Brest, France

Brest, France

French commune

caption=View of Brest from the castle

maire=François Cuillandre
intercomm=Brest Métropole Océane
alt moy= 34 m
alt mini=0
alt maxi=103 m

Brest (pronounced|bʁɛst in French, IPAlink|bʁest in Breton) is a city in the Finistère department in Bretagne in northwestern France.

Located in a sheltered position not far from the western tip of the Breton peninsula, Brest is an important seaport and naval base. The 1999 census recorded 303,484 inhabitants of the Brest metropolitan area, while the population of the city itself was estimated in 2004 to number some 146,000. Although Brest is by far the largest city in Finistère, the "préfecture" (capital) of the department is the much smaller commune of Quimper.


Nothing definite is known of Brest before about 1240, when a count of Léon ceded it to John I, duke of Brittany. In 1342 John de Montfort surrendered it to the English, in whose hands it was to remain until 1397. The importance of Brest in medieval times was great enough to give rise to the saying, "He is not duke of Brittany who is not lord of Brest". With the marriage of Francis I to Claude, daughter of Anne of Brittany, the definitive overlordship of Brest – together with the rest of the duchy – passed to the French crown.

The advantages of Brest's situation as a seaport town were first recognized by Richelieu, who in 1631 constructed a wooden-wharved harbour, which soon became a base for the French navy. Colbert rebuilt the wharves in masonry and otherwise improved the base, and fortifications by Vauban (1633–1707) followed in 1680-1688. These fortifications, and with them the naval importance of the town, were to continue to develop throughout the 18th century.

In 1694 an English squadron under John Berkeley, 3rd Baron Berkeley of Stratton, was miserably defeated in the Attack on Brest; but in 1794, during the revolutionary war, the French fleet, under Villaret de Joyeuse, was equally thoroughly beaten in the same place by the English admiral Howe.

In World War II, the Germans maintained a large submarine base in Brest. Almost totally destroyed during the Battle for Brest (barely more than three buildings were left standing), the city has since been rebuilt. After the war, the West German government paid several billion dollars' worth of reparations to the homeless and destitute civilians of Brest in compensation for the destruction of, or damage to, their homes and property during the course of the war. Large parts of today's rebuilt city consist of the utilitarian granite and concrete buildings erected in the war's aftermath. The naval base now also houses the Brest Naval Training Centre.

In 1972, France opened its submarine nuclear deterrence base at Île Longue in the "Rade de Brest" (Brest roadstead).

Coat of arms

"Half France, half Brittany"

It is in a register of deliberations of the city council dated the 15th July 1683 that this coat of arms was used for the first time.


Brest is located amidst dramatic landscape near the entrance of the natural Rade de Brest, at the west end of Brittany.

It is situated to the north of a magnificent landlocked bay, and occupies the slopes of two hills divided by the river Penfeld. The part of the town on the left bank is regarded as Brest proper, while the part on the right is known as Recouvrance. There are also extensive suburbs to the east of the town. The hillsides are in some places so steep that the ascent from the lower to the upper town has to be effected by flights of steps and the second or third storey of one house is often on a level with the ground storey of the next.


Due to its location, Brest is regarded as the first French port that can be accessed from the Americas, and hence shipping is big business, although Nantes and Saint-Nazaire offer much larger docks and attract more of the larger vessels. Its protected location means that it is ideal to receive any type of ship, from the smallest dinghy to the biggest aircraft-carrier (the USS "Nimitz" has visited a few times).

The "Charles De Gaulle" aircraft carrier was built by DCN in Brest.

Monuments and tourist attractions

Brest is best-known for its Pont de Recouvrance (a massive drawbridge 64 m/210ft high), the military arsenal and the "rue de Siam" (Siam Street). The Castle and the Tour Tanguy are the oldest monuments of Brest.

The Musée de la Tour Tanguy houses a collection of dioramas that depict the city of Brest on the eve of World War II. The Musée de la Marine de Brest contains exhibits which outline Brest's maritime tradition. There is also an aquarium, the Océanopolis marine centre.

The city of Brest doesn't have much historical architecture, apart from a few select monuments such as the Castle and the Tour Tanguy. This is due to heavy allied bombing during World War II, in an attempt to destroy the submarine base the Germans had built in the harbour. The town was hastily rebuilt in the 1950s using a large amount of concrete. In Recouvrance, the left bank of the town, there remains an authentic street of the 17th century, Saint-Malo Street.

A few kilometres out of town, there are more impressive landscapes, from sandy beaches to grottos to tall granite cliffs. Sunbathing, windsurfing, yachting and fishing are practiced in the area. Brest was an important warship producing port in the Napoleonic wars. The naval port, which is in great part excavated in the rock, extends along both banks of the Penfeld;

*: château
*: Tour Tanguy
*: Océanopolis


Mayors of Brest

* since 2001: François Cuillandre
* 1989 - 2001: Pierre Maille (2nd term)
* 1985 - 1989: Georges Kerbrat
* 1983 - 1985: Jacques Berthelot
* 1982 - 1983: Pierre Maille
* 1977 - 1982: Francis Le Blé
* 1973 - 1977: Eugène Berest
* 1959 - 1973: Georges Lombard
* 1958 - 1959: Auguste Kervern
* 1954 - 1958: Yves Jaouen
* 1954 - 1954: Lucien Chaix
* 1953 - 1954: Yves Jaouen
* 1947 - 1953: Alfred Pierre Marie Chupin
* 1945 - 1947: Jules Lullien
* 1944 - 1945: Jules Lullien
* 1942 - 1944: Victor Eusen
* 1929 - 1941: Victor Le Gorgeu
* 1921 - 1929: Léon Nardon
* 1920 - 1921: Hippolyte Masson
* 1919 - 1920: Louis Léon Nardon
* 1912 - 1919: Hippolyte Masson
* 1908 - 1912: Louis Arthur Delobeau
* 1904 - 1908: Victor Marie Aubert
* 1900 - 1904: Charles Berger

Culture-Regional language

Breton is not commonly spoken in the city of Brest and is not an official language (in the same vein as other French minority languages). It is being taught in some schools and universities. The association Sked [] federates all Breton cultural activities.

Brest was the only "French-speaking" city in western Brittany before the 1789 revolution.

The city is host to several events to celebrate its long maritime history, the largest of which happens every four years, when the town organises a tall ship meeting. The last occurrence of that event was "Brest 2008".

Brest also hosts a yearly Short Film Festival called "Festival Européen du Film Court de Brest"

The city was also the setting for the 1982 art film "Querelle".

Food in Brest

Restaurants in Brest have a wide variety of seafood. Fresh fish is featured on practically every menu and you can even find a few fish-only restaurants. Local markets and supermarkets also offer lots of seafood.

Brittany's most famous local delicacy, the Breton crêpe, is another culinary feature. There are many crêpe restaurants (called "crêperies") and Breton cider may also be drunk.

Traditional biscuits include Traou Mad which is a full fat butter biscuit, somewhat similar to Scottish shortbreads.


Since 1901 Brest has served as the midpoint for the epic 1200 km bicycle endurance event, Paris-Brest-Paris. Brest is home to Stade Brestois 29, a football team in Ligue 2, second-highest league in French football.

The 2008 Tour de France started in Brest.


* Brest has a university: Université de Bretagne Occidentale (UBO) []
* Brest has several "grandes écoles":
** École nationale d'ingénieurs de Brest (ENIB) []
** École nationale supérieure des télécommunications de Bretagne (ENST Bretagne) []
** École nationale supérieure des ingénieurs des études et techniques d'armement (ENSIETA) []
** Institut supérieur de l'électronique et du numérique de Brest (ISEN Brest) []
** École supérieure de commerce de Bretagne []
** École Navale []
* Brest also is one of the hosts for the Indiana University Honors Foreign Language Program


Brest was the birthplace of:

* Charles-Alexandre Léon Durand Linois (1761–1848), admiral during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte
* Prosper Garnot (1794–1838), surgeon and naturalist
* Victor Segalen (1878–1919), naval doctor, ethnographer, archeologist, writer and poet
* Georges Thierry d'Argenlieu (1889–1964), priest, diplomat and French Navy officer and admiral
* Alain Robbe-Grillet (born 1922), writer and filmmaker
* Pierre Brice (born 1929), actor
* Béatrice Dalle (born 1964), actress
* Yann Tiersen (born 1970), minimalist multi instrumentalist
* Gonzalo Higuaín (born 1987), Real Madrid and Argentina footballer
* Christophe Miossec (born 1964), singer
* John-Frederick Olivier Le Moigne-Huggins (born 1964), Programmer

Twin towns

Brest is twinned with: [ [ Les jumelages de Brest ] ]
* Cádiz, Spain (1986)
* Constanţa, Romania (1993)
* Denver, Colorado, United States (1956)
* Dún Laoghaire, Ireland (1984)
* Kiel, Germany (1964)
* Plymouth, United Kingdom (1963)
* Saponé, Burkina Faso (1989)
* Taranto, Italy (1964)
* Yokosuka, Japan (1970)

Friendly relationship

Brest has an official friendly relationship ("protocole d'amitié") with: [ [ Les jumelages de Brest ] ]
* Bejaïa, Algeria (1995)

See also

Battle for Brest


External links

* [ Aerial photos of the whole city and urban community]
* [ Brest Airport Travel Guide]
* [ Interactive City Map of Brest]
* [ Official web site of Brest town hall (with webcam)]
* [,-4.479418&spn=0.041503,0.058545&t=k&hl=en Satellite picture by Google Maps]
* [|Brest|&tri=region&tri=dpt&tri=com&tri=adrstri&tri=lieu&tri=edif&tri=tico fr icon Cultural Heritage]
* [ Brest improvisation theatre]
* [ Brest] Weather Forecast
* [ "Brest, ma ville, mon âme"] Photo gallery : a discovery of the city by Erwan Corre
* [ Wiki-Brest] , a community wiki containing articles about the city (in French).

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