Things to do in Rennes, France – 3 Day Itinerary

Rennes is the regional capital of Brittany and is famed for its charming half-timbered houses, large, gothic cathedral and the peaceful Parc du Thabor which covers an area of over 10 hectares.

The city is packed with fun and interesting things to do from exploring the cobbled streets of the old city to checking out the plethora of galleries, museums, shops and markets.

This 3 day Rennes itinerary includes all the top sights in this historic city, which is located about halfway between St Malo and Nantes. So, let’s dive right in and discover the best things to do in Rennes, France.

Day 1

Morning: Explore the Old Town (Rennes Centre Historique)

Start the first morning of your 3 day Rennes itinerary by exploring the wonderful old town (Rennes Centre Historique). Amble along the cobbled streets and marvel at the gorgeous brightly coloured half-timbered houses that represent some of Brittany’s finest architecture.

Cathedral St Pierre de Rennes

Make your way to the imposing Cathedral Saint-Pierre de Rennes on Rue de la Monnaie. There has been a church on this site from at least the 6th Century, but the Cathedral as you see it today dates from the 12th Century and was made in the gothic, neoclassical style.

The cathedral is open to visitors year-round, and daily from 10 am to 7 pm and is well worth a visit to admire the architecture, which includes an altar featuring marble from the Forum in Rome which was a gift from Pope Pius IX.

Portes Mordelaises

From Rue de la Monnaie make your way onto Rue des Portes Mordelaises to see the impressive gate of the same name that marks the entrance to the old city. This ancient gatehouse dates back to 1440 and features intricate inscriptions containing the names of French royalty from across the ages.

Basilique St Sauveur

Walk back through the winding lanes of the old town to Basilique St Sauveur, a Roman Catholic basilica that dates to the 11th Century. The neoclassical-style building was elevated to a basilica thanks to stories of various miracles throughout the ages and currently serves as the parish diocese for Rennes.

Day 1 - Morning Rennes Tour Map

Afternoon: Palais St Georges

After lunch make your way east across the old town to the Palais Saint-Georges on Rue Gambetta. This grand governmental building was built in 1674 on the site of a former Benedictine abbey, the Abbey of Saint George.

The building is now used as a civil administration centre, but it’s possible to admire the architecture and explore the beautifully kept gardens. At night the building is illuminated and makes for a great picture!

Parc du Thabor

Arguably, the jewel in Rennes’ crown is the massive Parc du Thabor which lies just under a kilometre east of the Palais Saint-Georges and takes around 12 minutes to walk. This large, public park is an excellent place to come and escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy time wandering around the beautifully landscaped French and English gardens, with their intersecting paths, rose gardens and more.

Botanical Garden

At the far eastern end of Parc du Thabor is the botanical garden (Jardin Botanique et Roseraie). Here you’ll find all manner of flora from across the globe Both Parc du Thabor and the Botanical Gardens are open year-round 24 hours a day for visitors to enjoy, and the landscape changes with the seasons meaning a visit will be rewarding no matter the time of year.

Day 1 - Afternoon Rennes Tour Map

Day 2

Morning: Champs Libres

On the second morning of your 3 day Rennes itinerary start off at the Champs Libres cultural centre to the south of the old city. The complex contains the Renes Library, Brittany Museum, Planetarium and a science park, so is the perfect place to take the family for a day out.

Brittany Museum

If you want to learn about the history of the region, then a trip to the Museum of Brittany is an excellent stop on your itinerary. The museum is dedicated to archaeology and ethnology and holds over 600,000 items with exhibits ranging from photographs to coins, maps, postcards and more.

Library (for the Best Views in the city)

Head to the Rennes Library which offers fantastic views of the city, and also hosts weekly workshops and events for children and adults alike. Check the website to see what’s going on during your visit.

Day 2 - Morning Rennes Tour Map

Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts houses an impressive collection of paintings, drawings, as well as antiquities dating to ancient Egypt. The focus however is on paintings from the 14th to the 29th centuries and includes works by renowned Renaissance artists such as Paris Bordone, Paolo Veronese and Leandro del Ponte.

Promenade des Bonnets Rouges

Finish your day with a pleasant stroll along the Vilaine at the Promenade des Bonnets Rouges. Stop for a coffee, ice cream or cake at one of the pastries along the route, or treat yourself to a glass of something bubbly at one of the bars on the river.

Day 2 - Afternoon Rennes Tour Map

Day 3

Morning: Rennes City Hall

The beautiful City Hall is classified as a Monument Historique thanks to its baroque design and historic significance. The building originally housed a statue of Louis XV which was destroyed during the French Revolution. It was later replaced by a statue of Anne of Brittany, the last sovereign ruler of the region, but that was in turn destroyed by a bomb in 1932 planted by Breton nationalists, and the plinth has remained empty ever since.

Parliament de Bretagne

Just a short walk from the City Hall, past the Opera House is the Breton Parliament Building, which dates to 1655. The building is notable for its ornate ceiling frescos, its grand chamber and picturesque courtyards.

Eglise St Germaine

Head southeast towards the canal to your final destination of the day, the beautiful Eglise St Germaine church. This historic church dates back to 1470 and incorporates Gothic and Renaissance styles. It’s open to the public from Sunday to Friday from 9 am to 7 pm.

Day 3 - Morning Rennes Tour Map

Afternoon: Vilain Boat Ride

Finish off your final afternoon in Rennes with a scenic boat ride along the River Villain or exploring the city’s canals. There are lots of options from hiring electric boats or kayaks, to river tours with food and drink included. What better way to end your stay in this charming city than floating gently through its myriad waterways? It’s even possible to “sail” out into the beautiful countryside outside of the city, so you can make a day of it.

Day 3 - Afternoon Rennes Tour Map

Best Day Trips from Rennes

  • Mont Saint-Michel: A day trip to the incredible tidal island and monastery of Mont Saint-Michel is an absolute must and is within easy reach of Rennes. It’s an hour by car along the D175, and buses run 7 days a week, 365 days a year from Rennes Bus Station (Gare routiere). There’s lots to see and do from wandering around the tiny cobbled streets to exploring the plethora of small shops, enjoying a coffee at one of the many cafes, or even going for a swim at one of the nearby beaches.

  • St Malo: St Malo is one of the top holiday destinations in Brittany and well worth the hour’s drive from Rennes (as with Mont Saint-Michel, there are daily buses from Gare routiere). Explore the impressive city ramparts and mediaeval architecture, marvel at the Gothic cathedral, and enjoy a day at one of St Malo’s many beaches.

  • Fougeres: If you’re a fan of history, then Fougeres is a must-visit as it is home to the largest fortress in Europe dating back to 1020. The hilltop town can be seen for miles around and is the perfect place for a family day out exploring the ramparts and winding alleyways that lead through the old town and around the fortress. The town is just a 40-minute drive from Rennes along the A84, and there are daily buses taking just over an hour.

  • Dinan: Charming Dinan is located xx km from Rennes and is famed for its 14th-century castle and mediaeval walls. The Rance River runs through the heart of the picturesque town with its half-timbered houses that are famed across the region. Dinan looks like a postcard come to life, and is definitely worth the short trip from Rennes, which is around a 40 minute drive along the D137.

  • Chateau Vitre: Brittany is home to many incredible chateaus, and Chateau Vitre is no exception. The 11th-century castle looks like something from a Disney movie with its conical towers and spired rooftops. Vitre is just a 40 minute drive east of Rennes along the N157 and D857.

Other Things to Do in Rennes

  • Rennes Opera House: Enjoy a night at the opera at the Rennes Opera House which hosts regular performances, guest speakers, and artists. With seating for just over 600 people, it’s considered one of the smallest opera houses in France. Check the website to see what’s happening during your visit, or just admire the Italian-style architecture as you wander around the old town.
  • St Melaine Church: The 11th-century St Melaine Church, or Eglise Notre-Dame en Saint Melaine to give it its full name, is an Abbey church on the edge of Parc du Thabor in the city centre and is famed for its octagonal tower and statue of the Virgin Mary.

  • Parc Hamelin Oberthur: A short walk from Parc du Thabor is the smaller, but no less impressive Parc Hamelin Oberthur. This picturesque city park has a small lake, woodland area and landscaped gardens featuring a variety of flora and birdlife. A great place for a picnic. Unlike Thabor which is open 24 hours, Parc Hamelin Oberthur is open from 8 am to 8 pm.

Top Things to Do With Kids in Rennes

  • Rennes Escape Game: Explore the city as you hunt for clues and solve puzzles along the way. This is a fantastic way to get the most out of your trip to Rennes and something the kids will surely love. The scavenger hunt starts and finishes at Place de la Mairie and lasts around 3 hours. Great fun!

  • Planetarium and Science Park: The Planetarium and Science Park are located at Les Champs Libres close to the library and are a great way to while away a rainy day (though it’s still worth a trip even if the sun is shining). See a 3D show and get involved with interactive displays as you discover the world around you and the secrets of the night sky.

  • Arbre Aventura Rennes: Suitable for both children and adults, the Arbre Aventura Rennes adventure park features treetop courses with zip lines, rope bridges, and other challenges.

Where to eat and Drink in Rennes

Rennes is a wonderful destination for gourmands and the perfect place to sample local Breton cuisine. Given the city’s proximity to the sea, fresh seafood features heavily, though there are restaurants to suit all manner of tastes and budgets.

  • Markets: Marche des Lices Market is the second largest in the whole of France so you know you’ll be in for a real treat as you discover the mouthwatering goods and fresh produce on display. The market is located on Place des Lices and is held every Saturday morning, with over 300 stall holders selling everything from artisan cheeses to bread, honey, preserves, wine, fresh fruit and veg and more.

  • Food Tours: One of the best ways to experience the local cuisine is to take a local food tour. The Breizhtronomie food tour includes five food stops where you can sample local oysters, cheese and ciders among other tasty treats.

Traditional Breton and French Cuisine

  • Essentiel: A trip to Essentiel is, well, essential for any foodie visiting Rennes, not only for its classic bistro menu, but for its location on the canal. The restaurant is housed inside an old brick building which gives it a modern, yet rustic feel. There’s seating indoors and out, so you can enjoy classic French cooking overlooking the canal and watching the world go by. Highly recommended!

  • POF: Pof is one of the top restaurants in Rennes and is mentioned in the Michelin Guide thanks to its interesting menu with playful names representing the dishes. The menu fuses classic local dishes with influences from around the world such as cream of cauliflower with Brittany curry spices among other mouthwatering morsels. It’s also very reasonably priced considering the quality and excellent service.

  • Les Bistrot des Ramparts: If you want to sample traditional Breton fayre in the heart of the old city a stone’s throw from the Portes Mordelaises, then head straight for Les Bistrot des Ramparts. This rustic bistro focuses on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, and there is an excellent wine list to accompany your meal.

  • Restaurant Zest: The charming riverside Restaurant Zest sits on the banks of the Vilaine 7 km east of the city centre, but is well worth the detour. Dine al-fresco on the terrace and tuck into a menu of classic French and Breton dishes with a focus on fish and seafood.

  • Creperie Au Marches: Brittany is the home of the crepe, so a visit to one of Rennes’ many creperies is an absolute must. Creperie Au Marches is located just steps from the Cathedral and has an extensive menu of sweet and savoury pancakes to suit all palates. You can choose to dine in, or grab a takeaway and enjoy on the move or down by the canal.

  • La Petit Ourse: La Petit Ourse is another Rennes restaurant that gets a mention in the Michelin Guide thanks to its farm-to-table ethos, fresh, seasonal ingredients, welcoming staff, and reasonably priced menu. The restaurant is located in the city centre a short walk from the old city.

Fine Dining Restaurants

  • Racines: This bright and modern restaurant in central Rennes focuses on contemporary dishes with a nod to the roots of chef Virginie Giboire who has worked alongside world-renowned chefs Guy Martin and Thierry Marx. Expect subtle flavours and textures served in chic yet comfortable surroundings. Racines (meaning Roots) has won a coveted Michelin Star for its impressive menu.

  • Ima: At Ima chef Julien Lemarié combines fresh local ingredients with Asian flavours picked up on his travels and stints working the kitchens of London, Tokyo and Singapore. The restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star for its mouthwatering fusion menu, and also a green star thanks to Ima’s commitment to sourcing ingredients from local farms and producers.

Rennes Golf Courses

  • Golf municipal de Cesson-Sevigne: The 9-hole course at Cesson-Sevigne is the perfect place for a round of golf in Rennes, and the club also boasts a driving range, putting green, restaurant and bar. There’s a golf school on site and you can rent clubs so you don’t have to worry about packing your irons.

Where to Stay in Rennes

  • Odalys City Rennes Lorgeril: The 3-star Odalys offers self-contained studio apartments in the heart of Rennes complete with a kitchenette, bathroom with shower, coffee machine, and all you need for a comfortable stay. Guests can also opt for a continental breakfast in the communal dining room.

  • Hotel Restaurant Le Victoria: This chic 3-star hotel has a central location just a few hundred metres from Les Champs Libres complex and comes with a fabulous onsite restaurant serving regional dishes. There’s also a bar and terrace for guests to enjoy and unwind in after a day’s sightseeing.

  • Novotel Spa Rennes Centre: This upmarket 4-star hotel is located in the heart of the city within easy reach of all the top attractions. The Novotel has its own spa and wellness centre and benefits from a heated indoor pool, a bar and a restaurant serving French and European cuisine.

  • Mercure Rennes Centre Parlement: The 4-star Mercure is located inside a former printing press in the centre of the city, but tucked down a quiet side street away from the hustle and bustle. There’s an onsite fitness centre for guests to enjoy, and a buffet breakfast with fresh pastries, and other local treats.

  • Balthazar Hotel & Spa Rennes: If you’re looking for luxury on your trip to Rennes, then the 5-star Balthazar Hotel & Spa is just the place. The hotel is a short walk from the old town and includes a pleasant garden, spa and fitness centre with a sauna and jacuzzi, and a restaurant with a delightful terrace.

Best Time to Visit Rennes

Given its fantastic location less than an hour’s drive from St Malo and the gorgeous Brittany coastline, summer is definitely one of the best times to visit Rennes.

With lots of outdoor activities from strolling around the old city and Parc du Thabor, to exploring nearby chateaus, hiking in the countryside and enjoying al-fresco dining in one of the many cafes and restaurants in the city, Rennes is the perfect destination for your summer holiday.

The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are also a great time for visiting with fewer tourists and cheaper hotel prices. There are also plenty of indoor attractions to keep you busy in even the coldest winter months such as the Fine Arts Museum, and the Champs Libres complex with lots of entertainment options.

Rennes Festivals

  • National Animated Film Festival: The National Animated Film Festival is held in Rennes each April and is run by the French Association of Animated Cinema. The festival hosts up to 12,000 guests and 260 film professionals with various workshops, activities, film showings and more. The next edition is from the 23rd to 27th April 2024.

  • Festival Mythos: The annual Mythos Festival is one of Brittany’s biggest music festivals with acts from around the globe descending on Rennes for a weekend of entertainment. In addition to live music, there are fun workshops, culture classes, food and drink, theatre, and more. The festival is held each April, Check the official website for the 2025 lineup and dates.

  • Festival Gourmand: Every October Rennes hosts the Festival Gourmand which is a celebration of Brittany’s diverse food culture. Wander around stalls of fresh and homemade produce, tuck into something tasty at one of the food trucks or pop-up restaurants, and bring back local ingredients to savour long after your trip. The festival also includes live music and other entertainment.

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