20 Things To Do In Rennes

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Rennes, the capital of Brittany, is a beautiful and enticing city that seamlessly blends history and culture. The city has an eclectic atmosphere throughout. From its medieval cobblestone streets to its art deco architecture and lively cafe culture, it is impossible to not get swept up in the buzz of the city. There are also plenty of family friendly restaurants, markets, museums and shops to further add to the city’s allure. Despite its increasingly youthful and modern atmosphere, the city is proud of its heritage. Rennes is filled with medieval architecture with many half-timbered houses and 18th century palaces and mansions to admire.

One of the best landmarks of 18th-century architecture is Place du Parliament. Contrasting with these examples of historical architecture are the modern city landmarks including its futuristic train station. The city is a popular destination for arts and culture with many excellent arts museums visit the Fine Arts Museum with its La Tour and Rubens collections, or explore more modern works of art at Regional Contemporary Art Fund. Whether you are in Rennes for art, culture, music or food, you are bound to find something you love about the city. Let yourself be enticed and excited by its atmosphere, and explore these 20 things to do in Rennes.

Rennes, France

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20 Things To Do In Rennes

1- Explore The Historical Centre

Old Architecture In Rennes
Exploring the historic centre is one of the things to do in Rennes.

Step back in time and take a walk through Rennes’ historical centre.

Located inside the old city walls, the historical centre of Rennes is the perfect blend of culture and entertainment, with plenty of history to go round.

The historical centre has narrow cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered houses, often featuring bold colourful timbers and overflowing flower boxes.

There are many excellent historical locations in the centre including the picturesque Place du Champ-Jacquet.


This pretty square is lined with stunning buildings and sculptures dating from the 19th century.

Rennes Historical Centre is at 35000 Rennes.

2- Visit Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes

Notre-Dame-En-Saint-Melaine Church In Rennes
Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes is one of the things to see in Rennes.

One of the most beautiful and architecturally significant buildings in Rennes is Cathedral Saint-Pierre de Rennes.

The cathedral has always stood on consecrated ground, having replaced the former chapel during the 12th century.

The cathedral tower and western facade of this Gothic masterpiece collapsed in 1490, however thankfully they narrowly missed the fire that tore through the city in 1720.

The current cathedral was taken on as a project by Louis XV during the 1760s.

Nicolas Marie Potain was tasked with redesigning the cathedral in its original style, with work finally completing in 1844.

The cathedral is imposing, with two 48m (157ft) high towers, many coats of arms displayed both inside and out, and granite columns throughout.

Cathedral Saint-Pierre de Rennes is at Rue de la Monnaie, 35000 Rennes.

3- Admire The Mordelaises Gates

Another excellent historical site in Rennes are the Mordelaises Gates.

The gates are ancient, dating from 1440, and were used to define the limitations of the city as part of its walls.

The gates are Gothic in style and are formed of two large towers with a small entry way in between that would have once been connected by drawbridge.

It is believed by locals that on departing the city walls for battles, soldiers would take their oath before the gatehouse, as they believed it would bring them luck and fortune while away from home.

Mordelaises Gates is at 6 Rue des Portes Mordelaises, 35000 Rennes.

4- Learn Something New At The Science Centre

One of the best things to do in Rennes for families or those interested in space and science is to visit the Science Centre.

The centre has many interactive and hands on exhibits to educate visitors on scientific elements of our world and beyond.

There are many scientific talks held daily, experiments to participate in, laboratories and exhibitions including those focusing on the human body, electricity, space and engineering.

Inside the centres planetarium there are many shows telling the story of space, the creation of the Earth, and what is beyond our solar system.

Science Centre is at 10 Cr des Alliés, 35000 Rennes.

5- Dine At The Traditional Café Breton

Enjoy the best of traditional French cuisine set in inviting surroundings at Café Breton.

Marie-Joséphine and Emeric, two local sommeliers, founded the restaurant in collaboration with chef Maxence Roux.

Together they have created a truly special dining experience that has a friendly and welcoming nature that elevates the already exquisite dishes offered.

The portions are known to be generous, with the menu changing regularly as Roux takes advantage of the local produce offered by the city’s markets.

Prices are reasonable, with an excellent lunch menu offering a delicious choice of starters, mains and deserts.

Café Breton is at 14 Rue Nantaise, 35000 Rennes.

6- Explore Place de l’Hôtel de Ville

Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is the town hall square of Rennes and is a beautiful place to stop to watch the world go by, or to being in tour day in this exciting city.

The city is home to two of the most famous landmarks in the city; the Town Hall and the Opera House.

Rennes Town Hall was built in 1720 following a devastating citywide fire.

Inside the town hall is a monument to those who have lost their lives fighting for France across the centuries in the style of a Pantheon.

Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is at 35000 Rennes.

7- Discover The Parliament Of Brittany

Parliament Of Brittany In Rennes
Visiting the Parliament Of Brittany is one of the things to do in Rennes.

The Parliament of Brittany was constructed between 1615 and 1655 and initially served as a palace.

Salomon de Brossee, an architect who also designed the Luxembourg in Paris, designed the sprawling residence.

Following the French Revolution, the palace became the seat of the appeal court and the Parliament of Brittany in 1804.

Inside the Parliament building are four gold statues depicting Law, Force, Eloquence and Justice.

When visiting the building admire the Grand Chamber with its intricate historical paintings covering the walls and the ceilings.

The Parliament building is open daily to visit, however it is closed on weekends.

Parliament of Brittany is at Pl. du Parlement de Bretagne, 35000 Rennes.

8- Relax In Thabor Park

Admire the green lush beauty of Thabor Park, an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The gardens were originally built in 1610 and were once part of the Saint Melanie Abbey.

Situated on the highest hill in Rennes, the park also offers excellent views down towards the city.

It was opened to the public towards the end of the 18th century and became an immediate hit with locals.

The gardens are filled with beautiful and seasonal flowers, a fragrant rose garden and many leafy trees.

Thabor Park also has waterfalls and waterways adding to the vastly tranquil and peaceful feeling of the park.

Thabor Park is at Pl. Saint-Mélaine, 35000 Rennes.

9- See The Collections At Musée des Beaux-Arts

The existence of the Musée des Beaux-Arts has the French Revolution to thank for its existence.

Founded in 1794, the museum owes much of its collections to the works of art seized from many religious and civil buildings and works donated by the President of the Parliament of Brittany.

The museum has an extensive collection of European artworks and sculptures including those from Ancient Egypt and Greece.

Among the most famous works of art in the museum are a collection of drawings from Leonardo da Vinci and prints by Rembrandt.

Musée des Beaux-Arts is at 20 Quai Emile Zola, 35000.

10- Cruise The River Vilaine

Barge On The Vilaine
River Vilaine things to do in Rennes.

The River Vilaine runs for 137 kilometres (85 miles) across Brittany and flows directly through the historical centre of the city.

The river for a time was neglected, however a campaign by city residents has led to the area surrounding the river being dramatically regenerated to revitalise the area.

The river now has an elegant floating garden that offers a tranquil escape in the city, and a floating ecosystem to encourage wildlife such as bees and butterflies into the area.

Take to the water on river cruise for a relaxing way to explore the city and take in the sights.

11- Duchesne Tower

Tower In Rennes Le Chateau
Visiting Duchesne Tower is one of the things to do in Rennes.

A must-visit historical landmark in Rennes is Duchesne Tower, which was built in the 15th century and is a part of the old city walls and defence systems.

Duchesne Tower takes its name from the first inhabitant of the tower, John du Chesne, a doorman of the city.

The tower is an important historical site in the city, and was named as a historic monument in 1944.

Duchesne Tower is at 10 Rue Nantaise, 35000 Rennes.

12- La Place des Lices

If you are visiting Rennes on a Saturday, arrive early and head to Place des Lices.

The picturesque square is surrounded by traditional half-timbered houses and is the home to the second largest food market in France.

Around 300 food sellers descend on the square each week selling local fruits and vegetables, fish, homemade condiments, wines and of course traditional pastries.

As you enjoy the market, be sure to sample as much as possible while perusing where to stop for lunch.

Place des Lices is at 35000.

13- Palace Of Saint George

An excellent and historical thing to do in Rennes is to visit the Palace of Saint George.

Built in 1670 as an abbey residence, the palace was forced to shut during the French Revolution.

Following its seizure by the government, it was used as a temporary barracks.

The palace was registered as a historical monument, and its formerly destroyed stone cross was replaced and reinstated in the 1970s to ensure its religious history was not lost.

The ground floor of the palace features high arches resting on granite pillars, large windows letting in plenty of natural light, and a carefully manicured typical French garden.

Palace of Saint George is at 2 Rue Gambetta, 35000 Rennes.

14- Écomusée de la Bintinais

Écomusée de la Bintinais is housed in the former House of Restraint and documents 5 centuries of history from the city and its local area.

The permanent exhibitions at the museum document the earliest days of the city, from its medieval roots right up to the 20th century,

There are many interactive exhibitions inside the museum and plenty of historical artefacts.

An audiovisual show helps visitors absorb the history of the city in an exciting way before stepping out into rooms designed to reflect both farmers and nobility, showcasing the difference in their everyday lives.

Écomusée de la Bintinais is at Route de Châtillom-Sur-Seiche, 35200 Rennes.

15- Try Galette-Saucisse

French Sausage At Street Market
Tasting Galette-Saucisse is one of the best things to do in Rennes for foodies.

What better way to experience a city than by indulging in its speciality dishes.

For Rennes, the galette-saucisse is a must-try dish.

Galette-saucisse is a tasty grilled sausage wrapped tightly in a buckwheat crepe known as a galette.

The dish originated in the 19th century, combining two of the most popular foods from a Rennes.

Poor families would substitute bread for the traditional galette as the flour was cheaper.

Today the traditional and tasty snack can be found across the city, from football stadiums and street food stalls, to restaurants serving traditional dishes.

16- Seek Out Rare Books In Librairie Le Failler

Librairie Le Failler is a must-visit bookshop in Rennes for lovers of literature, old books and cosy atmospheres.

The bookshop is the oldest in the city, and is due to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2025.

The ship offers a wide variety of books including those for university students, foreign language books, comics and history books.

Regular book signings, talks and literary events are also held at the bookshop.

Librairie Le Failler is at 8-14 Rue Saint-Georges, 35000 Rennes.

17- Rennes Opera House

Rennes Opera House is a great place to visit during a trip to Rennes.

Charles Millardet designed the opera house while Pierre Louise built it.

Building was incomplete in 1836 in a traditional Italian style and rotunda.

The opera house was badly damaged in a fire in 1856 however it was rebuilt in accordance with the original plans.

The opera house has plush red velvet seating, touches of gold adorning the intricate plasterwork and a large circular fresco on the ceiling.

Considered a cultural institution within the city, the opera house puts on a variety of performances throughout the year including a dedicated family friendly program and a musical festival each year aimed at encouraging young people to get involved with music.

Rennes Opera House is at Pl. de la Mairie, 35000 Rennes.

18- Brittany Museum

Museum Of Rennes, Satirical Subject
Visiting the Brittany Museum is one of the best things to do in Rennes France to learn more about the past.

Dedicated to the history of the region, the Brittany Museum is a great thing to do when in the city.

The museum is based on many important historical works of art and artefacts that were seized during the French Revolution before being put on display.

The museum currently has a staggering 600,000 objects on display, including a vast quantity of photos and negatives.

One of the largest collections at the museum relate to Alfred Dreyfus and his trial in 1899, featuring more than 6000 items of personal tokens and letters.

Dreyfus, a French artillery officer of Jewish origin, was tried and convicted of treason, however was later exonerated.

The museum tells the story of his life and the process of the French legal system at the time.

Brittany Museum is at 10 Cr des Alliés, 35000 Rennes.

19- Les Champs Libres

Les Champs Libres is a cultural centre in the heart of the city that houses the Science Centre, Museum of Brittany and the city library.

Christinan de Portzamparc designed the unique concrete structure which opened in 2006.

The centre aims to bring culture and knowledge to as many people as possible through each of its unique areas of focus.

Visit the library and experience 6 storeys set inside a grand pyramid structure filled with books, documents and digital services, displayed alongside heritage collections.

The Museum of Brittany is the perfect destination to uncover more about the history of the region, while the Science Centre opens up minds to the wider world and beyond.

Les Champs Libres is at 10 Cr des Alliés, 35000 Rennes.

20- Parc Hamelin Oberthur

Another beautiful and relaxing destination in Rennes is Parc Hamelin Oberthur, a calming botanical garden close to the city centre.

The botanical garden was initially a private garden.

Charles Oberthur wanted to create a relaxing and inviting garden space for his wife Marie.

Denis Bühler designed the gardens with work completing in 1864.

The park was taken over by the city in 1960 and was opened to the public.

Across the garden are many species of birds enjoying the ponds and sheltered trees.

Expect to see ducks, magpies and sparrows, and in the waters turtles and colourful carp.

The park has more than 375 trees including Atlas Cedar, Bald Cypress and Ginkgo trees,

Enjoy a fragrant walk through the flowerbeds and pause to take in the sweetness of magnolia trees and giant rhododendron bushes.

Parc Hamelin Oberthur is at 82 Rue de Paris, 35000 Rennes.

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Sarah Holmes
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.