The city of Brest is one of the more important ones on the Breton peninsula and for many, it’s where the “real Brittany” begins – a large outpost close to the wild Atlantic with a very attractive city centre that’s a mixture of grand open spaces and cute narrow streets with half-timbered houses. Seaward-looking Brest hosts an annual Festival of the Sea and the Académie de Marine (French Naval Academy) has been based here since before the Revolution.
Brest is twinned with the town in Ireland that has the largest marina and a strong sailing and fishing tradition of its own – Dun Laoghaire. As you might expect in a city of 150,000, there are several markets.
From the general public’s point of view, the main two are Les Halles Saint Martin and Les Halles Saint Louis.
Les Halles Saint Martin is the one for the bargain hunter and there is bric-a-brac, seafood and local produce galore at this large covered market that spills out into the open air during the summer months. It’s open every day from 08:30 to 13:00. Parking is tricky around here but it’s worth making the effort for the Tuesday and Thursday morning versions when passing vendors set up stalls for some of the better buys.
The second covered market of significance here is Les Halles Saint Louis. Sunday is the day for the open-air market but it’s normally open every day anyway from 08:00 right up until 19:00 (closed at lunch on Sunday). It’s the mainstay market in the city with the main emphasis on food produce. Bear in mind that a major rebuilding programme has been in the pipeline since 2004, but has been stalled (pardon the pun) over the years by anchor tenants pulling out. However, the project is imminent at time of going to press so opening hours will be affected when work starts.
Where Exactly?Criée de Brest. This is the big seafood market where fish is sold by auction but it’s also open to members of the public and a great place to stock up on cheap seafood. It’s on the Port de Commerce and is open every morning.