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8 must-visit addresses in Brest

Located at the tip of the Bretagne, Brest is a city of character, where urban dynamism and maritime life meet. The city of the Ponant has suffered serious damage in the past, but is not without charm. Its cultural heritage and unspoilt coastline are sure to make for some exciting discoveries. Here are 8 must-see addresses and places to visit during your stay in Brest.
Published on February 7, 2024

1. The National Maritime Museum

Retracing the history of the Navy and the Arsenal, the Musée National de la Marine in Brest is housed in the Château de Brest, built in the 3rd century and listed as a historic monument. During the Second World War, this castle was used by the German army, which dug underground tunnels during the occupation.

The museum tour takes you back in time to shipbuilding, the Brest penal colony, the Lapérouse expedition, the industrial revolution, post-war ships, submarines and ocean racing.

The Musée National de la Marine boasts 15 permanent exhibition rooms, punctuated by temporary events, and even offers theatrical tours.

2. Océanopolis

Embark on a journey to the heart of the oceans with a visit to the Brest Aquarium. Not only is it one of the largest aquariums in France, it's also a center of scientific culture with an educational vocation. Through its mission to raise awareness of the preservation of species and their habitats, Océanopolis regularly awakens vocations in this field.

With its three different sections, the aquarium presents over 1,000 species from all over the world. The Bretagne pavilion features local species. The tropical pavilion offers a glimpse of the coral reef, with its colorful fish and sharks. The polar pavilion transports you to the Arctic and Antarctic, with its seals and penguins.

3. Les Ateliers des Capucins

When in Brest, don't miss Europe's largest covered public square. Les Ateliers des Capucins is an XXL venue with a very special history. The site was first a convent, then a barracks for apprentice gunners in the French Navy, before becoming home to all the government bodies involved in shipbuilding and repair. Since 2016, the 16-hectare site has been home to the " colocs " of this unusual third-party space.

A media library, a theater, a cinema, as well as the national street arts center and the 70.8ocean gallery... these cultural spaces cohabit with a virtual reality adventure park, a climbing gym and shops for strolling and dining.

A guided tour organized by the Tourist Office traces the building's 300-year history from its origins, and invites you to stop in front of the canoe belonging to Emperor Napoleon 1st.

4. The cable car over the Penfeld

To discover the city from a completely different perspective, take a seat aboard France's first urban cable car. In the cabin, the three-minute ride takes you from the right to the left bank of the Penfeld, the coastal river that flows through Brest.

Rising 72 metres above the water, this unique viewpoint offers a panoramic view of the military port. In the distance, you can see the old quarter and even Brest harbor. Take advantage of this unusual means of transport to get from the Château to the Ateliers des Capucins.

5. Moulin Blanc beach

It's unthinkable to be so close to the sea and not want to go to the beach. Just a stone's throw from Océanopolis, the Moulin Blanc beach is ideal for a relaxing stroll. With your feet in the sand, enjoy the invigorating sea air without having to leave the city.

Enjoy a meal on the terrace overlooking the Moulin Blanc cove. This urban beach is not recommended for swimming, but in summer you can take advantage of the activities and introductory sports courses organized by the nautical base.

6. Brest roadstead

The Brest roadstead covers an area of 180 km2, making it one of the largest in the world. Viewpoints on land and from the top of the cable car give you a glimpse of its splendor. From the sea, however, you'll discover a completely different landscape.

The coast's points, peninsulas and coves are also marked by the presence of numerous military buildings. Depending on the time of year, you can choose between boat rental, organized cruises, kayaking or paddleboarding.

Heritage enthusiasts will appreciate embarking on exceptional boats such as the Loch Monna, a shellboat built in 1956, or the Notre-Dame de Rumengol, a gabare dating from 1945.

7. The Botanical Conservatory

After your oceanic journey at the Brest Aquarium, take a botanical world tour through this extraordinary garden. The Brest National Botanical Conservatory is open all year round. Take a stroll through 30 hectares and 1000 m2 of tropical greenhouses to discover protected plant species, some of which are threatened with extinction.

The different varieties have been planted according to their geographical origin. This exotic stroll takes you from Armorica to Australia before arriving in the Mediterranean, all the while in the heart of the city at the tip of Bretagne.

8. Rue Saint-Malo

The city of Brest suffered devastation during the Second World War. This is the only street in the city that was spared by the bombing and subsequent urbanization. Rue Saint-Malo offers a glimpse of the popular old Brest. Stroll among the houses originally built for naval workers and soak up the local history.

Not far from the Ateliers des Capucins and the cable car, enjoy the rustic charm of these cobbled streets, which are animated throughout the year by a variety of events and street art shows.