Rennes-hotel-de-ville

Visiting Rennes

The 10 must-sees when visiting brittany's capital

Brittany’s capital will no doubt surprise you with its rich and diverse heritage. A weekend is not enough to see all its iconic monuments and sites. Here is a list of Rennes’ Top 10 historical or symbolic sites to be visited during your stay.

1. Saint-Yves Chapel

With its flamboyant Gothic style, this renovated 15th century chapel was initially built for the Saint-Yves hospital, before being turned into an ironmongery in the 19th century…The chapel’s precious interior and exterior decor is crawling with surprising sculptures: animals sticking their tongues out, sleeping rabbits, mischievous cats, playful and amused faces, etc. You will be surprised by the number of eyes looking down on you!

2. Saint-Pierre Cathedral

Roman high altar, monumental grand organs, remarkable paintings and vaults…discover the treasures of a cathedral rebuilt and decorated in the second half of the 19th century. Saint-Pierre Cathedral hosted some of Brittany’s and France’s most important moments, such as the crowning of the Dukes and Duchesses of Brittany.

  • Open daily from 9.30am to 12pm and from 3pm to 6pm.

3. The Portes Mordelaises

Rebuilt in the 15th century, this edifice is characterised by its two symmetrical towers enhanced with machicolation, with a double draw-bridge making up the fortified city’s main entrance. Also known as the “royal doorway”, in reference to the Dukes of Brittany who would walk through the door after having sworn to defend Brittany’s freedom, before entering Saint-Pierre Cathedral.

4. Place des Lices

As a former medieval “battle field” where knights’ tournaments used to take place, the name Lices was given in 1337 thanks to a certain Bertrand Du Guesclin who fought his 1st battle there. Surrounded to the North by half-timbered or stone private mansions dating back to the 17th century, and to the South by two metal halls designed by Jean-Baptiste Martenot in 1869 in a Baltard style, this square has been home to the Lices market since 1622! Now one of the biggest markets in France, the Lices market begins at sunrise every Saturday morning, bursting with colourful, wonderfully-smelling and flavourful stands. You won’t be able to resist this festive atmosphere, and your visit will invariably end in you trying one of our famous and reputed “galette saucisse” (sausage pancake)!

5. Parlement of Brittany building

Designed by Salomon de Brosse, it withstood the great fire of 1720, but burnt down in 1994. Home to 17th century French artistic gems, the Parliament’s palace was reborn thanks to exemplary involvement and renovation work. Inside, the prestigious French ceilings, sculpted golden woodwork and allegorical paintings, as well as rooms such as the Grand’ Chambre, are conducive to the building’s exceptional decor.

  • Tours all year, registration required at the tourist office. Tel. : +33 (0)299671166

6. City Hall

After the 1720 fire, Jacques Gabriel – one of Louis XV’s architects – had the idea of combining the Town Hall, the Presidial court and the clock tower in one place, in a new square. With its curved shape, it resembles the constructions of architects Le Vau and Hardouin-Mansart. The Town Hall’s north wing is home to “Rennes’ Pantheon”, erected in memory of the soldiers who fell in the First World War. In the wedding room, famous Breton figures such as Duguay-Trouin, Laënnec, Renan and Chateaubriand stand proudly among the decor. Just look up!

  • Guided tours during the summer, organised by the tourist office.

7. The Opera

Charles Millardet, in response to the curved lines of the 18th century Town Hall just opposite, went for a rounded design for what is now known as “The Theatre”. This rounded facade, protected by muses sculpted by François Lanno, hides away a number of original features such as stalls on the first floor instead of the ground floor. The famous 44 stairs you need to climb to access it made the papers at the time! As one of the smallest operas in France, discover its greatness through its decor and rich lyrical programme!

8. Thabor Gardens

Soak up the romantic and elegant atmosphere when discovering the beauties of the Thabor gardens, where even “L’Enfer” (translate as “Hell”) is a pleasant open-air theatre. These gardens formerly belonged to the monks of the Sainte-Mélaine Benedictine abbey, and were designed by Denis Bühler – a famous 19th century landscaper. This 10-hectare park combines French gardens, English gardens, a grotto, a music pavilion, an aviary and an exceptional rose garden containing over 2,000 varieties! Take a stroll through one of France’s most beautiful gardens.

  • Open all year, times vary according to the season.

9. The Fine Arts Museum

Since 1794, the collection of works exhibited in Rennes’ Museum of Fine Arts has never ceased to grow, offering a wide art history panorama from Antiquity to modern times. You will be amazed to see Gustave Caillebotte’s impressionist work, Rubens’ “La Chasse au tigre”, and George de la Tour’s “Le nouveau-né”.

  • Information and opening times:www.mbar.org – Tel. : +33 (0)223621745

10. The Champs Libres

As an innovative cultural establishment designed by the architect Christian de Portzamparc, the Champs Libres combine the Brittany Museum, the Science Centre and the Metropolis Library right in the heart of Rennes. Exhibitions and installations, visuals art, digital art, literary and artistic performances all intertwine, conducive to bubbling cultural excitement.

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