What should I do/see/eat in Rennes, France? (Tips from a local.)

by Gigi Griffis
Cheese in Rennes

Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town.

Today, we’ve got Natalie from Rennes here to reveal the secrets of her city…

About Natalie

I’m a student and aspiring actress in New York City. I spent a year living and studying French in Rennes. For fun, I love to travel, read, act, and sing.

What to do in Rennes (the Basics)

Definitely visit the old part of Rennes, which is filled with typical medieval buildings and cobblestone streets. There are so many interesting buildings there, including the Opéra de Rennes and the Mairie de Rennes (town hall). These two fit together like puzzle pieces. There’s also a sort of legend that says they were once attached and the music from the opera house was so loud and impressive that the two buildings were split apart. 

(Psst, this post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through one of my links, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.)

If you have kids, there are always educational events going on at Champs Libre library. Also, there are always extremely interesting, experimental productions going on at the Théâtre National de Bretagne (t-n-b.fr). Make sure to book ahead because they often sell out far in advance.

Hidden Gems for Seasoned Travelers

One of my favorite places to go when it’s nice out is Parc du Thabor, which is full of birds and fountains. It’s really beautiful and there are sometimes outdoor performances there. Plus, it’s not far from the city center.

A rose-covered wall in Parc du Thabor.

And another of my personal favorites is the cute, fun tea room Thé au Fourneau (11 Rue des Portes Mordelaises). They serve salads and tartines (small open-faced sandwiches) and all different types of teas.

France - 100 locals tell you where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in Did I mention that I wrote a book full of these interviews?
Get 100 interviews from top chefs, culture buffs, and locals all over France.

Where to Stay

The best places to stay are the hotels near the gate (train station) or the nice Airbnb places in the city center.

Day Trips

Definitely head to Saint-Malo—a beautiful walled town on the English Channel. Its wall was built as protection against the English just across the channel. Today, there’s great shopping, food, a beach, and a whole lot of beauty. If it’s not high tide, you can walk out to an unnamed grave. Despite being unmarked, locals know it’s actually the grave of Châteaubriand—an important author from the romantic period. From Rennes, the train runs hourly.

Another excellent day trip destination is the beautiful old town of Dinan—a walled town on the Rance River. The architecture is amazing there.

Dinan, France.

Where to Walk

The beautiful parks (in particular, Parc des Gayeulles and Parc du Thabor) are really nice places for a stroll. And the city is also very easy to get around on foot.

What to Eat & Drink

The specialties of the region are crêpes and galettes (savory buckwheat crêpes filled with eggs, meat, or just veggies and cheese). Being made with buckwheat, galettes also have the benefit of being gluten free. The specialty in Rennes is the galette-saucisse (hot sausage wrapped in a galette), which you can buy on the street. The best are at the market at Place des Lices Saturday mornings.

Bretagne is also known for its cider (surprisingly for France, not wine). So pair your galettes with a cider for an extremely local meal.

Where to Eat & Drink (Favorite Restaurants & Bars)

A great traditional crêperie is Crêperie Saint Melaine (13 Rue Saint-Melaine). For a modern twist and something a little more chic, there’s Crêperie Saint-Georges, where all the galettes are named after famous Georges (i.e. Le George Clooney). They are often different combinations of flavors and savory ice creams.

For gastronomic French fare, there’s Le Carré (34 Place des Lices; phone: +33 2 23 40 21 21), which is decently priced for the quality of food but still a bit fancy.

If you’re looking for a unique night out, there’s a night bar called Cubanacan (26 Rue du 410 Eme Régiment d’Infanterie) that plays Latin music and has dancing. Thanks to the high level of diversity that exists in Rennes, there are normally a lot of Spanish-speaking people out dancing at the bar. Some nights they offer salsa-dancing lessons for good prices. It’s not very French but is a lot of fun!

Budget Tips

To save money on food, just pick up a sandwich or a galette on the street.

For transport to and from the city, there’s a car sharing service called BlaBlaCar, where you can find people driving in your direction and hitch a ride for a lot less than the cost of a train ticket or car rental. It’s very secure and I’ve always had great luck with safe drivers (though, of course, there’s no guarantee of the quality of your trip).

Finally, if you’re young, always ask about student/young adult discounts. Most places offer discounts for students and/or people under 26 years old. [Editor’s note: This is the case in much of Europe, so try this advice outside Rennes, too!]

How to Meet Locals & Make Friends

The best way to meet locals is in the many bars in the city center. The people in Bretagne can seemed closed at first, but you just have to take the time to break through their tough exterior to get to the warm people they truly are.

Best Places to Take a Photo

My vote goes to the old part of the city with its medieval architecture.

Final Notes & Other Tips

Rennes is a perfectly sized city full of history and culture. It’s not massive and overwhelming, but it’s big enough to always have something new to do or discover. There’s also a traditional Breton culture that still exists from when Bretagne was not considered a part of France. Within this sub-culture people who would like Bretagne to be independent still exist.

I definitely love this culture and the pride they take in their rich culture and language (the Bretons actually have their own language, not French). While there is only a little bit of that culture to be found in Rennes (it becomes more and more widespread the deeper you travel in Bretagne), it’s definitely a detail that makes Rennes special.

Find the CIREFE language school where Natalie studied at univ-rennes2.fr/cirefe.

France - 100 locals tell you where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in Did I mention that I wrote a book full of these interviews?
Get 100 interviews from top chefs, culture buffs, and locals all over France.

Share this post!

You may also like

Leave a comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Opt-out here if you wish! Accept Read more