Rennes is not often mentioned on tourist guides but this medium size town is well worth a visit. It has a bit more than 200,000 inhabitants, of which about 60,000 are students. This gives the town a vibrant night life. Some streets, such as the Rue Saint Michel, have only one type of shop on both sides: Bars! (The locals actually call "Rue Saint Michel" "la rue de la soif", which means the "Street of Thirst"). A stroll down Rue Saint Michel on a Friday or Saturday evening is a very interesting experience indeed. However, if you're really in the mood to "faire la fête", celebrate or just have fun in other words, the most exciting night on "Rue de la Soif" would be the "Jeudi Soir", Thursday nights, during the school year. Jeudi Soir is the night when bars are most often packed to the brim with students. The sights on Thursday nights out on the town are very memorable and interesting.
Rennes is particularly nice in early July, during the "Festival des Tombées de la Nuit". Its streets are then full of people enjoying the free street entertainment and eating or drinking at the terraces of the restaurants and cafés.
Rennes used to be virtually empty after the 15th of July, as most of its inhabitants were migrating to the coast until the 15th August. In recent years, this trend seems to have stopped and Rennes's terraces and cafes are now bustling throughout the year.
Rennes airport has budget flights to and from Southampton and Belfast thanks to Flybe, or Dublin and Cork with Aerlinguswhich has good offers. The airport is less than 5km away from the city center, and bus No 57 links it with the city.
Dinard/Pleurtuit/Saint-Malo AirportOne hour away, Dinard's airport offers other cheap options, with for example a connection to London with Ryanair.
Gare de Rennes The easiest way to get to Rennes from Paris is through Gare Montparnasse. There are TGVs almost every 30 minutes and the ride is 2hrs and 3 min. Tickets are available on the SNCF website, and between 25 and 65 Euros for one way. If you're under 26 years old, and planning to travel in France by train, get the "carte 12-25" (49 €) which will offers you 50% off most of the time.
The Rennes Train Station also provides train service to Nantes, Brest, Quimper, St. Brieuc, and other cites in Brittany.
The cheapest way will be covoiturage or car-sharing. A lot of websites offer information about people wishing to share their car and budget. 123envoiture.com or Allostop will help you out. Since 1968, traveling by car on motorways within Brittany is free thanks to a deal made between René Pleven and Georges Pompidou.
Rennes has also an international and local bus station, right next to the rail station. This is where you can get information about Illenoo (see below) and where buses such as Eurolines/
By bus and metro
Rennes has a very good public transport system, called Star(). If you're planning to buy a pass (weekly or longer), you'll need to go to one of the two agencies Place de la Republique and Place de la Mairie) to get a "Korrigo" card. Don't forget a picture which they will scan. It is a free electronic card on which your pass will be saved. Once you have it, just reload it anywhere tickets are sold. Daily tickets can be bought for €3 a day, and are valid on both the bus and metro. Star claims that its network has the cheapest prices in France, with a single ticket (valid for an hour after validation for unlimited connections) costing €1.20.
Rennes offers more than 50 different bus routes and a metro, with 1 bus every 5 minutes for the metro and main bus lines at the peak hours. The hub of the network is at Republique, which feeds most of the 50 different routes. This bus and metro network connects all parts of Rennes, and so you're never far from a bus stop. All the bus stops conveniently have a map (une carte) of Rennes with all the lines on, and a timetable for the routes it provides, so there isn't much chance of getting lost.
The metro, called the VAL, has only one line with 15 stops and measures 8.57km. It runs from one edge to the other in 16 minutes. It connects the main train station to the centre-ville, Villejean university, the hospital, the town hall and more. It runs from 0525 to 0030, as do the five main bus lines.
Rennes offers very good options for cyclists. With plenty of cycle lanes, the town has plenty of cyclists. For residents of the town and tourists, bikes known as the LE vélo STAR , can be borrowed from 81 stations all over the town. These bikes are not particularly good, but they work and have three gears, so its worth checking them out. You can buy a 24h- or 7-day-registration on the website or at ten stations in the centre (pay with your credit card) for €1 or €5, respectively. Once registered, you can get a bike as often as you want from any station by typing your personal account number and PIN. The first 30 minutes of every rental are free, so the trick is to return your bicycle just before 30 min at the next station and immediately borrow another one.
If you are after a pleasant cycling trip, check out the canal route. This is flat, and therefore not very hazardous.
Traffic in city center is heavy. Large areas are reserved for pedestrians and buses. Parking in the center is not free. You'll have to find an horodateur, never far away. Price will depend on the zone where you parked. 0,75 €/h and 2h40 maximum for green zone and 1,33 €/h with 1h33 maximum for red ones. Since 2002, the best way to discover Rennes is by metro and its parcs-relais. These are car-parks located in metro stations on the outskirts such as Kennedy, Villejean in the north and Henri Freville, Triangle and La Poterie in the south. They're free if you use the metro.
By bus (illenoo)
Illenoo is a public service of the Conseil général d'Ille & Vilaine (Département level). It allows people to travel within the département (and a little bit outside) on 18 lines for a good price. For example, Rennes - St Malo €4.80 return for students under 26.
If you're going there from Rennes, the easiest and more expensive way is to use keolis emeraude bus company. They'll charge you €10.80 each way. But a cheaper option is to use the Illenoo public transport (see Get In), which costs €3 each way, but stops in Pontorson (9 km south of Mt St Michel). From there, you can even hitch hike or use the Maneo bus link, which costs €2. Just make sure that the schedules line up so you're not stuck in Pontorson for 2+ hours...cute town but not much to do.
Anyhow, you get a 20% rebate in both cases if you're under 26 years old.
Les Champs Libres is a brand new building in which you'll find le musee de Bretagne, l'espace des Sciences and the bibliotheque municipale. It's a wonderful place where you can learn a lot about Rennes, about Brittany, and about sciences and history. There are a lot of exhibitions (temporary and permanent), forums, and debates. There's also an outside cafe overhanging Place Charles de Gaulle where you can meet people and talk about whatever you feel like. If you feel like reading newspapers, head to the room in front of you when you enter that building, choose your favourite one and sit with other peers. But if you want to have a nice look at the city centre, head to last floor of the public library and enjoy. Don't forget to be quiet or they'll remind you! If you don't feel like going to the movies, you can climb up to the planetarium (around 7€ for exposition and planetarium) and enjoy 1h30 of live "show" about space, stars, legends,... Check the schedule on their website for your favourite theme.
Fest-noz is not a french word, it is Breton. Fest means party and Noz; night. A translation could be Festival of the night. It is a traditional ball where all generations meet and listen traditional music, drink beer or chouchen, and dance on breton music. Most of them happen on Saturdays, but still, you can find some on Thursdays or fridays. You can find them by looking at the posters in the streets, in the universities,... but fest-noz.net is a website that gather most of fest-noz in all Bretagne. Price's usually between 5 and 8€, but bigger events as Yaouank (a huge fest-noz in Rennes, usually in October or November) are little bit more expensive. This is definitely something to do!
As students represent a quarter of Rennes' population, you will most likely always find some people walking (or staggering!) in the city centre. This is especially true on Thursdays which is traditionally students day, as many of them go back home on Friday for the week end. But for a few years, city centre residents have been complaining about heavy drinking and disturbances of the peace at night; so Bernadette Malgorn (former prefete of Ille et Vilaine) enforced the law and decided to close bars at 1am and night bars at 3am. The result was that it drained all the people out at the same time, and created problems with the police for a few months. This is where associations, organizations and city hall intervened. At first ill thought-out, the idea of opening concert halls, public places,.. to occupy these young people by making play and games available wasn't welcomed but the organizers worked it out, and created La nuit des 4 jeudis. The concept, running during school time, is to propose 4 different free activities every Thursday during school time.
(annual stock sale) St Martin, autres, etonnante braderie de rennes
Festivals in Rennes
Travelling and Travelling Junior. It's Rennes Métropole movie festival. Traveling explores a culture focusing on a city every year. 20089 edition will focus on Jerusalem and will take place from January 31st to the February 10th. The date changed from year to year so be sure to cheque.
Mythos. It's the festival of the arts of word. Tales, stories, french song,.. Next edition (2008) will take place from April 6th to the 12th.
Les Tombées de la Nuit. It's an art festival where many spectacles take places in public places. Alternative, classic or traditional music, animations, expositions is the concept of that festival. It always take place the first week of july.
Quartiers d'été. An outdoor festival organized by volunteer youngsters. Concerts, cinema, animations, games,... During the 3rd week of july.
Yaouank. 3rd weekend of November
Festivals in Bretagne
Art Rock -
Au pont du Rock - Last week end, in Malestroit (Morbihan).
Keep in mind that you won't be able to stay in most bars after 1am, though some "night" bars close at 3am tops. It's the law, they have to close. So if you're inside one of them, and that you're really thirsty, think about ordering your drinks around 00.30 because it happens that they don't sell anymore arond that time. It happens that they ring a bell to tell you that it's time to buy your last drinks, if you want to.
Those are bars that have an extended closing time of 3am. There are bouncers for some of them.
Rennes is a good place to find rides. See here