1. Visit the parlement of Brittany
Start by heading to the Parlement of Brittany, Rennes’ most important landmark and a symbol of Brittany built in the 17th century based on blueprints designed by Luxembourg Palace architect Salomon de Brosse.
An unmissable sight to catch during any trip to the Breton capital, it survived a fire in 1994 and is still home to a treasure trove of historic gems.
The building also encloses Rennes’ Court of Appeals. A classic Breton monument, rooted in the past while serving a functional purpose in modern-day society. The Parlement is an example of “living heritage, rather than a museum frozen in time“.
2. Get the breton look
Embrace your inner Bretonista by stocking up on striped jumpers, yellow or blue raincoats, reefer jackets, sailor caps and bowls engraved with your name. You’ll need a Breton flag for when you hit the festival scene too (the iconic Gwen Ha Du, again featuring the Breton stripes). You’ll find the city centre’s many shops crammed full of Breton-made products to snap up. And winter and summer alike, you can’t go wrong with a timeless Breton striped top!
3. Stock up on regional produce
Head to the Halles covered markets to sample the finest regional produce. Brittany locals love premium produce, locally-sourced and grown with love. Bretons are also big travellers with a taste for spices. Breton cuisine is a skilful blend of both these influences, combining local and exotic produce, ingredients taken from both land and sea, and as much butter as you can handle. Although not all butters are made equal… Saturday’s Marché des Lices market is a good place to sample a few kinds and take away a stick as a souvenir. David Etcheverry, head chef at the Michelin-starred Le Saison restaurant, believes that “the Marché des Lices should be included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.” »
4. Gorge on crêpes and galettes
If you’re still hanging around the Marché des Lices, tuck into another local speciality, galette-saucisse. This sausage-stuffed buckwheat pancake is the food of the gods, and a staple at any Rennes gathering. In many ways, it embodies the soul of Breton cuisine: simple, unfussy yet incredibly tasty. In Rennes, it has something of a Proust’s madeleine effect. Buy one from a market or around Roazhon Park – you can’t leave without trying one! Food journalist Olivier Marie sees the speciality as “the ultimate Rennes must-try!”A combination of the ingredients that have always featured in the local diet: pork and buckwheat pancakes. Simple, cheap, and iconic. »
The city centre is also home to around 30 different crêperies, so take your pick. And don’t forget to wash it all down with a mug of cider…
5. Learn breton dancing at a fest-noz
In Brittany, festivals and music go hand in hand. Not a week goes by without some kind of fest-noz (‘night festival’ in the Breton dialect) happening in Rennes or the surrounding area. You’ll always be treated to a warm welcome and shown the basics of Breton dancing. Step into the circle!Rennes abounds with Breton dancing circles, as illustrated by the Yaouank festival in November, which closes with Brittany’s biggest fest-noz, bringing together thousands of dancers who twirl and swirl to the live music.
6. Play palet
Palet is a bit like pétanque or molky, but better. Get to grips with the basics on the terrace of the Gazoline, a bar at the far end of the Place des Lices square, where you can borrow all the kit you need. If you already have your own gear (well done!), meaning a plank of wood otherwise known as a panneau, numbered pucks and a maître (like a jack but better), you can head straight to the playing field in front of the Théâtre du Vieux Saint-Etienne. Make sure you follow the rules of this challenging sport – as much a way of life as it is an activity.
7. Visit the musee de Bretagne
Playing palet and chilling on a terrace while chowing down on a sausage galette is a noble way of spending the day, but a little culture never hurt anyone. The Musée de Bretagne promises a full immersive journey into the heart of Breton identity and culture. A trip back in time that you won’t forget in a hurry. If you’ve ever met a local who insisted that Brittany is the centre of the universe, you’re about to find out why.