At the gateway to Brittany, on the banks of the Vilaine River, Rennes has been at the top of the list of France's most livable and dynamic cities for several years. With a third of its population made up of students, the former Condate has never stopped rejuvenating, embellishing its image, highlighting its heritage and working tirelessly on its status as a cultural capital. The charm of its medieval streets, its prestigious buildings such as the theatre or the Parliament of Brittany, the Thabor park or the Lices market, are all good reasons to discover the Breton capital
The "Breton Beaubourg
The high proportion of students, nearly 30% of the population, has also given the city a festive, welcoming and cultural profile. On the cultural side, on the left bank of the Vilaine, the Champs Libres is a unique initiative in France. The characteristic silhouette of the building, designed by the architect Christian de Portzamparc, features a gigantic inverted pyramid crossing a rectangular base flanked by a dome. This resolutely contemporary style contrasts fiercely with the historic districts of the right bank. The rectangular base houses the Museum of Brittany, while the dome houses the science space and the pyramid the library. Very interactive with its many audiovisual facilities, the museum offers a real journey through time, exciting, in the heart of Brittany, its landscapes, its people, its customs.
However, you don't need to be a fan of exhibitions or the rock scene to discover the Breton capital. The architecture of the city, with its half-timbered houses, its little alleys and inner courtyards, the banks of the Vilaine, allows for lovely city walks that you can punctuate with gastronomic discoveries or shopping.
An attractive and easily accessible destination
Choose a hotel in the city centre and forget about your car, which is far too cumbersome for a short stay in a city where everything is easily accessible either on foot or by metro.
If your stay in Rennes starts on a Saturday morning, head straight for the Place des Lices, where a weekly market is held under the 19th century covered market halls, one of the biggest in France. This is an opportunity to have a local breakfast while enjoying the countless stalls of fresh products: Breton far, pancakes or, why not, oysters and white wine... The square itself is worth a visit for the many medieval facades that line it and from whose windows you could watch the jousts that were sometimes held below. It was during one of these tournaments that, in 1337, a young adventurer by the name of Bertrand du Guesclin wrote his name into the legend by defeating all the great champions gathered on the square.
Take the time to stroll around and get lost in the morning bustle before heading up Rue Saint-Michel, often renamed "rue de la soif" because of the high density of bistros to be found here. This is the beating heart of student Rennes. The small cafés open in the morning turn into haunts for young university students looking for entertainment at night. The porches of the old wooden houses sometimes open onto small alleys where you can linger to discover pretty inner courtyards before reaching the Place Sainte-Anne, where the neo-Gothic style, with the Saint-Aubin church, combines with the half-timbered facades of the medieval houses to give it a very special character. This part of Rennes deserves two visits, as its face is quite different depending on whether you come here by day or by night. Then take the rue Pont-aux-Foulons, where the facades of the houses rival those of the Place des Lices in beauty, to join the rue du Bastard and go down to the classical centre of Rennes.
Small tour of the city
Rue Le Bastard, which links Rue Pont-aux-Foulons to Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, is characterised by bourgeois buildings, where the city's shopping district has developed. On both sides of this wide pedestrian street, as well as in the Rue La Fayette and Rue Nationale which are perpendicular to it, there are numerous shops and often prestigious names where the people of Rennes nonchalantly window-shop at any time of the day.
The beautiful pedestrian street Le Bastard leads to the prestigious Hôtel-de-Ville square, where the town hall and the theatre (now an opera house) face each other. To the west, the town hall, built in 1734, was the first to occupy the site. One of its features is the clock tower, set back slightly, and flanked by two curved pavilions linking it to the two wings of the building
A century later, the rotunda theatre was inaugurated, whose convex façade echoes the concave one of the town hall. Don't hesitate to climb the clock tower to admire the beauty of the square before heading towards the Place du Parlement de Bretagne.
Just a few steps from the Hôtel-de-Ville square, towards the east, stands the prestigious and solemn Place du Parlement de Bretagne. It was in 1561 that the Parliament was transferred from Nantes to Rennes, making the latter the undisputed capital of Brittany at a time when this title was already disputed between the two cities. The Parliament had to administer the whole region and play a political, legislative and judicial role. It therefore needed a building to house it that was equal to its power. After the foundation stone was laid in 1618, it took half a century to build the Parliament building and another five decades to complete the exterior and interior decorations. The square was not completed until 1720, but in 1994, the beautiful roof overhang was completely destroyed by fire. It will take more than four years to allow the people of Rennes to find their Parliament in the identical, or almost. Today, the Parliament is a must-see in Rennes and one of the most impressive architectural ensembles in Brittany
Just next door, the beautiful 16th and 17th century houses of the rue Saint-Georgesstand alongside restaurants, crêperies and bars. Then, for a little rest, head for the Thabor park, a park of more than 10 hectares and the favourite place for walks by the people of Rennes.
A trip to Rennes is also an opportunity to enjoy good regional products. Far Breton, in its sweetened version with wheat flour, is of course a reference, along with buckwheat cakes and wheat pancakes. Of course, you will find many crêperies in Rennes competing with traditional or more original recipes. In the cakes and sweets section, don't miss the cracker, a small dry bread that originated in the Middle Ages when it was a delicacy. Also unmissable: the kouign-amann of course! In Rennes, the cuckoo chicken, whose standards were set in 1914, has won over breeders and chefs. The Janzé chicken, raised in the open air, is also famous in the region. On the sea side, let's not forget the Breton blue lobster and abalone. The production of dairy products is also important in Ille-et-Vilaine, so don't miss out on the famous butter from the Bordier company, which is renowned as far away as Paris and supplies renowned restaurants even beyond our borders. Not to be missed!
When can you go? You can obviously go there all year round.
Getting there. By plane, train, bus or car, everything is possible.
Find your flight at the best price - Compare
Rent your car at the best price - Compare
Useful. To prepare your trip as well as possible.
RENNES TOURIST OFFICE - More information on the website
Book your accommodation at the best conditions - Compare
Find a cultural or sporting activity - Find
Get a quote for a tailor-made trip with a local agency - Request a free quote