are erected here with headline bands from around the world. Make for Le Living Room (9 rue Amiral Nielly, 02 9844 2595) or Le Square up in the town (14 rue Kéréon, 02 9843 4363) for dancing to current sounds. The Carène (30 rue Jean-Marie le Bris, 02 9846 6600) is the hotspot for contemporary music, and jazz/electro-jazz lovers will want to check out the Cabaret Vauban (17 avenue Georges Clemenceau, 02 9846 0688). Quality theatre, dance and classical concerts are to be found at the arts centre Le Quartz (Place de la Liberté, 02 9833 9500).
Accommodation in Brest
Brest Airport Information
CityJet Flight Routes
Amsterdam to London City