Rennes is the capital of Normandy, a unique region of France that was founded in the Gallo-Roman period of French history. If you have ever seen a cartoon about Asterix and Obelix, you can have a rough idea of what this city might look like: solid wooden houses, paving stones on the roads and narrow streets. Let’s see what else can be discovered in the modern Rennes.
1. Take a promenade around the old city
The face of the old town is medieval. It was built in the Gallo-Roman period when the city was small and surrounded by the forest. The people used local wood for construction of their houses and it is big luck that they have been preserved until our days. Walking around the old city center, you might stumble on old houses from 15th or 18th centuries!
2. Music Festival Trans
It is a legendary and key music event of Normandy and France. Trans is held in December (Dec 5 – Dec 9). If you happen to visit Rennes in wintertime, come and get surprised! You will not see well-known names in the shortlist of the festival. Its principle is based on novelty. Trans intends to evoke public curiosity. This original musical project hosts young groups, artists famous for experimentation with sound and foreign musicians who are in France for the first time. Started by a bunch of friends jamming, it gradually opened to a variety of musical genres. Whenever you enjoy jazz, rap, world music, folk, electro, hip-hop or techno, this festival is a must for the sound admirers.
3. Cathedrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes
Cathedrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes is a prominent cultural monument of Rennes, where you can discover historical treasures of the restored cathedral, such as pipe organ, the Roman high altar, stunning paintings, and extraordinary vaults. Rennes Cathedral was rebuilt within the 16th and 19th centuries. It was restored between 2009 and 2014. The Cathedral served as scenery for significant moments of French and Breton history, such as the inauguration of Breton dukes and duchesses. Come and admire the interior decoration of the Cathedral: plasterwork, chandeliers, and gilding of the building that was designed as an echo of a Roman basilica.
4. Parc du Thabor
Parc du Thabor is a perfect place for a silent stroll if you became tired of history and monuments. Thabor garden is considered to be one of the most beautiful parks in France. As you enjoy the romantic atmosphere of an elegant garden, don’t overlook the roses. There are roses that have seen more than you! They were planted in the 19th century and still amuse the eyes of the garden’s visitors. Thabor garden used to be the garden of Saint-Melaine Benedictine Abbey’s monks. It was modernized and rehabilitated by Denis Bühler, a famous landscape artist of 19th-century. Ten hectares of vegetation embrace an English park, French gardens, a cave, a bird sanctuary, a bandstand and a rose garden accommodating over 2000 varieties!
5. Creperie la Sarrasine
It is a good place to taste local crepes. Most of the creperies in Rennes are good. Crepes are not extraordinarily difficult to make, so you can’t really be wrong in choosing a place to eat out. Creperie la Sarrasine is a good place to try the local variety of crepes – galette a la saucisse. It is basically, a Nordic variety of crepes – crepes with sausage. Simple, but tasty and suitable for cold weather. The service at la Sarrasine was very friendly and there is a variety of delicious food. Anyone who enjoys local cuisine and a good galette should check this place out.
6. The Parliament of Brittany
A major architectural monument of the 17th century, it is actually one of the few places where tourism and justice can coexist with the guided visits. The Parliament is one of the most significant heritage buildings in Brittany. Being one of the most important symbols of Breton history, it is at the same time, the seat of the regional appeal court. The Parliament of Brittany is a symbol of independence of the region. Its historical significance attracts crowds of tourists from the whole country every year.
7. La Maison du Parfum
La Maison du Parfum or La Maison Orso is a small, but a cozy shop that will guide you in the world of perfumes and aromas of Normandy. Situated in the old city center (2 Leperdit str.), La Maison du Parfum is a very atmospheric place. The consultants are ready to tell the history of each aroma and lead you through the history of French perfume-making with such beautiful stops as Charlotte Simone, Aèsop, Rodin Olio Lusso, Cire Trudon, Maison Michel, Crème de la Mer, Kilian, Santa Maria Novella.
8. Festival du Roi Arthur
A unique event that takes place in August, it is a platform for the discovery of young artists and performers. The festival is held at Bréal-sous-Montfort, a small town in the province. It takes just 30 mins to drive there and the tickets are super cheap. If you happen to travel to Rennes at the end of August, include this activity to your to-do list.
9. Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts has both permanent and temporal expositions of old and contemporary artists. The collections of this museum vary from ancient Egypt antiquities to the period of Modern art. The variety of collections make this museum one of the most significant in France, mostly for its drawings and paintings. You can visit the museum for free every first Sunday of the month.
10. Take a promenade on the banks of Vilaine River
This small river is a part of the canal system of Brittany. You can take a nice promenade along the river’s banks, but it is even better to rent a boat and navigate its channels. With its sublime gradient, the Vilaine river became one of the pioneer rivers in France that were canalized. Some of the flash locks and weirs were constructed back in 1540! You can rent a boat, navigate the waters of Vilaine and explore the beauty of its canals. Don´t forget to use waterway navigation maps. It is highly recommended that they include large-scale maps of the entire route with moorings, hazards, locks, bridges, depths and other useful information.