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Rennes, Brittany’s captivating capital city

Rennes, Brittany’s capital, in the east of the region, makes an ideal short break destination.

What to see and do in Rennes

The vibrant university city of Rennes, Brittany’s administrative capital, has medieval streets in the Instagram-worthy old town. It also has one of the largest Saturday-morning markets in France. You’ll find it in the Place des Lices, once used for jousting.

To the east of the old town are the Thabor Gardens, which were created in the 1860s on the site of the orchard of St Mélaine abbey. The public gardens are laid out over 24 acres and include a French garden, English garden, lawns, aviary, children’s area and noted botanical garden with round 3,000 species of plant. The gardens regularly host outdoor events in summer.

No trip to Rennes would be complete without visiting one of its museums. The Musée de Bretagne, housed in the futuristic Champs Libres building, recounts Brittany’s history and culture from prehistoric times. You can even listen to Breton, the local language, being spoken.

Main sites of interest in Rennes

The Mordelaise gates, the Duchesne tower (15th century).

The Palais du Parlement de Bretagne. A century of construction (1618-1709) and today one of Brittany’s finest buildings. It was designed by the architect of the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris.

The town mansions (17th to 19th centuries)

Many half-timbered houses (15th to 17th centuries)

The royal Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (town hall square – 18th century) and the royal Place du Parlement de Bretagne (18th century).

The opera house (19th century), Saint-Georges palace (17th century) and Saint-Georges swimming pool (1925).

The chapel of Saint-Yves (15th century): permanent exhibition ‘Rennes, Town of Art and History’.

What to see and do near Rennes

Bécherel, northwest of Rennes is a must visit for any French-speaking lovers of literature, it’s what’s known as a “Book Town”.

Enjoy cháteau life at the nearby Cháteau des Pères. At the heart of the 31-hectare contemporary sculpture park lies the Château. Mix Culture and gastronomy and its Tables des Pères restaurant run by Jérôme Jouadé, an ode to local, natural cuisine.

The Landes de Cojoux, south of Rennes is Brittany’s second largest megalithic site. To the west of the village of Saint-Just is a collection of stone structures that are unique in Europe.

Enjoy a wander at the Forest of Brocéliande about 30K (18 miles) west of Rennes. The Forest of Paimpont is all that remains of the vast woodlands which once covered ancient inland Brittany AKA Argoat. Legend has it that this is the location of mythical Brocéliande, the Forest of King Arthur.

Visit Châteaugiron at the gateway to Rennes and one of France’s Small Towns of Character. There’s an 11th century medieval castle, half-timbered houses built for merchants, domestic wash-houses and a nature trail around La Glaume marsh.

Travelling to Rennes. It’s an hour and a half from Paris-Montparnasse by TGV. By car it’s an hour from Saint Malo and less than an hour and about two and a half hours from Roscoff.

By Gillian Green

Find out more at Brittany Tourism

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