Rennes is the capital of the Brittany region, and it is an excellent spot to explore the northern French culture. Thanks to a history dating back to the Roman era, Rennes has no shortage of great things to do and stunning places to visit.
With some lush gardens and parks that give the city a tranquil ambiance, Rennes is one of the best places you could go to for a thrilling vacation full of wonderful memories. With so many amazing things to do in the city, here are some of our finest recommendations to the top things to do and see in the city of Rennes.
Parlement de Bretagne
One of the iconic touristic attractions of the Rennes is the breathtaking building of the Parlement de Bretagne (Parliament of Brittany). The magnificent building housed the parliament until the French Revolution. Not letting such a piece of art go to waste, the house is still functioning until today as it houses the Rennes’ Court of Appeal. The Parlement de Bretagne building is a perfect background to some memorable stories and photos…You just can’t miss it!
Parc du Thabor
Situated at the northeast corner of Rennes, the Parc du Thabor, or “Central Park of Rennes,” as the locals call it, covers around ten hectares. Probably one of the best gardens you may ever see, the Parc du Thabor is a mixture of a French garden, an English garden, a rose garden with more than 2,000 varieties of roses, and so much more. The park also has lovely playgrounds for the children, so a visit to the park will be fun for the whole family.
In case you are looking for a more thrilling activity than just relaxing and enjoying the view, then you can go for a nice long walk or run at the park’s 1.5 km long running track. As for the music lovers, in the summer, the park holds music and dance shows hosted in the music kiosk and the sylvan theatre every Sunday.
There is also the Mythos Festival which is hosted at the Parc du Thabor every year, and if you make it to Rennes around the festival’s time, you have to attend, you will have so much fun!
Taking you back to the enchanting old-world, the Rennes Cathedral is a beautiful piece of neoclassical architecture that was built in 1845. The cathedral has a distinguished exterior that is matched by the stunning Italian- inspired design inside.
Rennes Cathedral has some astonishing stained-glass windows too. Being Roman Catholic, there is also a Roman altar with rich decorations and paintings, in addition to the famous Grand Organ, which was created by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, France’s 19th-century organ-maker par excellence. The visit to the cathedral is a must-do while in the city of Rennes.
How About Something Different…..How About Opéra!
Resting on Rennes’s most gorgeous square, the Town Hall square of Rennes (Place de l’Hôtel de Ville), the Opera House is a historical monument and a landmark of the square. The opera house was built in 1836, and it was made in a round shape to fit the curved shape of the Town Hall.
We recommend going at night to enjoy the spectacular view of the opera house being light up…. It is so charming. Also, one of the top things to do while visiting Rennes is attending a performance at the opera, but make sure to plan ahead and book in advance as the opera has close to 100% attendance most of the time.
Les Champs Libres
Adding a modern twist into the old-world, Les Champs Libres is Rennes’ cultural center, and it is full of fun things to do. Inside you will find the Musée de Bretagne, which, through a rich collection of objects, brings a presentation of Rennes from prehistory to nowadays. There is also the Science Centre and its planetarium, in addition to an extensive 6-story library.
The building’s glass facade will give you a one-of-a-kind view of the city of Rennes. Make sure to pay Les Champs Libres a visit; you won’t regret it.
Although Rennes’ old walls have been torn down, you can still see bits and pieces of them here and there. One of these pieces is Porte Mordelaise, which is a 15th-century gatehouse. The charming gate used to be the entrance into the city in old times, and ceremonial processions would start there back then as well.
La Vilaine à Rennes
You can’t make it to the city of Rennes without going to enjoy the incredible view of the Vilaine river. The river crosses the city from one side to the other. The Vilaine riversides are the perfect location to go for a long walk by the river, or you can go with your bike and enjoy the 45-kilometers cycling route alongside the fantastic view of the river. You can also rent a canoe, paddle, or barge and have a nice trip across the Vilaine river.
In the Presence of King Arthur
Setting 18 miles west of Rennes, Brocéliande forest, AKA forest of Paimpont, is the home of many famous legends and stories. The renowned forest is all that remains of the great forest that once covered ancient inland, Brittany. The forest is rumored to be the location of mythical Brocéliande, the forest of King Arthur.
If you are into sports activities, then we highly recommend going for a long walk in the forest it would be perfect for you and your family as well. A visit to the Brocéliande forest is one of the best things to do while you are at Rennes.
Essé – La Roche aux Fées
Reminding us of those stones we see on the TV series Outlander, the Essé – La Roche aux Fées (The Fairies Rock) is only 40 minutes away from Rennes, and the site definitely deserves the visit. The site is France’s biggest dolmen and Europe’s best-preserved dolmen. The Essé – La Roche aux Féesit is famous for its 40 stone blocks, which some of which weigh more than 40 tons.
The legend says that Essé – La Roche aux Fées was built by the Viviane Fairy and other fairies. Speaking of legends, there is a legend saying that if you are a couple, turn around the monument, each of you in a different direction, and then count the stones; if the two of you find the same number, then your relationship is meant to last!
Place des Lices Market
If you are at Rennes on a Sunday, then don’t miss the chance to go to France’s second-largest food market, “Place des Lices.” Besides its terrific location and being lined by large half-timbered houses, you will also find around 300 local producers selling vegetables, fruits, meat, fresh fish, and cheese nearby the market.
The market has been a crucial part of the lives of Rennes’ visitors and locals as well for four centuries. We recommend buying some food from the market; you will find high-quality food at great prices.
Another park to add to your places to visit while in Rennes is the Parc Oberthür. Setting in the middle of Rennes, the Parc Oberthür was actually François-Charles Oberthür’s, founder of the Oberthür printing house, private park.
With a size of more than three hectares, the park was turned into a public one in 1960. Along with enjoying the view and snapping some relaxing photos, the park also is a great place to enjoy its woodland with cedars, sequoias, oaks, beech trees, and stunning lawns edged by paths.
While it may seem a small city, but Rennes is full of amazing things to do for you and your children. Between its splendid scenery and long list of great places to visit, Rennes is a city that has something for everyone.