Rennes Mini Guide
About the City
Rennes is the capital of the Brittany region and was built where two rivers, the Ille and the Vilaine meet. It is full of historic buildings and, as befits a regional capital, has seen many major events happen in its environs. It’s central for many of the attractions of Brittany and has a wide range of accommodation for tourists.
Originally the city was called Redon, named after the Redones who founded it. They were the first people in Gaul to mint their own coins, given further credence with the discovery of thousands of gold coins in the Treasure of Amanlis in the 19th century. Rennes rebelled against Roman occupation in the early years but eventually came under its control. Much later in the 19th century the city was in the news for the trial of Alfred Dreyfus, falsely accused of treason to protect a high ranking person.
In World War II the city was the scene of the deaths of 1,000 troops after German planes hit an ammunition store next to crowded troop trains. After the destruction of the war, the city was earmarked for expansion and became one of the fastest growing cities in France.
Many low cost flights are available from the UK
with operator Flybe, and AerLingus have cheap flights from Ireland
too. Most people arrive by car on the ferry to St Malo
before heading south west to the city.
What to see in the City
The piece de resistance of the city is the Place de la Republique with its huge and very beautiful parliament building. Tours of the building are available and the interior is attractive with many exceptional works of art decorating its walls. For a relaxing day, head for the Parc Thabor where hundreds of rose beds fill the air with their scent and colour. There too there are many tropical plants from around the world and displays of caged birds.
The Place des Lices has several places within it such as Les Halles Martenot which is host to the third largest market in France. Les Halles were built in the 19th Century. A nice place to see is the Portes Mordelaises which is a Chatelet with two towers and a drawbridge. An aptly named place is La Rue de La Soif which translates as the 'Road of Thirst' due to the number of bars located along it.
What to see Outside the City
A favourite destination for tourists outside the city is Mont-St–Michel, the iconic island and monastery that crowns its summit. It’s the 3rd most visited site in France. Nature lovers should head to the Foret de Rennes where paths and bicycle trails take the visitor through cool lush woodland.
What to do in the City
Rennes is famous for its markets and the best is the Marche des Lices which focuses on groceries and local produce. Le Blizz is a fun destination. It’s a small but well run ice rink in the city. You should also visit Les Champs Libres, a modern building housing a museum, planetarium and a natural history exhibition. Finally, buy a ticket to watch Stade Rennais FC play. They are the longest established top flight team never to have won the championship.
Shopping in the city is based around the malls or the markets. The best malls are in the Place du Colombier for high street names or the Galleries Lafayette for upmarket shopping with designer labels and accessories.
Food and Drink
Brittany is home to many regional delicacies including the lightly salted, creamy Breton butter. Try the galettes saucisse, a kind of sausage pie and wash it down with a glass of the delicious Breton cider. For those with a sweet tooth, try the yummy butter caramels often sold warm on the streets.
Rennes has several festivals each year and the best of them is the Yoauank Fest-Noz, which translates as ‘night party’ and is a celebration of music and entertainment that takes place in October. If you’re visiting in April make the Mythos storytelling festival a priority.
Rennes is an interesting part of France to visit because it is the capital of the historic Brittany region. The historic downtown area is a major draw for tourists. They can also see wonderful examples of architecture like the Ouest building and cultural attractions such as the opera.
If you want to get some fantastic French food or souvenirs from your travels then the weekly market that takes place in the Place de Lices is the place to go. Although Rennes has an extensive public transport system car hire Rennes is the only way to explore the city fully.