Set in a magnificent natural harbour, known as the Rade de Brest, the city of Brest is sheltered from ocean storms by the Crozon peninsula to the south. Now home to France’s Atlantic Fleet, Brest has been a naval town since the Middle Ages. During World War II, it was continually bombed to prevent the Germans from using it as a submarine base and when liberated in September 1944, after a six-week siege, it was devastated beyond recognition. The architecture of the postwar town is raw and bleak and though there have been attempts to green the city, it has proved too windswept to respond. While it’s reasonably lively, most visitors tend simply to pass through.

The one major site in Brest’s city centre is its fifteenth-century château, perched on a headland where the Penfeld river meets the bay, and offering a tremendous panorama of both the busy port and the roadstead. Not quite as much of the castle survives as its impressive facade might suggest, though new buildings in the grounds still house the French naval headquarters. Three still-standing medieval towers, however, hold Brest’s portion of the Musée National de la Marine. Collections include ornate carved figureheads and models, as well as a German “pocket submarine” based here during World War II, and visitors can also stroll the parapets to enjoy the views.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

All the clichés about Paris are true – stylish, romantic, glamorous and utterly compelling – yet it retains surprises that continue to delight even the mos…

26 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

The ingredients for a great European weekend break are simple. You’ll need a walkable city centre, a handful of excellent restaurants, some cool bars, afforda…

26 Aug 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
22 incredible pictures of Corsica

22 incredible pictures of Corsica

Just off the south of France, and closer to the coast of Italy, the small, mountainous island of Corsica lies in wait for the three million tourists that visit …

14 Jul 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month