1. Fine Arts Museum
Rennes Fine Arts Museum has an art collection covering all periods, from ancient times to the present day. It holds a very comprehensive collection of archaeological exhibits (bronzes, ceramics and sculptures) from Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek and Roman civilisations. And don’t miss the Italian drawing collection. This set, mainly taken from Christophe-Paul de Robien’s cabinet of curiosities, brings together celebrated drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, Botticelli, Donatello and Michelangelo.
The 14th- to 18th-century European painting collection is also worth a look with masterpieces from Veronese, Georges de La Tour and Rubens. And the 19th-century section features 300 works by Caillebotte, Sisley, Gauguin and Sérusier among others. As for the modern period, visitors can marvel at Picasso’s Bather, painted in Dinard, and works by Sam Francis and Nicolas de Staël. Contemporary Breton artists are also showcased, including Geneviève Asse, Raymond Hains and Jacques Villeglé.
In addition to the permanent collections, which have built the reputation of Rennes Fine Arts Museum, temporary exhibitions enable visitors to look at art from a different perspective.
2. Brittany Museum
Brittany Museum is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016. For the last 10 years, it has been housed in the Champs Libres, which is also home to the media library, Planetarium and Science Centre. With over 600,000 artefacts, the museum retraces the history of Brittany and the Breton people from the very beginning to the present day. This journey back in time, entitled Bretagne est univers (Brittany – a world in microcosm), is presented like a stroll through a town — artefacts, costumes and dwellings enable visitors to immerse themselves in everything Breton. To complete this journey, there are two other exhibitions on display in the Champs Libres. Bretagne des mille et une images (Brittany through a thousand pictures) is based on the senses, memory and poetry. It focuses on Breton diversity through a three-dimensional visit, which features sound and light shows, and photographs projected from floor to ceiling. Finally, an interactive exhibition gives visitors the chance to relive the famous Dreyfus affair and the trial that took place in Rennes in 1899. The various documents and witness statements enable you to step into a character’s shoes for a better understanding of this affair, which left its mark on French history.
Temporary exhibitions bring an added ethnological dimension to the permanent collections. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include Drinking, From A to Z – 10 years of Museum Acquisitions, and Brittany Express – the history of the train in Brittany.
3. Ecomusée du Pays de Rennes
This ecomuseum, set between urban and rural landscapes in the south of Rennes, is housed in the former Bintinais farm. The 19-hectare estate offers a life-size journey back through Brittany’s agricultural history. As a working farm with 19 old livestock breeds, from chickens to carthorses, a garden and an orchard, the ecomuseum is a real agricultural park seeking to preserve many old plant varieties. Traditional crops, such as flax, hemp and buckwheat, grow alongside more recent ones. The ecomuseum stands out as it enables visitors to discover five centuries of history by presenting the developments of a large farm in the Rennes area from different angles — daily life, tools, heritage, landscapes, expertise and traditions. Everyone can visit the farm at their own pace thanks to an interactive concept featuring models, videos and games dotted along the circuit.
4. Regional Contemporary Art Fund (FRAC)
Since 2012, the Brittany FRAC has been housed in a building designed by the architect and town planner Odile Decq. The 5,000-square-metre area is devoted to contemporary art and is open to all ages. The collection, which features over 4,800 works from close to 600 artists, is based on key themes, such as abstraction, the relationships of art with nature, the role of artists and works, and the artist as a witness of his or her time. The FRAC also honours Breton artists, like Gilles Mahé, and offers very comprehensive monographic exhibitions of renowned artists, including Ian Baxter, Raymond Hains, Christophe Cuzin and Julien Prévieux.
The ever-evolving collection complements the temporary exhibitions that are held regularly at the venue. And the building itself stands out for its size both inside and out. Located close to Beauregard park, the FRAC is also home to a bookshop and the Art’n Cook restaurant, so you can treat your taste buds during your visit.
5. La Criée – Centre d’art contemporain
La Criée, one of Rennes’ cultural venues, is an exhibition centre set in the heart of the city, right next to the central covered market. It is impossible to discover the city without taking a step inside. Since 2013, this contemporary art centre has put on a three-year exhibition cycle, inspired by Raymond Queneau. After Running the Streets (2013 – 2014) and Scouring the Fields (2014-2015), it is now the turn of Breaking the Waves (2015-2016). This way of presenting art “means visitors can explore three different horizons and three parallel worlds — urban, rural and coastal landscapes”. Each season is put together with an associated artist.
6. The Science Centre
The Science Centre can be found in the Champs Libres complex, alongside the media library and Brittany Museum. This three-in-one venue is a particular hit with children thanks to its planetarium, Merlin’s Laboratory — for learning about science while having fun — and exhibitions in the Eurêka and Earth rooms to discover all there is to know about biodiversity, animals, plants and the living world in general. Science Centre guides organise fun workshops and talks in the different areas to give younger audiences a taste for science. But parents will also be fascinated by this journey into the world of science.