Rennes is not often mentioned on tourist guides but this medium size city is well worth a visit. It has more than 200,000 inhabitants in the municipality itself (more than 300,000 in the urban unit which includes some suburbs in neighbouring municipalities, more than 400,000 in its new "Métropole" created in 2016, and more than 700,000 in the urban area), of whom about 60,000 are students. This gives the city a vibrant nightlife.
Some streets, such as the Rue Saint Michel, have only bars on both sides (The locals actually call Rue Saint Michel "la rue de la soif", which means "street of thirst"). A stroll down Rue Saint Michel on a Friday or Saturday evening is a very interesting experience indeed. However, if you're really in the mood to "faire la fête" (go to party), celebrate or just have fun in other words, the most exciting night on "rue de la soif" would be the "jeudi soir", Thursday nights, during the school year. Jeudi soir is the night when bars are most often packed to the brim with students. The sights on Thursday nights out on the city are very memorable and interesting.
Rennes is particularly nice in early July, during the "Festival des Tombées de la Nuit". Its streets are then full of people enjoying the free street entertainment and eating or drinking at the terraces of the restaurants and cafés.
Rennes used to be virtually empty after the 15th of July, as most of its inhabitants were migrating to the coast until the 15th August. In recent years, this trend seems to have stopped and Rennes's terraces and cafes are now bustling throughout the year, with a very attractive calendar of outdoor and indoor cultural events, a lot of cultural and sportive equipments and a large pedestrian area easily accessible from all municipalities in the metropole by an extensive metro+bus transport network.
Rennes airport has budget flights to and from Barcelona, Rome, Porto thanks to Vueling, London, Southampton, Belfast, Birmingham and Exeter thanks to Flybe, or Dublin and Cork with Aerlingus which has good offers. The airport is less than 5 km away from the city center, and bus No 57 links it with the city.
Dinard/Pleurtuit/Saint-Malo Airport. One hour away, Dinard's airport offers other cheap options, with for example a connection to London with Ryanair.
Gare de Rennes The easiest way to get to Rennes from Paris is through Gare Montparnasse. There are TGVs almost every 30 minutes and the ride is 1 hour and 25 min. Tickets are available on the SNCF website, and between 25 and 65 Euros for one way. If you're under 26 years old, and planning to travel in France by train, get the "carte 12-25" (49 €) which will offers you 50% off most of the time.
There are also direct trains, 4 a day, to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, which arrives at Terminal 2, taking approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes ("OUIGO" direct service from Rennes) or 3 hours and 20 minutes (with one transit in Le Mans, or in Marne-la-Vallée/Disneyland Paris). The train to CDG terminates at Lille, taking 3 hours and 41 minutes (direct service from Rennes) or about 4 hours (standard service with 1 transit between stations in Paris), from where it's possible to take a Eurostar to the UK or numerous connections to continental Europe.
The Rennes train station also provides TGV service to Brest (via Saint-Brieuc) and Quimper (via Vannes), or regional TER services to Nantes (via Redon) and Saint-Malo, as well as other cities in Brittany, and some suburban municipalities with local stations in Rennes Metropole.
The cheapest way will be covoiturage or ride sharing. A lot of websites offer information about people wishing to share their car and budget. Covoiturage.fr, 123envoiture.com, or Allostop [dead link] will help you out. Since 1968, travelling by car on motorways within Brittany is free.
Rennes has also an international and local bus station ("Gare routière"), right next to the central rail and metro station. This is where you can get information about Illenoo (see below) and where buses such as Eurolines/
By bus and metro
Rennes has a very good public transport system, called Star. If you're planning to buy a pass (weekly or longer), you'll need to go to the agency Place de la République or in the central railway station to get a "Korrigo" card. You can also find agencies in the subways stations Henri Fréville and Villejean-Université. These are not open every weeks. Remember to bring a picture for employees to scan. It is a free electronic card on which your pass will be saved. Once you have it, just reload it anywhere tickets are sold.
Daily tickets can be bought for €3 a day, and are valid on all bus lines (urban and metropolitan) and metro. Star claims that its network has the cheapest prices in France, with a single ticket (valid for 60 min after validation for unlimited connections) costing €1.50 (as of July 1, 2015).
Rennes offers more than 50 different urban bus routes and a metro, with 1 service every 5 min in each direction for the metro and main bus lines at peak hours. The hub of the network is at République (a secondary hub is at the railway station, it will become the main hub when the second metro line will open), which feeds most of the 50 different routes in the city (suburban lines to the weast and east of the city are also connecting there, suburban lines to the north and south are now preferably connected to the metro and may reach the city center only on Sunday for limited services). This bus and metro network connects all parts of Rennes (and all municipalities in the metropole), and so you're never far from a bus stop. All the bus stops conveniently have a map (une carte) of Rennes with all the lines on, and a timetable for the routes it provides, so there isn't much chance of getting lost.
The metro, called the VAL, has only one line with 15 stops and is 8.57 km long. It runs from one edge to the other in 16 min. It connects the main train station to the centre, Villejean university, the hospital, the city hall and more. It runs from 5:25 to 0:30, like the seven main bus lines. A second line is currently in construction and should open in 2018.
Rennes offers very good options for cyclists. With plenty of cycle lanes, the city has plenty of cyclists. For residents of the city and tourists, bikes known as Le Vélo STAR, can be borrowed from 81 stations all over the city. These bikes are not particularly good, but they work and have three gears, so its worth checking them out. You can buy a 1-day or 7-day-registration on the website or at ten stations in the centre (pay with your credit card) for €1 or €5, respectively. Once registered, you can get a bike as often as you want from any station by typing your personal account number and PIN. The first 30 minutes of every rental are free, so the trick is to return your bicycle just before 30 min at the next station and immediately borrow another one.
If you are after a pleasant cycling trip, check out the canal route, which is flat and not very hazardous.
Traffic in city center is heavy. Large areas are reserved for pedestrians and buses. Parking in the center is not free. You'll have to find an horodateur, never far away. Price will depend on the zone where you parked. 0,75 €/h and 2h40 maximum for green zone and 1,33 €/h with 1h33 maximum for red ones. Since 2002, the best way to discover Rennes is by metro and its parcs-relais. These are car-parks located in metro stations on the outskirts such as Kennedy, Villejean in the north and Henri Freville, Triangle and La Poterie in the south. They're free if you use the metro.
By bus (illenoo)
Illenoo is a public service of the Conseil départemental d'Ille-et-Vilaine. It allows people to travel within the département (and a little bit outside) on 18 lines for a good price. For example, Rennes - Saint-Malo: €4.80, return for students under 26.
You can also go to Mont-Saint-Michel from Rennes, with the regional bus line. It is an express line, it takes 1h20 to go. Bus stop is in bus station in Rennes (next to train station), and the stop at the foot of Mont-Saint-Michel.
Some long distance bus links to Nantes, Laval and Caen are cooperated with Lila (the public service of the Conseil départemental de Loire-Atlantique) or with TER (the train+bus networks of regions Britanny, Pays de la Loire and Normandie).
To most people, Rennes is not very famous for its architecture or places to see. But this city has a lot of surprises, from wood-framed (colombages) houses in the old city centre to modern building like les Champs Libres.
- One highlight of Rennes, if you're after natural beauty and tranquility, is the Thabor. This park has a stunning collection of plant life, including a large bed of hundreds of species of roses, tropical, African and European trees, other beautiful and rare plants, and offers the traveller a chance to see some budgies. There are cages with a dozen of different sorts of small colourful birds. To get to Parc Thabor from Republique station, take bus number 3 (direction St. Laurent) and get off at the Thabor stop. Or you can simply walk northestwards, it's 10 minutes away.
- Le Parlement is a major building in Rennes. This big palace was built in the 17e century in order to house the provincial court of justice.
- The portes Mordelaises is the last city gate. It is located just in front of the cathedral, whose façade is classical, but the inside was rebuilt during the first French Empire and restored in 2015.
- Colourful traditional half-timbered houses (maison à pans de bois) are situated primarily along the streets (Rue Saint-Sauveur, Rue Saint-Georges, Rue de Saint-Malo, Rue Saint-Guillaume, Rue des Dames, Rue du Chapitre, Rue Vasselot, Rue Saint-Michel, Rue de la Psallette) and around the plazas of the historic city center (Place du Champ-Jacquet, Place des Lices, Place Sainte-Anne and Place Rallier-du-Baty). All these houses escaped from a giant fire which destroyed half of the city in 1720. Due to this fire, the northern city center was rebuilt in the 18th century on a grid plan.
- Mont Saint-Michel is a granite island located north-eastward of Rennes in the former region of Basse-Normandie (now the region Normandie). It's the 3rd most visited monument in France. The main part of the island is the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, surrounded by fortifications.
If you're going there from Rennes, the easiest and more expensive way is to use keolis emeraude bus company. They'll charge you €11.40 each way, €8,60 for 16 to 25 year olds. But a cheaper option is to use the Illenoo public transport (see Get In), which costs €3 each way, but stops in Pontorson (9 km south of Mont Saint-Michel). From there, you can even hitch hike or use the Maneo light bus link, which costs €2. Just make sure that the schedules line up so you're not stuck in Pontorson for 2+ hours... a cute small town but not much to do there.
Anyhow, you get a 20% rebate in both cases if you're under 26 years old.
- Etangs d'Apigné
- Cobac Parc
- The Vilaine river
- Canal d'Ille-et-Rance
- Forêt de Rennes
- Every Saturday morning, from 6am to 1:30PM, there is a large food market in the city centre, where you can buy low price fruit and veg, a vast array of fish, crêpes, galettes, fresh meat and other French delicacies such as wine, snails and cheeses. Le marché des Lices (est. 1622) is always bustling with people trying to buy low-price groceries and meat. You mustn't leave the market without a galette-saucisse, the local specialty composed of a fried sausage rolled on a fresh galette (local, savory not sweet, crêpe). This snack costs about 2,5€. The market is based in the Place des Lices, an 8 minutes walk from the main bus station, République.
- Other markets take place every day in different neighborhoods
Le Blosne - Place de Zagreb - 7am / 1pm
Cleunay - Rue Jules Lallemand - 7am / 12.30pm
Maurepas- Place d'Erlangen - 7am / 12.30pm
Jeanne d'Arc - Bd Alexis Carrel - 7am / 12.45pm
Bour L'Eveque - Square Simone Morand - 7am / 12.30pm
Bréquigny - Place Albert Bayet - 7am / 12.30pm
Le Blosne - Place de Zagreb - 7am / 1pm
Les Lices - Place des Lices - 7am / 1.30pm
- FUN CLUB 35. Need exercise after the afternoon spent in the center? Don't need to go far away. Get down Place Ste Anne on Rue d'Echange, make a left on rue de Dinan and make on right on rue Pierre Gourdel right after the Westport Inn. You'll find a tiny place to play squash (from 4 to 8€ per person for an hour) or dance Rock 'n Roll or salsa. The owner might speak a little bit too fast, but you'll find great prices and some nice people in there.
- Le Blizz. An ice rink which isn't too expensive. To get there, it's the number 3 bus, with Patinoire the required stop.
- Rennes football club. A team in the top French football league, and has its stadium in Rennes, with tickets for matches start from €8.
Les Champs Libres is a brand new building in which you'll find le musée de Bretagne, l'espace des Sciences and the bibliothèque municipale. It's a wonderful place where you can learn a lot about Rennes, about Brittany, and about sciences and history. There are a lot of exhibitions (temporary and permanent), forums, and debates. There's also an outside café overhanging Place Charles de Gaulle where you can meet people and talk about whatever you feel like. If you feel like reading newspapers, head to the room in front of you when you enter that building, choose your favourite one and sit with other peers. But if you want to have a nice look at the city centre, head to last floor of the public library and enjoy. Don't forget to be quiet or they'll remind you! If you don't feel like going to the movies, you can climb up to the planetarium (around 7€ for exposition and planetarium) and enjoy 1h30 of live "show" about space, stars, legends. Check the schedule on their website for your favourite theme.
Fest-noz is a Breton, not French, word meaning festival of the night. It is a traditional ball where people of all generations meet, listen to traditional music, drink beer or chouchen, and dance to Breton music. Most of them take place on Saturdays, but you can find some on Thursdays or Fridays. You find them by looking at the posters on streets and in universities, but, there is a website that gathers most of Fest-Noz in Brittany. It usually costs 5-8 euros, but bigger events as Yaouank (a huge fest-noz in Rennes, Oct or Nov) are little bit more expensive.
As students represent a quarter of Rennes' population, you will probably find people walking (or staggering) in the city centre. This is especially true on Thursdays which is traditionally students day, as many of them go back home on Friday for the week end. But for a few years, city centre residents have been complaining about heavy drinking and disturbances of the peace at night; so Bernadette Malgorn (former prefete of Ille et Vilaine) enforced the law and decided to close bars earlier. The result was that it drained all the people out at the same time, and created problems with the police for a few months. This is where associations, organizations and city hall intervened. The idea of opening concert halls and public places to occupy these young people by making play and games available gradually caught on. The concept, running during school time, is to propose four different free activities every Thursday during school time.
- Dazibao organized by the CRIJ Bretagne opened from 10pm to 3am, is a meeting place. Discover new people, new music, multimedia, fair trade products, etc.
- Bulles d'Art is the time to discover local bands in concert halls or in the café-spectacle. Full ticket is 5€ for under 25.
- The Nuit découvertes (from 10pm to 2am) is to create, taste, exchange, play, move, try games, improvisation, visual art, music.
- The Nuit du Sport (from 10pm to 3am) opportunity to try innovative or new sports (kin ball, peteca, ultimate, speedminton, etc.).
(annual stock sale) St Martin, autres, etonnante braderie de rennes
Festivals in Rennes
Travelling and Travelling Junior. It's Rennes Métropole movie festival. Traveling explores a culture focusing on a city every year. 20089 edition will focus on Jerusalem and will take place from January 31 to the February 10th. The date changed from year to year so be sure to cheque.
Mythos. It's the festival of the arts of word. Tales, stories, French songs.
Rock'n Solex. The oldest student festival of France. In 2007, it celebrated its 40th birthday. This festival is a mix of music and solexs race.
Les Tombées de la Nuit. It's an art festival where many spectacles take places in public places. Alternative, classic or traditional music, animations, expositions is the concept of that festival. It always take place the first week of July.
Quartiers d'été [dead link]. An outdoor festival organized by volunteer youngsters. Concerts, cinema, animations, games,... During the 3rd week of July.
Yaouank. 3rd weekend of November
Festivals in Bretagne
Art Rock -
Au pont du Rock - Last week end, in Malestroit (Morbihan).
Festival interceltique de Lorient [dead link]
- Base products:
- Half-salted butter (used in lots of local food, but also served on table and on bread slices at breakfast).
- Many fruits, including many local varieties of apples, pears, cherries, raspberries...
- Many vegetables, including multiple varieties of salads, carots, peas, green beans, white beans...
- Salted food:
- Galette (Breton salted crêpe made with buckwheat flour, locally named sarrasin, gluten-free).
- Galettes-saucisses (roasted pork sausage wrapped in a galette, typically sold outdoor as a fast-food on markets, and in festive and sportive events)
- Kig-ha-farz (traditional festive familial food with long and complex preparation in farms but found also in some restaurants)
- Châtaignes grillées (roasted chestnuts)
- Sweetened food:
- Crêpe (made with wheat flour, various featuring but the typical one is just with melted salted butter and granulated sugar: taste the "crêpe suzette", with melted butter, orange or lime juice and zests, and flammed with an alcolhol, generally Grand-Marnier, Curaçao or even a Breton Chouchen for the "crêpe chouchen" variant)
- Far Breton (soft and creamy buttered cake, featured with pruneaux, i.e. dried unpitted prunes)
- Kouign Amann (typical Breton cake, 100% pure butter, delicious !)
- Galettes et palets bretons (powdery crackers with salted butter)
- Quatre-quarts, or barre bretonne (soft cake, commonly served at breakfast or at end of afternoon)
- Caramels au beurre salé
- Lait ribot (half-fermented milk, also served with boiled chestnuts)
- Chouchen (alcohol based on fermented honey in apple cider) or Hydromel (alcohol based on fermented honey in water)
- Cidre (hard apple cider): traditionally non-sparkling (served with meats), but now more commonly sparkling with several flavors ("cidre bouché", typically served in crêperies with salted galettes and sweetened crêpes)
- Local cola brands: Breizh Cola (the most wellknown and most successful regional cola sold in France just second after a wellknown international brand), Britt Cola (flavoured with salted caramel, the third cola sold in Britanny), Human Cola (the first humanitary soft drink, formely named U.man Cola, the third cola sold in Britanny, initially brewed in Douarnenez, now distributed throughout France)
- There is a large shopping mall at Place du Colombier about 300m north west of the train station. The Metro stops there (Charles de Gaulle). C & A and Habitat are two of the stores that are in the mall.
- La Visitation is a new shopping mall located in the center close to Place Sainte Anne. You'll find two main stores; H&M and Saturn and some others. This little shopping mall links the Place Ste Anne to Place Hoche where is the law university.
- If you're looking for high budget shopping mall, les Galleries Lafayette located in the center on the quais (docks), almost Place de la République, are made for you. You'll find food, clothes, games, make-up, furniture, perfume, ...
- On the edge of the city you'll find other shopping malls where most of people buy food in big supermarkets. If this is what you're looking for, ask for centre Alma, centre commercial de Cleunay, Grand quartier, or centre commercial de Cesson-Sévigné.
- Rue d'Orléans and Rue le Bastard are two streets linking Place de la République to Place Sainte-Anne through Place de la Mairie. There are stores everywhere for everything!
- If you're looking for traveling books or maps, La Librairie du Voyage will be happy to help you. It's one of the few places you can find relevant information and qualified people.
- Rue Saint-Georges has innumerable creperies. This street has a certain olde world charm.
- Rue de Saint-Malo is the equivalent of Rue Saint-Michel but for restaurants. You'll find some nice "around the world" restaurants. Try the kebabs there. They are a Turkish food that, at only €5, are a cheap filling lunch if you happen to find one.
- Crêperie Sainte-Anne, 5 Place Sainte-Anne (métro Sainte-Anne, located next to "Crêperie de la Place"), ☎ . M-Sa 11:45-20:00. A very nice crêperie where you can also enjoy very good ice creams.
- Crêperie de la Place, 6 Place Sainte Anne (métro Sainte-Anne, very well located, just next "Crêperie Sainte-Anne"), ☎ . One of the best crêperies in Rennes: you can eat delicious galettes and crêpes at a cheap price.
- Boulangerie Hoche, 17 Rue Hoche, ☎ . This is one of the best bakeries in Rennes. It is a bit pricey though, so keep this in mind. But, if you are up for treating yourself, they have a great raspberry tart!
- Boulangerie La Fournée Saint-Michel, Place Sainte-Anne (métro Sainte-Anne). One of the few shops open in the city centre on a Sunday afternoon, they do a range of flavoured breads and reasonably priced desserts
- Le Fournil Vasselot, 13 Rue Vasselot (métro République), ☎ . Tu-Su 07:00-20:00. This is one of the best and famous bakeries in Rennes. Lot of breads, cakes, viennoiseries (probably the best buttered croissants in Rennes)
You won't be able to stay in most bars after 01:00, though some "night" bars close at 03:00 tops. It's the law, they have to close. So if you're inside one of them, and that you're really thirsty, think about ordering your drinks around 00:30 because it's likely they'll stop selling then. They'll ring a bell announcing last orders. So quickly get your last drinks!
- Barantic, 4 Rue Saint-Michel, ☎ . If you're a beer lover, this should be the place where to go. It has 18 draught beers with local and Belgian beers. You can also discover some saucisson (dried sausage). The best moment is during the afternoon, under the sun, in the middle of crowded terrasses, with your favorite beer and your saucisson.
- Couleur Café, 27 Rue Legraverend (north of Place Sainte-Anne), ☎ . Specialized in Guinness Book of Records cocktails (more than 2,000 types) and rum.
- Funky Munky, 37 rue Saint-Melaine (near an entrance for the Thabor park). A cool vodka/cocktail bar. Drinks are relatively cheap - the more you buy, the cheaper it gets. The bar serves 30 flavors of vodka, numerous cocktails (including a Long Island Iced Tea, Cosmos, Sex on the Beach, and a delicious drink called a Purple Turtle), and a few beers on tap or in bottles. The bar hosts a poetry slam every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month, and a quiz night every Monday from about 20:00 on. he bartender (and owner) speaks French and English, so don't worry about having to speak perfect French.
- Haricot Rouge, 10 Rue Baudrairie (on a street north of the Place de la République), ☎ . With a smoother feeling, serving hot chocolate and having board games.
- Jardin Moderne, 11 Rue du Manoir de Servigné (ZI Route de Lorient), ☎ . Mostly a music hall, not a bar.
- Le Sablier, 70 Rue Jean Guéhenno (at the crossing of Rue Jean Guéhenno and Boulevard Duchesse-Anne and therefore a bit outside of the city center), ☎ . A bar famous for the concerts there at a time, it is also an excellent place to have lunch.
- O'Connell's Irish Pub, 7 Place du Parlement, ☎ . Very popular Irish pub. Ask anyone and I'm sure someone will point you in the right direction. St. Patrick's Day at this place is insane - the pub becomes packed to capacity. Same rules apply for any big sporting events. Monday nights 19:00-23:00 and Thursday nights from 19:00-close are happy hour. A pint of beer/stout/ale is €4 (and in some cases, less) during happy hour - just check the little posters up on the walls at the bar (or ask the bartenders, they're all very friendly and most, if not all, of them are anglophones). Not only do the anglophones love this place, but the French do too.
- Westport Inn, 36 Rue de Dinan (down the street from Place des Lices), ☎ . Another Irish pub. It's smaller, but it's got an authentic feel to it, and the drinks are slightly cheaper than at O'Connell's. But, according to the sign on the window, you're not allowed to bring in nuclear weapons, so if you're packing, go elsewhere :)
- L'Artiste Assoiffé.
- Le Bateau Ivre.
- Le Mille Potes, 4 Boulevard de la Liberté, ☎ . A quiet place at the end of the afternoon, with a large choice of beers and vines. You can find in that bar people who practice Latin dances, contribute to Wikimedia projects, "remix" museums or libraries, enjoy soccer, etc. There are regular concerts with nice bands and special events for foreigners.
- L'Heure du Jeu, 11 Boulevard Magenta (near Les Champs Libres), ☎ . You like games, card games, board games or just playing? L'heure du jeu ("time for playing") have 1,000 of them! Good and quite a must brunch on some Sundays mornings (you have to call for a reservation).
Those are bars that have an extended closing time of 03:00. There are bouncers for some of them.
- La Contrescarpe.
- La Place.
- Le Cactus.
- Mondo Bizarro. The punk rock place to be.
- L'Espace. Gay-friendly.
- Le Stanley.
- Youth Hostel. 10, Canal St Martin. This is found in a pleasant area by the canal run by friendly staff. You have to be a member of the YHA which will cost €7 for a years membership. The hostel itself is priced at €20,35.
- campsite. The at Rennes is rather large. To get there, take the number 3 bus, and get off at the Piscine/Gayeulles stop. The neighbouring park has much to offer, including an ice rink, a pool and sports facilities.
- Many hotels can be found Place de la gare, and on the avenue Jean Janvier going northward from the north exit of the train station.
- It is fairly easy to travel in France, therefore it would be clever to take advantage of the beautiful cities and coastal scenery in Bretagne (Fougères, Dinan, Vannes, Carnac, Lorient, Guidel, Finistère, Vitré,...).
- Saint-Malo, a wonderful coastal town on the English Channel, is only 45 minutes by the TGV and usually costs less than €10. Buses are also available for cheaper but take a bit longer.