Capital of Brittany

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Rennes at your leisure



The ancient settlement of Condate, built at the confluent of the Ille and Vilaine rivers in the first century B.C., was probably founded by the Redones, the people of Armorica, and the Romans, the new masters of the whole of Gaul. At the end of the third century, the town known as “Civitas Riedonum” was given its first 1200m-high city wall. In the 15th century, the town’s rapid growth led to the construction of two further city walls to the north-east and south of the Vilaine, increasing the area of the walled city from 9 to 62 hectares. The Tour Duchesne and Portes Mordelaises are the main fortified remains from this period.


Tour Duchesne et rempart
The Duchesne tower and wall

Timber-framed houses

This tradition is explained by the presence of forests around the city. As in the rest of the Duchy of Brittany, in Rennes, the mediaeval-style timber-framed houses continued to be built until the mid 17th century, much later than the actual Middle Ages themselves. The fire which broke out on 23 December 1720 destroyed over 900 houses and buildings in just one week. Nevertheless, there are still numerous timber-framed houses to be seen in the streets off the city centre. Work to restore the fronts of the houses and buildings over the past twenty years has highlighted the expertise reflected in the structures, façades, staircases and wainscoting...


Place Sainte-Anne
Place Sainte-Anne 

The stone city

After the fire, the widespread destruction led to an urban revival, with engineer Isaac Robelin being given the task of reconstructing a modern city. The ambitious nature of his plan was contested by the City Council, which called on Jacques Gabriel, architect to the King, to take over in 1724. Gabriel pursued a programme to give a new look to Rennes, centred on the areas which had been destroyed around the two royal squares, today’s Place de l’Hôtel de Ville and Place du Parlement.


Hôtel de Ville
Hôtel de Ville