Rennes France is often touted as the best place to live in Europe. The reason? A youthful population of students (more than a quarter of all residents), a focus on green spaces, preserving local history and quality nightlife. Not to mention the wide array of fantastic cafes, bars and restaurants on offer here. There are also great opportunities for day trips including the world-famous Mont St Michel and Saint-Malo.
Rennes is a must-visit for any backpackers exploring cities in France. In this article, we discuss all the best things to see and do in Rennes, France.
Marche des Lices
When you visit Rennes, each Saturday morning you will be treated to one of the biggest and best markets in the whole of France. Place des Lices is the largest of the 20 different markets held here in Rennes, offering thousands of local goods including foods, artisanal bread, cheese, sweets, flowers, and handcrafted goods.
This market is steeped in history and has been an institution of Rennes since the year 1662! Look out for some of the local delicacies too, including galette-saucisse, a sausage wrapped in a buckwheat crêpe and Rennes own local cider. The Place des Lices market is held each Saturday between 7.30 am – 1.30 pm and includes over 300 producers. Do not miss this!
Parc du Thabor
Up upon the tallest hill in this French city, you will find the spectacular Parc du Thabor. Quite possibly the most beautiful garden you will ever visit. Summer is the best time to visit Rennes when you can see over 2,000 species of rose bloom here amongst the lush green of the gardens.
Backpackers will enjoy roaming this green space, it’s a fantastic activity for any backpackers on a budget. The gardens are also quite romantic too; perfect for a couple’s day out or if you meet a nice French local on your trip.
additionally, the Parc du Thabor is the former garden of the monks of Saint-Melaine Benedictine Abbey but was redesigned by the famous landscape artists, Denis Bühler in the 19th century. Each year, there are two five-week periods in which gardeners replant over 60,000 plants here. Parc du Thabor is a must-see for visitors visiting Rennes, France.
Creperie La Rozell
La Rozell is the iconic creperie shop of Rennes, it is famous and for very good reason. The crepes here are literally to die for and should not be missed by backpackers traveling through the city of Rennes. La Rozelle has been making and selling crep
es here for nearly 4 decades so they know a thing or two about good crepes. There are two expert chefs at La Rozell who go by the names of French and Meriadec, their sole mission is to provide customers with a taste of Breton terroir. Rozell also now offers a variety of cakes and even a brunch menu.
The creperie is open Wednesday to Saturday 9 am – 11 pm and Sunday to Tuesday at 10 am – 10 pm. Crepes are sold all day. Maybe this is the reason people say Rennes is the best place to live!
Rennes France Musée des Beaux-Arts
Shortly after the revolution, cities in France started to open regional museums usually displaying pieces took from either wealthy stately homes or religious buildings in the area. The Musée des Beaux-Arts is not an exception, displaying a number of fascinating pieces from Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.
In particular, do not miss the collection from the ex-Brittany politician, Christophe-Paul de Robien. The art galleries here span all the way back to the 13th century to the present day so visitors have many pieces to explore and learn about. Some key artists to look out for include Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci. You could easily spend the full day at Musée des Beaux-Arts and most visitors do.
The magnificent Cathédrale St-Pierre in the heart of this French city was dedicated to St Peter and it is simply stunning. The Cathédrale St-Pierre was under construction for a long time and was restored between the years 2009 to 2014. This was once a place of worship for some of the most important people in the whole of Brittany including Dukes and Duchesses, hence the immaculate attention to detail inside and outside.
Some past members of Briton nobility were once crowned in this very building. The Cathédrale St-Pierre’s architecture was Italian inspired. It has glorious stained glass windows, an impressive Roman altar and rich decorations inside.
There are also some wonderful paintings inside that date back centuries. The whole building and areas outside are steeped in Brittany and French history, the building most likely held some very important events throughout its time. The Cathédrale St-Pierre is a truly special place to visit in Rennes, France.
Day Trip To Mont-Saint Michel
When you visit Rennes, do not miss the chance to take a day trip to breathtaking Mont st Michel. Of all the cities in France, this is the most iconic heritage site located on a magical island where Normandy and Brittany meet. Mont St Michel is just under an hour away and cheap to get to from Rennes.
Whilst there, visitors will have the chance for a number of photo opportunities and to learn about the impressive history of this incredible place. Here, from the year 966, towers and the infamous Abbey were added by French Dukes and Kings over hundreds of years. The Abbey itself is a highlight, once a center for important learning in the country which attracted some of the greatest minds of that era.
Day Trip To Saint-Malo
Backpackers often flee to Mont st Michel and miss the fascinating Saint-Malo which is a crying shame because it has so much to offer. Most famously, Saint-Malo was a key destination for pirates! Now, the island offers up some wonderful cobbled streets adorned with beautiful architecture, cafes, restaurants, and shops.
On the island you will find the Ramparts, an ancient city made up of towers, curtain walls, and bastions. There is also a castle, fort, cathedral and a number of historically important churches to see. After all the history lessons you may want to relax. So, you can head to the stunning Plage Du Val beach to soak up some of the Mediterranean rays.
The food in this area is particularly good, some local delicacies include Craquelins, biscuits that have been eaten since Medieval times and the Saint-Malo yogurt, you won’t miss this local dairy treat being served in cardboard pots around the city.
Rennes France Brocéliande Forest
King Arthur, Merlin the Enchanter, and the knight Lancelot have all been linked to the magical forest of Brocéliande. Just 45 minutes outside of Rennes, this glorious wooded area is a refreshing change-up from the bustling city. It’s the perfect place to take the food you bought from the Place Des Lices market for a picnic. The area boasts some wonderful wooded areas and greenery, perfect for a walk in nature with friends.
Oddly, the fountain of Barenton which is located within the forest is said to be magical and helps young women find husbands! So, if you’re a single woman looking for love, this could be the place for you. Visitors may also be interested in the fairytale castle, Château de Comper. Throughout the Summer, this castle holds a number of special exhibitions, events and themed walks aimed at teaching people about Arthurian legends.
Opéra de Rennes
Fancy a bit of culture? Why not enjoy a show at the Opéra de Rennes. This stunning building regularly holds some of the best Opera shows in Europe and is open to anyone. The building is from the 18th century and stands proudly within the Place de la Mairie.
The famous hall was painted by the incredible artist Jean-Julian Lemordant who was blind when painting it, which makes it even more impressive. Also, the opera house is particularly popular in Rennes so it is well worth planning ahead of time to secure tickets, most shows draw in 100% attendance. Don’t miss the frequent opportunities to go watch rehearsals and join in their free workshops.
Parc de Gayeulles Rennes France
Parc de Gayeulles is another chance to escape the city and enjoy the French nature. Here, spread across a vast area of greenery you will find lush trees, grass areas, and pristine lakes. You will find lots of locals here with their families out for casuals walks and enjoying a picnic.
Also, the park is not far from the city center so you can jump in a taxi for a small fee and head out there at any point in the day, however, the Summer and Autumn months are best. If you fancy keeping in shape during your visit, the Parc de Gayeulles is perfect for running and working out.
On weekends, you will see many locals jogging here. Also worth checking out in the park is the campsites, skating rink, five lakes, and restaurants.