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Rennes

Rennes

A capital city

The vibrant university city of Rennes, Brittany’s administrative capital, is worth a day or two of anyone’s time. Take a wander around the medieval streets of the picture-perfect old town and admire the impressive parliament building before relaxing in the Thabor gardens.

Quaint quarter

Most of old Rennes was burnt down in 1720 when a fire ravaged the city, however some authentic pockets remain; the streets around Place Ste-Anne are lined with higgledy-piggledy half-timbered houses. The superbly restored Couvent des Jacobins (a former Dominican friary), is now home to the Convention Centre and many cultural events. Place des Lices was originally used for jousting but these days the only combat you’ll experience is elbowing your way through the crowds at the magnificent Saturday-morning market, one of France’s largest. Nearby are the remains of the 15th-century Porte Mordelaise, once the main gate into the city.

A fine building

One of Brittany’s finest buildings can be found east of the old town – the Palais du Parlement de Bretagne. The parliament building, which was designed by the architect of the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris, was constructed from 1618-55 to house the Breton parliament following the region’s reunification with France. These days the palace houses the Court of Appeal; there are often temporary exhibitions and concerts in the lobby. Take a guided tour in English in July or August to see the wonderful restoration work that was carried out after a devastating fire in 1994.

Go green

To the east of the old town are the Thabor Gardens, which were created in the 1860s on the site of the orchard of St Mélaine abbey. The public gardens are laid out over 24 acres and include a French garden, an English garden, lawns, an aviary, a children’s area and a noted botanical garden, which has around 3,000 species of plant. The gardens regularly host outdoor events in summer.

It’s history

No trip to Rennes would be complete without visiting one of its museums. The Musée de Bretagne, housed in the futuristic Champs Libres building near the station, recounts Brittany’s history and culture from prehistoric times – you can even listen to Breton being spoken.

Main points of interest

  • The Mordelaise gates, the Duchesne tower (15th century)
  • The palace of the Brittany Parliament: a century of construction (1618-1709)
  • The town mansions (17th to 19th centuries)
  • The many half-timbered houses (15th to 17th centuries)
  • The royal Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (town hall square – 18th century) and the royal Place du Parlement de Bretagne (18th century)
  • The opera house (19th century), Saint-Georges palace (17th century) and Saint-Georges swimming pool (1925)
  • The chapel of Saint-Yves (15th century): the permanent exhibition ‘Rennes, Town of Art and History’

Destination Rennes Tourisme et Congrès


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Getting there

Getting to Rennes 

Rennes is easily accessible by train from France’s main large towns. Since the arrival of the high-speed line in July 2017, Rennes is now only an hour and a half from Paris-Montparnasse. There are 22 TGV, inOui and OuiGo trains from Paris each day and you can get to Paris from London on Eurostar in 2 hours 16 minutes.

On the other direct lines, it takes 3 hours 20 minutes from Lille to Rennes, 3 hours 50 minutes from Lyon to Rennes, 5 hours 26 minutes from Strasbourg to Rennes and 4 hours 50 minutes from Marseille to Rennes without going through Paris.

If you want to fly to Rennes, there are several airlines offering regular, low-cost services, including direct flights from London Southend airport. You can reach the town centre from the airport by bus in 20 minutes.

By car it takes less than an hour from the ferry port at Saint-Malo, about 2 hours 30 minutes from Roscoff, 3 hours 30 minutes from Paris via the A11, then the A81, and 4 hours 30 minutes from Bordeaux via the A83, then the N137 after Nantes.
For a low-cost journey, choose from one of the bus companies: Isilines, Eurolines, Flixbus and Ouibus.

Travelling in and around Rennes

The best way to discover Brittany’s capital city is to stroll around the cobbled back-streets of the old town and the pedestrianised areas. Did you know that Rennes is one of the few provincial towns to have an underground railway? It allows you to explore the city from north to south very quickly. Using the STAR network (bus + underground), you can leave your car in the park and ride car park and explore the town by public transport. If you feel like cycling, you could opt for self-service bike hire with charges from one euro upwards. You can also get to the coast by using the TER regional transport links: in particular, you can get to Saint-Malo in less than an hour.

 

Official website of tourism in Brittany