The capital of the Brittany region, Rennes is a city with a lot of importance, to the region and country. It is a major centre of telecommunications and the digital industry for France, in general, but more than that, it is increasingly a destination for visitors from France and beyond. Beautiful, but modern, you might say that few cities more embody 21st-century France. Intrigued? Read on for more information on things to do in this remarkable city. You won’t be disappointed!
1. Reach for the stars at l'Espace des Sciences
As Rennes continues its development as a centre for France’s digital industries, the city is ensuring that its future generations are going to be switched on to science. L'Espace des Sciences is the city’s most popular family day out. Interactive exhibitions give children, young and old, the chance to learn by doing - meanwhile, the Planetarium offers the opportunity to travel, for a while, beyond the Earth and find out more about our solar system.
It’s 11 EUR, or 12.50 USD all-in for an adult, and 7 EUR (8 USD) for those under 26. Kids under 8 get in free when accompanied by an adult - so it’s definitely one for the family!
L'Espace des Sciences
Address: 10 Cours des Alliés, 35000 Rennes
Website: L'Espace des Sciences (in French)
2. Take a deeper look at life at Ecomusee du Pays de Rennes
Maybe “visit a 500-year-old farm” isn’t on your bucket list. Maybe it should be. The Bintinais farm has been turned into a living museum, taking the visitor through the ages, by looking at how agriculture, business, nutrition and technology have all changed in that time. It’s a glance at the history of the region, through a new and fascinating prism and at 6 EUR (barely 7 USD) for adults, less for children, it’s wonderful value for the money. A pretty, 15-minute drive from the city centre, it’s well worth a visit.
Écomusée du Pays de Rennes
Address: Route de Châtillon-sur-Seiche, 35200 Rennes
3. Shop 'til you drop at Centre Alma
The hub of any city is the spot in the city centre where the locals congregate. In Rennes, that means the Centre Alma, the city’s main mall. If you have some shopping to do, this is where you’ll start. The tough part may be knowing where and when to finish, with an excellent range of choice for stores and restaurants. Great boutiques for the fashion-conscious rubs shoulders with tech stores for digital natives - and even when it’s busy you can still breathe, thanks to the open plan design of the mall.
Address: 5 Rue du Bosphore, 35200 Rennes
Website: Centre Alma (in French)
4. Chill out at le Parc des Gayeulles
Established 50 years ago, Parc des Gayeulles is an open green space of the kind that is all too rare in cities, these days. 100 hectares (247.1 acres) large and with five lakes within it, it’s a serene spot to visit and take a moment to appreciate nature. Due to its size, it is also home to football and rugby pitches, an ice rink and even a working farm. Each July, it hosts the “Quartiers d'été” mini-festival, where music concerts, plays and films entertain a mostly young crowd.
Parc des Gayeulles
Address: Rue du Professeur Maurice Audin, 35700 Rennes
Website: Parc des Gayeulles (in French)
5. Pass the taste test at Marché des Lices
While much of the present-day attraction of Rennes is in its modernity, sometimes you simply can’t beat an artisanal market and in Rennes, this can be seen every Saturday. The market, held across two large halls on the Place des Lices, features a mouth-watering range of fresh foods, including locally-sourced delicacies, from rare poultry to flavoured butter (the range of flavours just has to be seen to be believed.) It’s a good idea to have transport arranged because you will leave the market with more food and drink than you can reasonably carry!
Marché des Lices
Address: 24 Place des Lices, 35000 Rennes
Website: Marché des Lices (in French)
6. Stop and smell the roses at Parc du Thabor
Close to the city centre, Parc du Thabor is one of Rennes’ prettiest locations and is the ideal spot for couples on a romantic break. It’s still pretty fabulous if that’s not you, though. The large, landscaped gardens include more roses than you can ever imagine laying eyes on, in one fell swoop, and, if you ever get tired of looking at the beautiful blooms, there’s also an aviary, featuring parrots, doves and songbirds.
And what park would be complete without a duck pond? At last count, the pond here was home to at least ten species, including the Eurasian widgeon.
Parc du Thabor
Address: Place Saint-Mélaine, 35000 Rennes
Website: Parc du Thabor
7. Respect authority at the Parlement de Bretagne
The Parlement de Bretagne - a building that is historically home to the regional parliament - has a story or two to tell and it doesn’t even need to go that far back to tell it. In 1994, protesting fishermen set fire to it - accidentally or deliberately, the story remains unclear - and the interior was destroyed. It reopened after five years of restoration, at which point it resumed hosting hearings in the Court of Appeal. Additionally, it opened to the public as a sightseeing destination - a role in which it has remained popular, ever since.
As a monument to Rennes’ capacity for renewal and its importance to the region of Brittany, the Parlement is certainly worth your time.
Parlement de Bretagne
Address: 16 Rue Salomon de Brosse, 35000 Rennes
Website: Parlement de Bretagne
Rennes: 21st-century France in living colour!
Architecturally, Rennes is unmistakably French and it has those perfect rustic elements that make all French cities so beguiling. Its attractions, though, mark it out as a city that has an eye on the future and on learning. It’s a perfect place to come to with a small family - but then again, its parks and farmers markets will attract couples, young and old. In short, there’s no-one for whom this beautiful Breton city wouldn’t make a fine destination - including you!
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