Esteemed as one of France’s most pleasant cities to live in, Rennes is a regional capital on a human scale, with a young and dynamic personality and a rich historical heritage.
With its centre dotted with half-timbered houses from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, its cobbled streets, its magnificent palaces, its gastronomy, its musical wealth and its festive atmosphere, Rennes does not lack charm and enchants visitors who choose it as a stopover on their trip to Brittany.
Dynamic and sparkling, historical and medieval, Rennes fascinates with its two souls, which coexist in harmony, creating an irresistible charm.
Strolling unhurriedly through the cobbled streets of Chapitre, Palette and Saint-Sauveur, you can admire endless views, all colourful and enchanting, lined with quaint shops, cafés and delightful little restaurants, overlooking small intimate squares.
Take your time to stroll along rue Saint-Michel, rue Saint-George, rue du Champ-Jacquet, rue de Chapitre, rue de Dames, rue Saint-Yves: you will be amazed by the ever-changing views, photogenic corners and many shops to discover, such as the bookshops of Place Hoche.
For centuries, the Dukes of Brittany were crowned inside Saint-Pierre Cathedral: the building has always been the hub of the city.
On the outside, the cathedral is very classical, but the interior is striking, with its sumptuous stained glass windows, its Roman altar, its exceptional paintings, its incredible vaulting and its organs dating from the 19th century.
This large medieval gate was the main entrance to the city, used for both pedestrian and vehicle passage. Surrounded by two huge symmetrical towers, it provided protection to the city by means of a double raised bridge
It was customary for all dukes of Brittany to take an oath under this very gate, hence the nickname ‘the royal gate’. Unfortunately, there are very few remains of the Rennes city walls, although a project to create a walkway around the city is being studied.
Dating back to 1622, the Place des Lices market is the second largest market in France. Appointed every Saturday morning, you will find almost 300 local producers displaying fruit and vegetables, meat, cheese, fresh fish, as well as flowers and garden arrangements.
It is the best place to sample local delicacies, savouring a joyful and colourful atmosphere, framed by the large half-timbered houses surrounding the square. In summer, musical groups also gather here to entertain visitors.
Directly opposite the Town Hall is the smallest opera house in France, with less than 700 seats.
Its rounded shape was designed to perfectly fit the curved form of the town hall. Original and innovative at the time of its construction, the building received much criticism and was strongly contested at its inauguration.
Monumental by day, it shows its most fascinating aspect at night, when the square is cleverly illuminated.
Until the French Revolution, meetings of the Parliament of Brittany were held here. Destroyed by fire in 1994, the Parliament was completely restored and today houses the Court of Appeal of Brittany and the Court of Assizes of Ille-et-Vilaine.
It is one of the few French public buildings to fulfil its administrative functions and at the same time be visited on certain days of the week, with tours organised by the Tourist Office. In summer, its façade becomes the stage for a sound and light show.
Nicknamed the Central Park of Rennes, this immense green space of over ten hectares is particularly popular with the city’s inhabitants and tourists.
Here, you will find many different attractions: running tracks, botanical gardens, French and English parks, caves, ponds and waterfalls, an aviary and a rose garden with over 2000 varieties of roses.
In spring, the park hosts the Mythos Festival, while in summer it regularly hosts many musical, theatrical and city events.
Much loved by the citizens of Rennes, Les Champs Libres is the city’s most important cultural centre and a meeting point at weekends.
It is home to the Museum of Brittany, a rich collection of objects that tell the history of the region from prehistory to the present day.
Particularly recommended for families is the Science Centre and its planetarium . The museum is dedicated to various themes that are very popular with children: biodiversity, food, dinosaurs and high-speed trains. Don’t miss Merlin’s laboratory, to learn the fascination of science through play, and the planetarium, to take a trip into the universe.
Also not to be missed is the huge 6-storey library: with its glass windows overlooking the city, it is often the venue for interesting exhibitions.
With a beautiful collection, ranging from Egyptian antiquity to the present day, the Rennes Museum of Fine Arts will delight art lovers.
It now exhibits works by great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Donatello, La Tour, Rubens and Veronese.
If you have some time to spare for an outdoor activity, we recommend strolling along the banks of La Vilaine, the river that flows through the city.
Along the banks you can admire the city and its buildings: an unusual vantage point, enchanting with its picturesque barges and unusual corners to photograph. Stop at the Jardins de la Confluence, a green corner with jetties, walkways and benches, ideal for taking a break or sunbathing.
For the more adventurous, a 45-kilometre route from the François Mitterrand shopping centre takes you to the Apigné ponds, where you can admire castles and mills along the way. The most scenic is definitely the Moulin de Boël, from which there is a magnificent view of the river.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Rennes is a city full of festivals and music. In rue Saint-Michel, also called rue de la Soif, there is a festive atmosphere until late at night. Those who love nightlife will not struggle to find wine bars, trendy cafés, cocktail bars and clubs to listen to live music.
For a stopover during your trip to Brittany, Rennes is a perfect destination, combining lively nightlife and a rich cultural heritage. Moreover, compared to other tourist destinations, it is very inexpensive. You can find hotels even right in the centre at acceptable rates. In fact, it is the ideal district to enjoy not only the city’s tourist attractions but also its atmosphere. Beware: some streets, animated until late at night, can be very noisy.
The closest international airport to Rennes is certainly Nantes Airport, otherwise you need to land at Paris Orly Airport, Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport or Paris Beauvais Airport. From here, the best way to visit Brittany is to rent a car directly at the airport and thus start your journey in absolute freedom.
Rennes benefits from a good motorway network. To reach Rennes from Paris, you will have to take the A11 or the A81: allow approximately 3½ hours to reach the Breton city. Getting to Nantes, on the other hand, takes only 1½ hours, 4½ hours from Bordeaux and just under 6 hours from Lille.
Undoubtedly, to travel from Rennes to Paris, the train proves to be an economical, practical and ecological solution, especially if you do not have an itinerant holiday in mind.
The journey time is 1 hour and 45 minutes: just think that there are more than 40 connections between Rennes and Paris Montparnasse station every day.
What's the weather at Rennes? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Rennes for the next few days.
Rennes is the capital of Brittany and is only 1½ hours from Nantes in the Loire.