Brest Travel Guide
Brest, sitting on the Poland/Belarus border, is a city with a rich history. Most know it for its fortress, which saw action in both World Wars. However, it is also home to a Slavic archaeological site, and many other museums.
Want to see more than just Minsk on a visit to Belarus? Come to Brest – you won’t be disappointed!
Come check out our Brest travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Brest, Belarus.
Begin your time in this Belorussian border city by exploring Brest Fortress. This massive fortification is easily the biggest attraction in Brest, so take your time exploring this historic site. It was born in 1833 as a replacement for the obsolete castle it would replace.
Russian military engineer Karl Opperman supervised its construction, without knowing the action it would see in its life. World War I promised a fight, but Russians opted to abandon it strategically. In 1918, the fortress was where the Russians and Germans signed a peace treaty, ending hostilities.
World War II brought a more dramatic showdown. On June 22, 1941, the Nazis, who had a nonaggression pact with the Soviets, launched a surprise attack. The Red Army held Brest Fortress for 32 days without surrendering before being surrounded. Over 2,000 soldiers died.
Today, Brest Fortress is a popular tourist attraction, as authorities restored its barracks, ramparts, and other buildings. In 1971, a war memorial structure, the “Courage” Monument, was completed. This colossal stone carving, which honours those who died in the Nazi siege, sits adjacent to the fortress.
The Brest Fortress isn’t the only piece of military infrastructure in the area. Smaller forts dot the landscape, in various states of disrepair. The 5th Fort Museum is the most intact of these and is considerably less crowded than Brest Fortress.
Military planners built it at the end of the 19th century, but time has taken its toll. Walk carefully through its tunnels, and upon its crumbling sod roof. Sadly, its caretakers are unable to offer guide services in English, so find someone in town who can.
The rural areas around Brest were once home to many traditional Belorussian villages. The old style of building has given way to less romantic modern versions. Thankfully, though, anthropologists discovered the remains of an ancient settlement nearby.
Eventually, the Belorussian government intervened, building a beautiful, postmodern structure over the site to preserve it. This building became the Berestye Archeological Museum. Within, you’ll find the old timbers of what used to be a Slavic town, dating to the 13th century.
It contains the remnants of 28 log cabins and over a thousand artifacts excavated from the initial dig. Note that no displays are in English – download and make use of Google Translate, or hire a guide!
Over the years, visitors to Belarus have attempted to make off with countless art treasures. Border guards managed to catch some of these thieves in the act. Their payload is on display in the Museum of Confiscated Art.
In the event customs cannot identify their original owner, seized art is shown here for all to see. They acquired most of their 300 piece collection during the 1990s when the Soviet Union was actively imploding.
This art museum isn’t perfectly prim and proper. Some pieces were irreversibly damaged as smugglers tried to conceal it. Despite this, the existence of this museum is evidence that the “good guys” do win sometimes.
Love locomotives? Make time during your trip to swing by the Brest Railway Museum. Its collection contains engines from the days of the Tsars straight through to the 1980s. Some are in good enough condition that movie producers used them in shoots. However, you won’t have the same access, as curators have locked the doors on many cars.
This attraction is easy to include in Brest itineraries, as you’ll find it right next to Brest Fortress. Allow one hour to see everything this place has to offer.
Want to kick back and relax after a long day exploring fortress walls? After resting at your hotel/hostel, make your way down to Sovetskaya Street. Along its length, you’ll find an assortment of shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars. Take in a busker show, or simply admire the residents of Brest as they go about their lives.
Ready to depart? If you’re departing by train, you’ll leave via the Brest Railway Station. Don’t be in too much of a rush, though, as this structure is seriously beautiful. Rebuilt by the Poles following its destruction in World War I, it is built to resemble a castle. While it has definite Soviet influences, its appearance is worth a photo or two before boarding your carriage.
Are you driving back to Minsk? Stop to take in the massive Bison Statue en route to Belarus’ capital. To be honest, it is rather thin, but its monumental scale makes for a fun selfie stop!