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A sea city that can trace its roots back to the 3rd century when Romans first built a stronghold here, Brest has a lively, nautical character and breathes a leisurely air. Located right by the water in the Bay of Brest, the city offers much for the visitor to see. Its most impressive landmark is the Castle of Brest, which was built for the Earls of Leon and later purchased by the Duke of Brittany in the 13th century. It stands proudly where numerous battles have been fought throughout France’s naval history. At one time, there were around 80 warships in its waters. Later, during the First World War, Brest was used as a landing base for American soldiers, but the Second World War left the city in ruins through constant bombing. The city has since been completely rebuilt, with a naval museum inside the castle telling the story of its turbulent past. Living up to the title of European capital of marine science and technology, museums such as the National Maritime Museum and Océanopoli in Brest will grant you insight into the sea and marine life with fascinating displays and interactive activities. With a full calendar of events offering the visitor entertainment year-round, any time is good to come and explore this city of history and nautical beauty.
Brest's longstanding link with the sea is the theme running through most of its visitor attractions. Visit the Brest Fort containing the excellent Navy Museum to learn more about the city's maritime past and present, stop by the famous Océanopolis aquarium to marvel at mysterious underwater creatures, or simply take a boat ride along the coastline to breathe the fresh sea breeze and catch the spirit of this historic city.
Eating out in Brest is serious business, and understandably so - the waterside city boasts an abundance of marine resources, making it one of the best in the country for fresh, quality fish and seafood. Fish and seafood feature heavily on most restaurants’ menus, and no visitor to Brest must leave without tucking into a succulent crab or some exquisite oysters. Do keep in mind that most restaurants only open for lunch and dinner, remaining closed for the afternoon between roughly 2 and 6pm.
For a snack, head for any one of the city’s many crêperies - these seem like the obvious choice when in the province of Brittany. Crepes come in many delicious varieties - savoury (with cheese, bacon, eggs, mushrooms - and the list goes on) and sweet (with chocolate, cream, fruit and berries). A good cup of coffee is never too far away in Brest. Do note the working hours - many establishments close for an afternoon break.
Most evening entertainment in Brest centers around the harbour area and city center. Establishments range from laid-back Irish pubs with live music to hip, modern bars where cocktails are serious business. For party-goers, Brest has quite a few nightlife venues to offer.
Wine and fine food enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice. Lots of wine shops and delis are worth exploring, as are the markets held most days in squares and marketplaces around Brest’s districts. Brest naturally has its share of larger department stores and supermarkets. Most of the shops in the city centre itself are around the areas of Saint-Luc and the Place de la Liberté, but it is well worth venturing out to the suburbs too, as most of the districts boast a variety of specialty shops and street markets. The markets are a good place to look for local pâtés and cheeses, vegetables, fruits and meats, but also crafts and antiques.
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