Rennes doesn’t appear on too many travel guides, yet it has a long history dating back to ancient times, which means there is an abundance of interesting architecture and antiquities to be found in the town. The Celtic era is represented with a hoard of coins, found in 1835, on display at Rennes’ principal museum
, while Roman influences are everywhere. They include the wall built around the town to protect from barbarian attack. Fragments of these fortifications can still be seen at various points throughout the city today. Medieval times are represented too in the cobbled streets and lanes scattered throughout the centre, although many thoroughfares were reconstructed after a fire gutted the town in 1720. Still, it’s a combination of all these historical factors that make Rennes worthy of a visit.
A stroll around town
Built in 1440, the Mordelles Gates mark the entrance to the town during the Middle Ages. At the centre, you’ll find the majestic Place de la République and the Palais du Commerce built in the classical style. Just ten minutes stroll northeast of here, you’ll come to Parc du Thabor
, which hosts a stunning collection of plant life and caged birds. Close to the town’s tourist office on rue Saint Sauveur is Cathédrale Saint-Pierre. The church has been rebuilt several times, so its original authenticity has been lost, yet it’s worth visiting to see the organ and the tombs of the former bishops of Rennes.
Art and culture
Like so many cities in France, Rennes has its own Musée des Beaux Arts. Here, the majority of the exhibitions come from the personal collection of Christophe-Paul de Robien, a former president of the parliament of Brittany. It’s an impressive collection, with antiquities from the Celtic, Greek and Roman eras, as well as works by Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and Rembrandt. You can kill three birds with one stone by visiting Les Champs Libres.
This relatively new institution houses the Musée de Bretagne
, L’espace des Sciences
(including a planetarium) and the municipal library.
Just for fun
If you’re in the mood to party, you’ve come to the right place. Rennes is a student town, so there’s plenty of nightlife. This is mostly centred on the area known as ‘Rue de la Soif’ or ‘thirsty street’. On maps, you’ll see the street officially marked as Rue Saint Michel. The area gets very busy in early July during the ‘Festival des Tombées de la Nuit
’. For more family-oriented entertainment, there’s the Adrenaline Forest
, an adventure park situated in Gayeulles Park, suitable for children aged two and upwards.
Out and about
Don’t rule out a trip to see the surrounding countryside and coastline. A rental car will take you the 19 kilometres southeast of Rennes to La Roche-aux-Fees. This is France’s Stonehenge, featuring one of the best-preserved dolmens in Europe. Further afield, on the coast, there’s Mont Saint Michel
, the third most visited monument in France. A scenic drive from here along the bay will take you south to Saint Malo, a popular coastal resort and walled town with many attractions of its own.