Rennes is the historical and administrative capital of Brittany, a dynamic and friendly city, home to a large community of researchers and students representing a large portion of the population.
The centre is a mix of half-timbered houses lining narrow streets and majestic 18th century buildings overlooking spacious public squares. The river Vilaine runs through the city whilst a large botanical garden, the Thabor in the north-east, provides a peaceful green area for workers, students and city dwellers.
Walking around the historical centre at lunchtime or in the evening, you’ll discover streets brimming with cafés, restaurants and bars. Shops and boutiques line the larger streets of the classical period.
Information about what to do in and around Rennes can be found on the Tourist Office website. But here are a few ideas to get started.
Art and culture
Well-known for its music scene, you can hear the latest in rock at various venues around the city (Salle de la Cité, l’UBU, Le Liberté) and at the internationally renowned festival Les Transmusicales at the beginning of December. Rennes also has an opera house, and a national theatre, the Théâtre National de Bretagne (TNB), with a varied programme of theatre, dance, circus, music and cinema.
There are several cinemas for film buffs, with arthouse and classical films at L'Arvor and the TNB, a more mainstream selection at the Gaumont, and a winter film festival called Travelling.
Les Champs Libres is a large cultural centre which houses the Musée de Bretagne, a science museum and the central library which holds exhibitions, events and conferences all year round.
The Musée de Beaux Arts, on the banks of La Vilaine, has an impressive art collection from ancient to modern as well as regular temporary exhibitions. The city also has a number of contemporary art venues including La Criée and the FRAC, as well as a contemporary art biennial, Les Ateliers de Rennes.
During the festival Les Tombés de la nuit, which takes place over several weekends during the spring and summer, you can discover street theatre, performances and installations in Rennes and the surrounding area.
Sport and activities
You may settle for cycling around the city since Rennes is perfect for those who like to get around by bike! Or you may decide to take part in your favourite sport in one of the many sports facilities in Rennes. Details about activities and facilities can be found on the Office des Sports de Rennes website.
As a student, teacher or staff member at the University of Rennes, you can use the university facilities. Information about activities, registration procedure and times can be found on the SIUAPS (Inter-University Department for Physical and Sports Activities) website.
The Parc de Gayeulles, in the north-east of Rennes, has a range of facilities including a swimming pool, tennis and squash courts and football and rugby pitches. It also has a fitness track for runners, and a treetop trail.
The Saint-Georges swimming baths in the heart of the city, dating back to 1925, are worth visiting just to see the magnificent art deco mosaic walls designed by Isidore Odorico, member of a family of renowned Italian mosaic artists established in Rennes.
There is an Olympic-size swimming pool in the south of Rennes in the Brequigny district.
The city of Rennes has 5 outdoor tennis courts, freely accessible and free of charge. However, it’s advisable to reserve a court in advance. If you want to reserve, you’ll need a badge, which you can get at any of the town hall run swimming baths.
There is an excellent public transport system in Rennes run by the STAR. For information about tickets and passes, you can visit the main agency in the city centre on the Place de la Republique (12 rue du Pré Botté). A single ticket, valid for 60 minutes after stamping, costs €1.70.
Rennes also has an underground metro system with two lines a and b. Line a has 15 stops crossing the city centre from Kennedy in the north to La Poterie in the south. Line b runs from Cesson Sévigné in the east to Saint Jacques in the south-west.
The service runs:
- On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays: from 5.15 am to 12.45 am
- On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays: from 5:15 am to 1.45 am
- On Sundays: from 7:25 am to 12.45 am
Rennes has many cycle lanes. You can use the vélo STAR bikes at the 81 docking stations across the city. Prices can be found on their website.
In the centre, buses, cyclists and pedestrians have priority and you have to pay to park your car. A good idea is to use the car parks outside the centre and to take the metro into town. These car parks are free for underground users. There are car parks at Kennedy, Villejean in the north and Henri Freville, Triangle and La Poterie in the south.
To travel farther afield, the Breizhgo public bus service can take you around the French administrative area known as the Département Ille et Vilaine. There are 18 lines. Prices and lines can be found on their website.