Rennes, the capital city of Brittany in France, is a vibrant and historic destination known for its rich culture, stunning architecture, and lively atmosphere. Whether you’re interested in exploring its medieval streets, indulging in delicious cuisine, or immersing yourself in the local art scene, Rennes has something to offer for everyone. Here are some of the best places to visit and things to do in Rennes:
1. Historic Centre (Le Vieux Rennes)
Begin your journey in the heart of the city by strolling through the charming cobblestone streets of Le Vieux Rennes. Admire the half-timbered houses, picturesque squares like Place des Lices, and the iconic Rennes Cathedral. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Parliament of Brittany, a striking building with beautiful gardens.
2. Thabor Botanic Gardens
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city by visiting the Thabor Gardens. This lush green oasis features exquisite flowerbeds, serene lakes, and a vast variety of plants. Take a leisurely walk, have a picnic, or simply relax in this peaceful retreat.
3. Les Halles Market
To experience the vibrant culinary scene of Rennes, head to Les Halles Market. This bustling indoor market offers a wide range of fresh produce, seafood, cheeses, pastries, and local specialties. Enjoy a delicious meal or gather ingredients for a picnic to savor the flavors of Brittany.
4. Place de la Mairie
Located in the heart of Rennes, Place de la Mairie is a vibrant square surrounded by stunning architectural gems. Marvel at the City Hall (Hôtel de Ville), a grand 18th-century building, and soak up the lively atmosphere of the surrounding cafes and shops.
5. Les Tombées de la Nuit Festival
If you’re lucky enough to visit Rennes in July, don’t miss the Les Tombées de la Nuit Festival. This annual event showcases a diverse range of performing arts, including theater, music, dance, and street performances. It’s a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s cultural scene.
6. Rue Saint Michel
Take a leisurely stroll down Rue Saint Michel, a charming street lined with eclectic shops, boutiques, and traditional Breton food stalls. This area is known for its unique shopping experience, with a blend of contemporary fashion and local artisanal products.
7. Les Champs Libres
In addition to the museums, Les Champs Libres is a cultural center that houses the Rennes Public Library and hosts various exhibitions, conferences, and events. It’s worth checking their schedule to see if there are any interesting activities taking place during your visit.
8. Local Gastronomy
Rennes is renowned for its gastronomy, and sampling the local cuisine is a must. Indulge in traditional Breton dishes such as galettes (savory buckwheat pancakes), crêpes, fresh seafood, and cider. Explore the city’s diverse range of restaurants and cafés to savor the flavors of Brittany.
9. Place des Lices
Visit the lively Place des Lices, a vibrant square that comes alive on Saturday mornings with its famous Rennes Market. Browse through the stalls filled with fresh produce, local specialties, clothing, and handicrafts. It’s a fantastic opportunity to interact with locals, sample regional delicacies, and soak up the bustling ambiance.
10. Parlement de Bretagne
Marvel at the architectural masterpiece of Parlement de Bretagne, a historic courthouse dating back to the 17th century. While the building is not open to the public, its exterior showcases intricate detailing and serves as a symbol of Rennes’ past.
11. Les Jardins Rocambole
Discover Les Jardins Rocambole, a charming community garden nestled in the heart of Rennes. This eco-friendly oasis features beautiful flower beds, vegetable patches, and even an outdoor amphitheater for events and performances. Take a leisurely stroll or simply unwind in this serene and sustainable green space.
12. Les Trans Musicales Festival
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If you’re a music lover, plan your visit to coincide with Les Trans Musicales Festival, one of the most influential music festivals in Europe. Held annually in December, it showcases emerging artists and cutting-edge music across various genres. Immerse yourself in the electrifying atmosphere of this renowned event.
13. Les Champs Libres Planetarium
Explore the cosmos at the Planetarium of Les Champs Libres. This state-of-the-art facility offers captivating astronomy shows and immersive experiences that transport you to distant galaxies. Discover the wonders of the universe and expand your knowledge of astronomy in a fascinating and interactive way.
14. Le Liberté
Catch a live performance at Le Liberté, a renowned concert hall and theater in Rennes. From concerts by international artists to theater productions and dance performances, the venue hosts a diverse range of cultural events throughout the year. Check the schedule to see what captivating shows are on during your visit.
15. Rennes Street Art
Take a walk around the city and discover the vibrant street art scene of Rennes. From large-scale murals to hidden gems tucked away in alleyways, the city is adorned with colorful and thought-provoking artwork. Keep an eye out for the works of local and international artists that contribute to Rennes’ urban landscape.
16. Rennes Opera House
If you appreciate performing arts, make sure to experience a show at the Rennes Opera House (Opéra de Rennes). This stunning venue hosts a variety of opera, ballet, and classical music performances throughout the year. Immerse yourself in the world of art and enjoy a memorable evening of artistic excellence.
17. La Criée Contemporary Art Center
Explore the contemporary art scene of Rennes at La Criée Contemporary Art Center. This dynamic space features rotating exhibitions showcasing works by local and international artists, as well as thought-provoking installations, performances, and multimedia art. Engage with the cutting-edge creations and immerse yourself in the contemporary art world.
18. Les Gayeulles Park
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Escape the urban bustle and unwind in the expansive Les Gayeulles Park. This vast green space offers walking and jogging trails, picnic areas, sports fields, and even a mini-golf course. Enjoy a day of outdoor activities, rent a bicycle, or simply relax in the peaceful surroundings of this picturesque park.
19. Place Hoche
Visit Place Hoche, a bustling square named after General Lazare Hoche. Admire the elegant architecture surrounding the square, including the beautiful Opera House and the Hotel de Ville. Relax on one of the benches, people-watch, or enjoy a coffee at one of the outdoor cafes while taking in the vibrant atmosphere.
20. Canal Saint-Martin
Take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Canal Saint-Martin. Lined with trees, cafes, and charming bridges, this tranquil waterway provides a serene atmosphere in the heart of the city. Enjoy a peaceful walk, rent a boat, or simply find a spot to relax and watch the boats pass by.
21. Musée des Transmissions
For the history enthusiasts, the Musée des Transmissions is a unique museum dedicated to the history of telecommunications and signals. Learn about the evolution of communication technologies through an impressive collection of artifacts, including old telephones, radios, and telegraph equipment.
22. Les Tombées de la Nuit
Experience the Les Tombées de la Nuit festival, a multidisciplinary arts festival that takes place in various locations throughout the city. From theater and dance performances to music concerts and street art, this festival showcases the vibrant artistic talent of Rennes and beyond.
23. Rue Saint-Georges
Wander down Rue Saint-Georges, a picturesque street lined with beautiful half-timbered houses and charming boutiques. This pedestrian-friendly street is perfect for leisurely shopping, grabbing a bite to eat, or simply enjoying the ambiance of this historic neighborhood.
24. Les Moulins du Boël
Take a short trip to the village of Guipry-Messac, located near Rennes, and visit Les Moulins du Boël. This historic site features a series of traditional windmills set amidst picturesque landscapes. Learn about the milling industry, explore the mills, and enjoy a peaceful walk along the riverbank.
25. Château de Fougères
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Discover the medieval marvel of Château de Fougères, located about an hour’s drive from Rennes. This impressive fortress is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval castles in Europe. Explore the towers, ramparts, and inner courtyards while immersing yourself in the rich history of this architectural gem.
26. Attend a Breton Fest-Noz
Immerse yourself in Breton culture by attending a traditional fest-noz. These lively nighttime festivals celebrate Breton music, dance, and folklore. Join in the energetic dancing, listen to live music played on traditional instruments, and experience the vibrant spirit of Breton traditions.
27. Rennes Street Markets
Explore the various street markets that pop up throughout the city on different days of the week. From the Marché des Lices to the Marché de Sainte-Thérèse, these markets offer a diverse range of products, including fresh produce, local specialties, clothing, crafts, and more. It’s a great opportunity to mingle with locals and experience the vibrant market culture.
28. Taste the Galette Saucisse
Indulge in a local culinary specialty of Rennes, the galette saucisse. This delicious street food consists of a grilled sausage wrapped in a savory buckwheat pancake. Look for food stalls or restaurants serving this regional delicacy and savor the flavors of Brittany.
29. Musée de Bretagne (Museum of Brittany)
Located within the Les Champs Libres complex, the Musée de Bretagne provides an in-depth exploration of the history, culture, and identity of the Brittany region. Through interactive exhibits, artifacts, photographs, and multimedia displays, the museum tells the story of Brittany’s past, its traditions, and its people.
30. Ecomusée du Pays de Rennes (Ecomuseum of the Rennes Countryside)
Located in the nearby town of La Bintinais, the Ecomusée du Pays de Rennes explores the rural heritage and traditions of the Rennes countryside. The museum features displays on traditional farming practices, rural crafts, and the everyday life of the region’s inhabitants throughout history.
Places and Things To Do