The capital of Brittany, Rennes, in the North Western region of France is a historical city located inland 35 miles from the Port of St Malo and just next door to the mythical Forêt de Brocéliande, which is steeped in mythical legends and Celtic influences.
The city is an intriguing mixture of old architecture, customs and traditions, along with a vibrant culture of arts, music and lively festivals. Rennes was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1720, but the medieval quarter survived. With the contrasts of the old cities timber-framed houses and cobbled streets and the modern shopping centres; there are a multitude of shops, restaurants, bars, museums, art galleries and theatre venues -enough to keep any busy mum happy.
Both a university and an industrial city, Rennes is home to 60,000 students, which gives it a vibrant night life. For culture vultures, the Opera and the Théâtre National offer events all year round, while music and art festivals celebrate Breton culture. On Saturdays the Place des Lices gets buzzing with one of France’s largest street markets.
The Musée de Beaux-Arts hosts impressionist paintings, while the Musée de Bretagne provides an insight into Rennes’ and Brittany’s history. The Espace des sciences next door boasts a planetarium and themed exhibitions.
A relaxing place to explore is the Parc Thabor, 10 hectares of plant life in the city centre.
Rennes invests heavily in arts and culture and a number of its festivals such as the music festival Les Transmusicales, les Tombées de la Nuit and Mythos (see below) are well known throughout France. Rennes was one of the first towns in France to have its own television channel TV Rennes, created in 1987. In Rennes is the only Institut Franco-Américain in France.
Les Tombées de la Nuit
Now held in July and December, this festival celebrates Breton culture with music, film, theatre, art and poetry. This festival is renowned for its excellent family orientated programme. Visit LesTombeesdelaNuit.com for this year’s program.
Alongside the main concerts of French and international bands, there is a fringe festival called Les Bars en Trans, which takes place in small, intimate venues, usually bars clustered around the Place St Anne in the centre of the city. Since last year they have extended their programme to include daytime concerts and special activities geared towards children and families. Held on the first week of December, the programme for the festival can be viewed about three months in advance at www.lestrans.com.
This spring festival, which takes place in April, celebrates the art of the written and spoken word. Performances are scheduled in the afternoon, early evening and at night. The programme with a list of participating artists is at www.festival-mythos.com.
The Gare de Rennes is now two hour and twenty minutes by TGV high speed train from Paris. This will be reduced to one hour and 30 minutes from 2014, after extension of the High Speed Rail Line. Rennes is also an important train station for regional transport in Bretagne.
The city is served by a network of buses and an expanding metro system. Free bikes can be borrowed to navigate the city. There are plenty of cycle routes, including a scenic lane by the canal.
Rennes is also served by a small airport, Rennes-St. Jacques Airport, located 7.2 kilometres from the centre to the south-west. Flybe and Aerlingus provide access to a number of UK airports, whilst Air France provides flights from other major cities in France.
Rennes is located in the French department of ´Ille et Villane´ (along with the coastal resort of St Malo), the other regions is Brittany are as follows:
Finistère – The true Breton speaking region of Brittany. Including the coastal cities of Brest and Quimper.
Côtes dArmor – An area with lots of lovely coastal resorts, the medieval city of Dinan and the expat favourite area surrounding St Brieuc.
Morbihan - Major cities include Vannes and Lorient.