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What can you do in Rennes in a weekend ? Here are five experiences not to be missed during a trip to the Breton capital. A circuit based on the five senses for touching, tasting, hearing, seeing and smelling culture in Rennes.
The Marché des Lices, the second largest market in France, is an institution not to be missed. A showcase for regional products, this market is held every Saturday morning, from dawn, in the square of the same name. The Marché des Lices has existed in its current form since 1965, but its beginnings date back to 1622 and the jousting tournaments in the old square.
The market stretches from the bottom of Place des Lices right up to Place Rallier du Baty and Place Saint-Michel, home to the flower stalls. The butchers and delicatessens can be found in the Halles Martenot alongside bakers, cheesemongers and makers, beekeepers, and producers of cider and regional products. Outside, market gardeners and fishmongers sell fresh produce, including seasonal fruit and vegetables, fish, seafood and shellfish, to regular customers.
Along the streets lined with pavement cafés (where locals like to stop for a drink after the market), there is always something going on — street musicians, petition signing and improvised events. The entertainment is non-stop.
Market every Saturday morning from 7.30am to 1.30pm, Places des Lices
With your taste buds awakened by the market, it is time to sample Rennes' speciality — the galette saucisse. By the end of the morning, a queue starts to form between the Halles Martenot and up to the vans selling this Breton-style hot dog. A pork sausage is wrapped in a buckwheat galette and voilà it's ready to eat! The hot/cold sensation is a bit like Proust's madeleine for local palates. For novices, it's a culinary journey not to be missed, an appetiser before tucking into other galettes in one of the many crêperies in the city centre. On the menu you'll find the traditional complète (with ham, egg and cheese), or more mouthwatering specialities featuring seasonal or local products — onions, andouille (or chitterling sausage), scallops, crème fraîche... the choice is endless.
There is no end to the musical festivals in Rennes — Les Transmusicales in December, Jazz à l’étage in March, Mythos in April, Rock’n Solex in May, Les Tombées de la Nuit in July... Not a month goes by without a festival in one of the districts of the city. Music is very much at home in the city and its bars. It is not a myth, Rennes really is a rocking city. In the legendary Ubu venue (where a rare picture of Daft Punk without their helmets takes centre stage), La Liberté, Le Musik Hall, L’Etage, La Cité or the many other concert halls in the Rennes Metropolitan District, the programmes are both eclectic and demanding, in keeping with the local music culture. It is impossible to spend a weekend in Rennes without tapping the beat to some live music.
So are you more Picasso, ancient art or Rubens? Visit Rennes Fine Arts Museum for a Stendhal syndrome-type experience in front of "The Newborn Christ" by Georges de la Tour. If you are into contemporary art, don't miss the Frac Bretagne (Regional Contemporary Art Fund of Brittany) and La Criée – Centre d’Art Contemporain. Want to know more about Breton history? Head to the Brittany Museum in Les Champs Libres and take in the temporary exhibitions on heritage and culture. To find out about the history of the Rennes area, the Ecomusée du Pays de Rennes also holds a permanent collection and puts on temporary exhibitions (currently about the Oberthur printing works). And the museums in Rennes are free on the first Sunday of each month. Art is also very much present out-of-doors with Street Art works and sculptures that don't fail to take visitors by surprise. In Rennes, urban art in all its forms fills the city.
The Thabor gardens, the city park, is just steps away from the historical centre. It is popular with locals for a Sunday stroll. Access is via Rue Saint-Melaine, past the church and cloister, which recalls the origins of this former Benedictine monks' garden, transformed in the 19th century. The Thabor, considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in France, alternates various styles over its 10 hectares — French-style gardens, a landscaped English-style park, and a rose garden featuring over 2,000 varieties. It is also home to an aviary, a mysterious cave, a bandstand, an orangery, which is now an exhibition centre, and a shady café terrace — the perfect place for drawing out the weekend a bit longer.