In the heart of Ille-et-Vilaine, the historic capital of Brittany has a unique architectural heritage, with in particular the highest concentration of half-timbered houses in the region. Contemporary art occupies a special place, just like street art, to be discovered during guided tours. Always true to its reputation as a student and festive city, Rennes has an impressive number of bars. For a weekend, you can vary the pleasures, according to your desires, between walks, cultural visits, shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
Walk in old Rennes
The best way to get to know Rennes is to get lost in the cobbled alleys of the old town. We discover 286 colored half-timbered houses (a record in Brittany), dating mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries, survivors of the great fire that ravaged the city in 1720.
One of the most famous is the Ti-Koz house (at 3, rue Saint-Guillaume), with its bright red facade adorned with statues of Saint Sebastian and Saint Michael. Built at the beginning of the 16th century, the former home of the canons of the cathedral now houses a chic nightclub.
There are also beautiful half-timbered mansions on the place des Lices, where in the Middle Ages were held tournaments and jousting of knights. On the Town Hall Square, we take a look at the theater and City Hall baroque style, and don't forget to go see the parliament of Brittany, imposing 17th century building.
Another vestige of the past, the Mordelaise doors, whose two towers were rebuilt in the 15th century, were once the main entrance to the city. The future Dukes of Brittany took an oath there, before crossing the drawbridge. The major development project ramparts gardens is expected to change the face of this sector by 2021.
Along the way, you can take the opportunity to go shopping in one of the pretty stores in the center, such as the French Blossom, Made in Frogs or Maison Orso concept stores, or the designer stores (Grammage, Mint, Kaleïdo Store ... ).
On Saturday morning, on the Place des Lices, the 2nd largest market in France, which has existed since 1622 and brings together some 300 small producers and artisans.
Suffice to say that we are spoiled for choice in front of the stalls where each more tempting product is displayed: fruits and vegetables (including herbs and organic mini-vegetables from Annie Bertin), cheeses, butters ( including the famous Bordier), ciders and beers, flowers, salted butter caramel, jams (including those from Dame Cerise), gingerbread and Breton cakes (especially from Baramel), cold cuts, meats (including cuckoo hens from Rennes from Paul Renault), fish and seafood.
In the early morning, we meet the chefs of the gastronomic restaurants in the area. Then, the general public takes possession of the premises. When lunchtime arrives, many sacrifice to the tradition of the sausage pancake or sit down to drink a coffee or a beer in one of the surrounding bars, on the terrace in fine weather.
On the left bank, we also buy good products at the Criée, central market (still recently called Halles centrale). If you're around at the time, don't miss the gourmet events organized there, including the Marché à manger (every first Sunday of the month), which brings together restaurateurs, pastry chefs, brewers, food trucks and DJs. The opportunity to taste dishes from chefs, including Michelin-starred ones, at competitive prices (less than 8 €). A word of advice: go there from 11:30 am Afterwards, the stands are taken by storm.
In Rennes, contemporary art is everywhere. To be convinced, all you have to do is follow the art historian Étienne Taburet for a visit (Aître agency, € 12), who will show you the works hidden in the public space: the achievements of great architects (Christian de Portzamparc, Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster ...), but also the exhibition places, such as the FRAC Brittany (Regional Contemporary Art Fund), where more than 5 works are exhibited in the futuristic building designed by Odile Decq.
Located on the left bank of the Vilaine, the Museum of Fine Arts also worth a visit. In addition to its permanent collections bringing together works from the 14th century to today (Boudin, Picasso, Gauguin, Rubens ...), you can see temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, especially during the contemporary art biennial (the Ateliers de Rennes), the 6th edition of which will be held in 2018 (29 Sept - 2 Dec).
Not far from there, we will go for a walk in the Contemporary Art Center installed at the Criée, central market (free entry), before scouring the art galleries (such as ONIRIS). Art Deco enthusiasts will follow in the footsteps of Odorico mosaics, visible in particular at the Saint-Georges swimming pool.
To discover the city in a quirky way, we can follow the visit that the tourist office has devoted to the street art. Along the way, we are introduced to the local scene, notably with the War frescoes! (nicknamed the Banksy of Rennes), the funny stickers of Mémé, the feathered snakes of Oré, the breast of Intra Larue, not to mention the radishes of Ar Furlukin, the Space Invader of the rue de Penhoët.
Finally, we will not miss the frescoes of the palisade of Convent of the Jacobins, the brand new convention center, whose historic spaces interact harmoniously with the contemporary building. A place that reflects what is happening everywhere in the city of Rennes, finally.
Find all the tips, addresses and practical information in the Routard Bretagne Nord bookstore
To prepare your stay, see our Rennes online guide
Rennes tourist office
Upper Brittany Tourism
Brittany Regional Tourism Committee
How to get there ?
By TGV, it takes only 1 hour 25 minutes to reach Rennes from Paris.
By plane: Rennes is connected to several French airports by HOP! Find your plane ticket.
Where to sleep ?
- Magic Hall: 17, rue de la Quintaine. An atypical hotel where, very quickly, you feel at home. The excellent organic breakfast (12 €) is taken on the large wooden table, where you can taste the homemade cakes concocted during the night. The 19 rooms, all different, surf on the themes of theater, music and dance. And if you feel like playing music, you can use the rehearsal studio. Possibility to dine as well. An address apart, very close to the historic center. From € 60 per night.
Where to eat ?
A word of advice: on weekends, check that the restaurants are open (as surprising as it may seem, many close on Saturday evening.
- DIY : 17, quai de la Prévalaye. Here, we come as much for the cuisine (good bistronomy) and cocktails as for the atmosphere, which is festive on weekends. It is not uncommon for dancing to take part. The plus: a nice patio at the back. Dishes between € 18 and € 23 in the evening, brunch: € 20.
- At Brume : 5, rue de la Parcheminerie. Brand new, this bistro-style decor, chic and sober, specializes in fish, extra fresh and delicately cooked. The love of fish can be read up to the walls, covered with an ecru ceramic in the shape of scales. Dishes between € 14 and € 21.
- The globe : 32, bd de la Liberté. This friendly bistro serves delicious market cuisine, concocted by chef Aymeric Kräml. Lunch menu: starter-main course-dessert for € 16,50. Good value for money. Remember to book: it is often full.
- La Saint-Georges: 11, rue du Chapitre and 17, rue Jules Simon. Two twin crêperies with contemporary decor, whose refined pancakes feature the first name George-s (Brassens, Pernoud, Sand, Clemenceau ...). Some are served with sorbets and ice creams with surprising flavors: goat cheese for George Harrison, cucumber for George Clooney. Approx. 8 to 17 € for a pancake.
Where to drink a good coffee?
- Bourbon d'Arsel: 10, rue Baudrairie. A large choice of wines from Ethiopia, Indonesia, El Salvador or Burundi, roasted on site and prepared expresso style (€ 1,70) or with gentle extraction (Aeropress or Chemex, € 3,50). Coffee lovers will appreciate.
Where to have a drink?
It must be said: the Saint-Michel street, nicknamed the “street of thirst” for its concentration of bars, is not what it used to be, even if, in the evening, some still appreciate its ramshackle side and come there to drink shots until they are thirsty. During the day, it is still a little sad, with its storefronts with the curtains drawn and tagged ...
Not far from there, the place Sainte-Anne remains very lively: it is one of the meeting spots for students, just like the Saint-Malo street, nice to have a drink. When the weather is nice, everyone is on the sidewalk, glass in hand, in a pretty good-natured atmosphere.
The new trendy district is the mail François-Mitterrand, where bars and restaurants attract XNUMX-something, bobo trend.
A novelty: Loco Loca : 17, rue Comté-de-Lanjuinais. To have a drink in a pleasant garden in the city center. Pretty Latin decor, in tune with the times.