Population (2016) 426,502
With such a well-established Celtic culture, the region of Brittany is a home away from home for many British expats in France. Capital of the region since it was incorporated into France in the 16th century, Rennes has a distinct Breton character and proudly celebrates its Celtic heritage. Although much of the Old Town was destroyed in a fire in 1720, the ancient half-timbered houses that survived still charm lovers of medieval architecture today.
With a student population of over 60,000, the Breton capital is a city for the young at heart. But the 9-5 brigade are by no means left out of the lively scene, as the city has establishments where anyone and everyone can pop in for un verre. After a typical 35-hour working week, the most popular place for workers to head to is Rue St-Michel to unwind. Lined with wall-towall bars and pubs, you’ll quickly find out why it is known locally as ‘Rue de la Soif.’
There are a total of 20 markets in Rennes, including Les Lices, the second largest in France. The market takes place every Saturday morning, and it seems like the whole of Rennes converges here. It is as much a social occasion as it is a place to stock up on the essentials. Producers from all over the region come to sell everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to seafood, exotic spices and homemade chocolate, and to swap their recipe ideas with customers. Paul and his son Olivier Renault from Louvigné-de-Bais come to sell their Coucou de Rennes chicken, and chefs from all over come to buy Jean-Yves Bordier’s classic and flavoured Breton butters.
If you want to make the most of your lunchtime break, slip off into one of the city’s green spaces such as the 18thcentury Parc du Thabor. Here in the former abbey, you can find themed gardens from French to English and botanical. In the summer months, the garden hosts classical concerts, musical theatre, poetry readings and on Wednesday afternoons there is traditional Breton dancing.
There’s even bigger and better culture to be found in many of Rennes’ famous festivals. In July Les Tombées de la Nuit festival attracts some 1,000 artists for its street art festivities where, according to the tourist office ‘everything and anything goes’, and Les Trans Musicales event has two weeks of rock music in December.
And, even though it is compact, the city has a single-line métro system that runs from the north-west to the south-east of the city, with a 24-hour pass costing €4 that is interchangeable with the bus. As of July 2017, the city’s transport links will improve further with a new highspeed train reducing the journey to Paris to 1h25. To tie in with the train launch, a new project called EuroRennes is in the works. Set to house offices, shops, cultural facilities, houses and corporate companies, it will no doubt bring another business boost for Brittany’s first city.
Les Lices market in Rennes takes place every Saturday morning
Rennes has an efficient transport system
Brittany’s capital, city Rennes is a lively