Visit Rennes (Brittany, France)
Rennes is located in central Brittany. It is the capital of the region and a busy regional hub.
As with many large towns, arriving in Rennes the city is slightly disappointing at first glance. Although you are driving along a wide open boulevard of tall town houses with the canal running through the middle it seems to be lacking in character.
However head for the ‘Centre Nord’ and Rennes quickly reveals a charming medieval centre and an elegant 18th century sector to the town, a perfect place to start your visit.
The lovely St George Palace and Gardens are easily visible as the palace is raised up from the gardens and the gardens, planted on a slope, are a mass of colour. A little further along is the Place de la Republique with the splendid Palais du Commerce. This is an attractive square with a pleasant contemporary garden area in the middle.
The Place de la Marie with its lovely Opera building is a treat and is also a popular venue for events in the town. When I was there there was a ‘farm in the town’ exhibition complete with pigs, cows and vegetable gardens!
The Rue la Fayette, an elegant pedestrianised street in the centre of Rennes is a good starting place if you are looking for up-market shops.
The most interesting part of a visit is the medieval centre of Rennes. Unfortunately a large part was destroyed by a fire in 1720. The fire raged for a week, burning down more than 900 houses and buildings.
The part which survived with its impressive tall half-timbered houses - as seen in almost every picture-postcard of Rennes - are based in a few streets in the area around, and to the east and south of, Rue de Champ Jacquet and the Place des Lices (around the cathedral).
The Place St Ann is a lovely place to stop for lunch in medieval Rennes whilst admiring both the lovely medieval buildings around two edges of the square and the Cathedral on the other side.
Some other highlights of a visit to Rennes include:
- the parliament. Despite the 1994 fire, five years of rebuilding have restored the impressive building. Dating from the 17th century, the Italian style parliament contains several very grand rooms and ornate ceilings and other rooms of interest.
- the Saint-Pierre cathedral (mostly 18th-19th century but with the original 16th century facade)
- the splendid mansion called 'Hotel de Blossac'
- the 18th century town hall (the previous building was destroyed in the great fire of 1720)
To escape from the bustle of Rennes for a while explore the pleasant Jardin du Thabor, next to the Church of Saint Melanie.
There are two noteworthy museums in Rennes, the Musee de Bretagne and the Musee des Beaux-Arts. Both are in the same building and both deserve a visit. The first explores the history of Brittany and the second has a good collection of paintings from medieval times to the 20th century.
Activities and festivals in Rennes
Rennes is a student town with a vibrant night life. Head for the Rue St Michel if you are in town for the evening. Rue Saint Georges, Rue St Malo and the Place des Lices are also good places to find lots of activity.
At the beginning of July every year Rennes hosts its celebrated ‘Tombées de la Nuit festival’. This is a mixture of music, light shows, juggling and fire-eating and the whole town gets involved. A few French towns now do these light shows where buildings are lit up in a mass of vibrant colour - they really are well worth tracking down.
Photos of Rennes
Click any picture to start the gallery
Tourist classifications for Rennes
Rennes has received the following tourist classifications: listed town of Art and History ; historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé)
Address: Rennes, Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany, 35000 || GPS: latitude 48.1147, longitude -1.67944
Map of Rennes & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Rennes, France
- Cesson-Sevigne - ville fleurie 4* (6km)
- Chartres-de-Bretagne - ville fleurie 4* (8km)
- Le Rheu - ville fleurie 4* (9km)
- Jardin des fontaines et parc de l’Athanor - remarkable garden (12km)
- Jardins de Broceliande - remarkable garden (16km)
- Bedee - village d'etape (21km)
- Parc du château de Caradeuc - remarkable garden (28km)
- Vitre - recommended detour (35km)
- Jardins du château de la Bourbansais - remarkable garden (35km)
- Saint-Juvat - ville fleurie 4* (38km)
Market days in Rennes: Regular market(s) are held in Rennes each Wednesday & Tuesday & Thursday & Saturday & Friday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Rennes (Francais)