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Brest Travel Guide

City Map

City Introduction

Brest is a city in Brittany in northwestern France on the Atlantic coast. Little is known about Brest’s early history, but the city is known from around the year 1240, when Hervé V de Léon handed over the area to Jean Ier de Bretagne, and in the years 1342-1397, Brittany and thereby also Brest came under English rule. In 1631, the statesman Cardinal Richelieu took advantage of Brest’s strategic location by building a port, which was quickly expanded and fortified in the 1680s. The city had also become the home port of the French navy. In the 1900s, Brest became an important port in both world wars. During World War II, Germany used the site as a shipyard and submarine base, and in 1944 large parts of the city were laid in ruins during the Battle of Brest.

Today, large parts of Brest are a modern city due to the vast destruction during the Second World War. In the center is the impressive square, Place de la Liberté, which before the Second World War was built up with the city’s main gate from the era of fortifications. In 1948, Jean-Baptiste Mathon drew a new town plan for Brest, and in it the Place de la Liberté was laid out as a connection of the center with the city’s suburbs. To the north-west is the city’s town hall in modern architecture, and like other buildings in the center the design should give it a classic feel. At the opposite end of the square you can see the Brest War Memorial, erected as an obelisk in 1954.

From Place de la Liberté you can walk along Brest’s grand street of Rue de Siam, which was laid out as part of Mathon’s urban plan from 1948. The name of the street comes from a visit in 1686, when the King of Siam sent a delegation to King Louis XIV, and the delegation arrived through the port of Brest. Along the street you can architecturally see the 1940s style with monumental facades of classical and modern inspiration. Along the street you can also see several Marta Pan fountains from 1988, and through a gate along the facades by the fountains stands a preserved gate from a seminary building from 17th century Brest. Rue de Siam continues through the city center to the river Penfeld and the 1954 Pont de Recouvrance bridge, one of the city’s landmarks.

At the mouth of the Penfeld at the port of Brest is the large castle, Château de Brest, on the site of a fortification dating back to Roman times. The fortress is Brest’s best-known building, and its current appearance comes from the time and work of the military engineer Vauban in the 17th century. Today you can visit the castle, where Brest’s interesting maritime museum is located. Opposite the Château de Brest is the fortress tower Tour Tanguy on the opposite side of Penfeld. The tower was constructed in the 14th century and is now a historical museum, where you can can see highlights from the city’s history through several dioramas. In the same area, you can take a trip with the cable car Téléphérique de Brest, which crosses Penfeld with great views to the city and the river.

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