Rennes

Rennes: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Published: October 14, 2022

Brittany is a region with a strong identity but with unclear boundaries. Nantes, the capital of the Dukes of Brittany, was assigned to a different region, therefore Rennes is the current capital of the administrative region. The structure of the centre of Rennes is mainly the result of the reconstruction after the great fire of 1720.

01. City Hall

After the fire of 1720, the king of France’s architect was commissioned to design the new city hall, like a symbol of integration with the rest of the country. The two wings are separated by a clock tower. In the past, one part was also used by the university. In front of the building there is a large square, the venue for public gatherings.

02. Opera

The Rennes Opera House is located opposite the City Hall, on the other side of the large central square. Although it was built later, the convex shape of its rounded front seems to respond to the concave line of the city hall. Desired for reasons of prestige, the opera house participates in the city’s cultural policy, notably through open-air performances.

03. Mordelaise Gate

This is the main gateway to the old walled city. The origin of the wall dates back to the 3rd century and it has been reinforced and extended several times since the Romans. Situated a bit away from the city centre, an effort has been made to highlight it and the barbican that precedes it. The drawbridge was even reinstalled in 1997.

04. Cathedral

The Mordelaise Gate has long led to the city’s main sanctuary. This is where the Gothic cathedral was built in the 12th century, which collapsed. In its place the classical façade was built in the 17th century, and the nave was finally rebuilt in the 19th century. A beautiful altarpiece carved in Antwerp in 1520 is displayed in the Cathedral Treasury.

05. St. George’s Palace

This impressive facade was originally an abbey built in 1670, which became a barracks during the Revolution and was badly damaged by fire in 1921. Rebuilt and modernised, the building is now home to the municipal services as well as the fire brigade and police. Its well-kept garden is open to the public.

06. Brittany Parliament

Initially an assembly of Breton nobles, the Parliament became an institution of the French monarchy, abolished during the Revolution. The Court House was established in this building, which was begun in 1618. In 1994 it was accidentally burnt down during a fishermen’s demonstration. It was then rebuilt identically, embodying the permanence of the State and the pride of Brittany.

07. Place des Lices market

Situated just outside the old city walls, the Place des Lices was used for equestrian jousting tournaments. More than four centuries ago, the market was temporarily installed there. Every Saturday morning the market sells both seafood and agricultural products from a region known for its rural traditions. Nowadays, the market is increasingly used for on-site catering.

08. Half-timbered houses

The old half-timbered houses are one of the main sights in the centre of Rennes. Despite the fire of 1720, some of them survived, while others were rebuilt in stone. Thus the Place du Champ-Jacquet has a fine group of them dating from the 17th century. The statue of Jean Leperdit, honours a mayor known for his moderation during the Revolution.

09. Thabor Park

The Parc du Thabor covers some ten hectares and was created from the estate of a Benedictine abbey. The park has been laid out in several distinct areas, including a beautiful botanical garden. There are also some animals and a waterfall, the orangery has been partly transformed into an exhibition area, and a kiosk allows open-air concerts.

10. Confluence Garden

At the confluence of the Ille and Vilaine rivers, outside the city centre, several recent buildings give a modern look to the area. A small garden aims to reinstate endemic plants in the heart of the city. There are anglers and ducks, and pedal boats, kayaks and electric boats can be hired nearby.

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13 comments

    • It’s true that Rennes wasn’t really a tourist destination, Brittany is more attractive for the coast. But with the development of the bullet train network, there has been an increase in city breaks in the major cities. Great efforts are therefore being made to attract visitors while offering a better living environment to the inhabitants. Thank you for reading.

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  1. Thanks to the French central government over the years but Nantes is part of Brittany already with the Breton flag in city hall and determine to be re attach officially. Rennes is the parliament of Brittany and Nantes the castle of the dukes! It is left once reunited who will be the capital! Cheers or as we say Kenavo!

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  2. I enjoyed this look at yet another place in France I knew nothing about. Rennes looks lovely, I like how the two flanking sides of the city hall look like actual “wings” and not just the wings of a building. No wonder the half timbered houses are a main draw, they seem just as impressive as some of the ones I saw across England earlier this year. St. George’s Palace is a winner too, very very handsome. How long would you say one would need to really “do Rennes” at a leisurely pace of exploring?

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    • This attraction we have for half-timbered houses is not really rational. Initially they were cheap constructions compared to houses built in stone. Cheap also means not looking for aesthetics, just cheap and functional. For Rennes, it is possible to see all the places I show in the same day. Going from one to the other you would also see the rest that is interesting to know. Then a second day for the museums, but if the weather is good it is difficult to spend a day indoors.

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