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Brest ( ; ) is a city in the Finistèremarker department in Brittany in north-western Francemarker.

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.


Brest in 1779
Nothing definite is known of Brest before about 1240, when a count of Léon ceded it to John I, the Duke of Brittany. In 1342, John de Montfort surrendered Brest to the English, in whose possession 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 the Duke of Brittany who is not the Lord of Brest". With the marriage of Francis I to Claude, the 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 Cardinal Richelieu, who in 1631 constructed a harbor with wooden wharves. This 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 soundly defeated in the attack on Brest.

In World War II, the Germansmarker maintained a large U-boat (submarine) base at Brest. The city was totally destroyed during the Battle for Brest in 1944, with barely more than three buildings left standing. After the war, the West Germanmarker government paid several billion deutschemarks in reparations to the homeless and destitute civilians of Brest in compensation for the destruction of their home city during the course of the World War. Large parts of today's rebuilt city consist of the utilitarian granite and concrete buildings. The French naval base now houses the Brest Naval Training Centre.

In 1972, the French Navy opened its nuclear weapon-submarine (deterrence) base at Île Longuemarker in the Rade de Brest (Brest roadstead). This continues to be an important base for the French nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines.

Coat of arms

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 Penfeldmarker. 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.


The railway station is Gare de Brestmarker and the airport serving the area is Brest Bretagne Airportmarker.


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 Nantesmarker and Saint-Nazairemarker 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 Recouvrancemarker (a massive drawbridge 64 m/210 ft high), the military arsenalmarker and the rue de Siam marker. The Castle and the Tour Tanguymarker 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, as well as an aquarium, the Océanopolis marine centre. The city also contains a notable botanical garden specializing in endangered species, the Conservatoire botanique national de Brestmarker, as well as the Jardin botanique de l'Hôpital d'Instruction des Armées Clermont-Tonnerre.

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;

Panorama of the castle and the Tour Tanguy

  • : 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

Breton language

The municipality launched a linguistic plan through Ya d'ar brezhoneg on June the 16th of 2006.

In 2007 2.1% of the children attended the bilingual schools in primary education.

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[9202] 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 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 was the birthplace of:

Twin towns

Brest is twinned with:

Friendly relationship

Brest has an official friendly relationship (protocole d'amitié) with:

See also


External links

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