Admire the Emperor's canoe

The Canot de l'Empereur, a jewel in Brest's marine history

Discover the incredible destiny of the Canot de l'Empereur, the centerpiece of the Musée National de la Marine in Brest.

The Emperor's Canoe,

a must-see jewel of Brest

It sits majestically in the middle of the Place des Machines at the Ateliers des Capucins. And yet, the Canot de l'Empereur almost had a completely different destiny! Discover the incredible story of this Brest landmark.

The Emperor's canoe on display at the Ateliers des Capucins
History of the Canot de l'Empereur - Tourisme Brest Métropole

The Emperor's Canoe

a 210-year-old boat

The Canot de l'Empereur was built in just 21 days, at Napoleon I's request. On April 30, 1810, the Emperor and his wife Marie-Louise made a grand entrance into the port of Antwerp aboard the Canot d'Empereur.

The boat will take the couple, who have come to inspect their fleet, on various trips over several days.

The military port of Brest
Port of Brest - Tourisme Brest Métropole

A second life

in the port of Brest

When the Empire fell in 1814, the Canot was sent to the military port of Brest. It was used only twice on rare occasions, in 1858 and 1922 (Triomphe de l'École navale).

That year, it was embellished with a figurehead representing Neptune, and a crown worn by four cherubs, still visible today and impeccably restored.

In 1930, it was permanently installed on the quayside, visible to all.

A 75-year stay in Paris

The Canot de l'Empereur was saved from the bombardments of the Second World War when, in 1943, it was transferred to the Palais Chaillot in Paris, which houses the Musée National de la Marine. It remained there for 75 years, despite Brest's desire to recover it since the 1970s.

It wasn't until 2018 and major works at the Palais Chaillot that the boat became a little too imposing and was sent back to Brest.

The Emperor's Canoe returns to Brest - Tourism Brest Métropole

Did you know?

For both the arrival and departure of the Canot de l'Empereur at the Palais Chaillot, an opening had to be created in the wall to allow it to pass!

The place of machines at Ateliers des Capucins
Place des Machines - Tourism Brest Metropole

A jewel in the heart of Les Ateliers des Capucins

To house such an exceptional piece, it needed an equally exceptional location. And so it is in the middle of the Ateliers des Capucins that the Canot de l'Empereur, now the centerpiece of the Musée National de la Marine, has proudly sat since 2018.

Its sumptuousness echoes the grandeur of the site, and both share the soul of several centuries of Brest's maritime history.

Looking for some peace and quiet?

Prefer a weekday visit. If you want to soak up the excitement, come at the weekend!

The emperor's canoe
Restoration of the Emperor's Canoe - Tourisme Brest Métropole

Beautifully restored since 2020

The Canot de l'Empereur has become even more stunning since its restoration in the summer of 2020. Above all, it is now enhanced by a unique scenography incorporating a play of mirrors.

By looking up towards the ceiling, you can discover the entire Canot, including the parts not visible from the floor.

Evan de Bretagne introduces the Canot de l'Empereur
Read the video about Evan de Bretagne introduces the Canot de l'Empereur

Les Ateliers des Capucins,

an unusual location in Brest

People come to the Ateliers des Capucins for the Canot de l'Empereur, but also for the unique atmosphere of this melting pot, Europe's largest covered public square.

Take the opportunity to discover many aspects of Brest's naval history through the machines or the propeller shaft of the Jeanne d'Arc, the pride of Brest. Don't forget to visit 70.8, the gallery of maritime innovations.

Ateliers des Capucins - Tourism Brest Metropole

For an even more original experience, come to Ateliers des Capucins by cable car! The
passageway over the Penfeld offers a unique view of the city. Even more beautiful at sunset!

How do I get there?

Le canot de l'empereur is located in the heart of Les Ateliers des Capucins:

  • Tramway: Les Capucins stop (line a)
  • Bus: Line 4 / Les Capucins stop
  • Cable car: Jean Moulin station
  • Car: underground parking available
Getting there with Google Maps