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In Rennes like everywhere else in Brittany, going down the pub to meet old and new acquaintances alike is a tradition. As you probably know, Irish pubs have their own feel and culture based on coming together and having a good time. Here's our whirlwind tour of the city's best Irish pubs - perfect for celebrating Paddy's Day or making new friends every day of the year!
SWEEPING VIEWS OF THE PARLIAMENT OF BRITTANY
With it's classically Irish décor and wooden tables, stools and chairs imported directly from the Emerald Isle when it first opened in 1998, it's almost like being in Temple Bar itself. The difference here is that O’Connell's boasts jaw-dropping views of the Parliament of Brittany, one of the city's most iconic monuments. In the evenings, the atmosphere here is warm and busy - you'll need to push your way through the crowds to reach the bar. The terrace is a lovely little spot for summer nights, and is a great way of kicking back on one of Rennes' best squares. The kitchen serves up a huge range of club sandwiches, salads, grilled meat dishes and baked potato with toppings. An authentic Irish pub in France!
O’CONNELL'S IRISH PUB, 7 PLACE DU PARLEMENT
RAUCOUS AND A GOOD SHOUT FOR PADDY'S DAY
With its green fronting adorned with shamrocks, there's no missing Le Shamrock. Overlooking the TNB, the Shamrock is a pure dose of Ireland, open 7 days a week from 5pm to 3am. A great place for a good old drinking session, complete with a room on the first floor. The pub comes into its own for an entire weekend on Paddy's Day. But all year round, you'll find a host of specialities such as beer cocktails with colourful names: enjoy a Celtic Orgasm night cap, a Connemara Storm or a Pippa Middleton!
LE SHAMROCK, 14 RUE SAINT-HÉLIER (OPPOSITE THE TNB AND L'UBU)
THE ULTIMATE AUTHENTIC PUB
As authentic as they come, on the corner of one of the historic centre's narrow little streets. Nooks and dark corners complete with little tables where you can rest your pint, in the back room or around the bar - soak up the atmosphere and catch snippets of conversation from the British and Irish owners. There's also a great covered heated terrace that's welcome in the winter, and a menu made up of juicy burgers and light bites. Thanks to its fantastic atmosphere, this pub is often rammed, which is always a good sign! People flock here to meet whatever the time of day, for happy hour, for brunch after the market, or for catching football or rugby. The Fox and Friends wears its name well: a friendly atmosphere to make you feel right at home.
FOX AND FRIENDS, 13 RUE DE LA MONNAIE
A GIG-FOCUSED PUB UNDER THE ARCHES
The youngest of Rennes' Irish pubs, the Penny Lane is closely related to the Fox and Friends, with the owners having applied the same winning formula to these exceptional premises decked out with the greatest of care. Tucked away under the stone arches, this pub is perfect for sinking back into one of the plush armchairs, or head into the lounge and settle into one of the sofas to people-watch passers-by heading to the Place de la Mairie. The pub is nestled under the arches of L'Opéra and Le Picca, and offers over a hundred different whiskys, as well as a club sandwich to die for and mouth-watering burgers. Expect a huge selection of beers, from the Scottish Tennent's to local Skumenn - something for even the most hardened of real ale connoisseurs. The icing on the cake is the music-friendly philosophy here: catch one of the several weekly gigs that take place here on the back room stage. Warm welcome guaranteed - make sure you get here early!
PENNY LANE, 1 RUE DE COËTQUEN (UNDER LE PICCA AND L'OPÉRA)
THE ONE WITH THE LEGS STICKING OUT FROM A KEG
Locals struggle to pronounce the name, or you forget exactly what it's called. The result is that this cosy little pub on Rue de Dinan is simply referred to as "the one with the legs sticking out from a keg". You'll see what we mean when you get here, but here's a clue: it was a souvenir brought back from Galway by the landlord when he lived there. A traditional pub atmosphere with a variety of Coreffs and Irish beers on tap, as well as a good selection of whiskies. A place with a loyal local following and a truly authentic Paddy's Day vibe. There's not much space inside, but this is nevertheless a great little pub a stone's throw away from the historic centre.
THE WESPORT’ INN, 35 RUE DE DINAN (NEAR THE THÉÂTRE DU VIEUX SAINT-ETIENNE)
A HIP PUB IN THE HEART OF THE HISTORIC CENTRE
If you're planning a trip to the Tourism Office (11 rue Saint-Yves), just around the corner is the Oan’s Pub, complete with a terrace that's much more peaceful than the ones in the Saint-Michel area. A great spot for fans of Breton beer, like the Skumenn or the Ombre bleue on tap, and good music, with gigs regularly played here, especially during the I’m From Rennes festival. The Oan’s Pub lies in the historic centre, on a cobbled street with sweeping views of the Saint-Yves chapel. Old stone walls and good beer make this a Rennes staple.
OAN’S PUB, 1 RUE GEORGES DOTTIN (NEXT TO THE TOURISM OFFICE)
RENNES' LARGEST PUB
If you have a penchant for Guinness and Match of the Day on massive screens, it'll be the Delirium Café for you. Undoubtedly Rennes' largest pub, with an epic terrace to seat 300: perfect for catching some afternoon rays or a beautiful sunset, or people-watching during the Marché des Lices on Saturday mornings. This is a favourite with students on a Thursday night, and home to a huge selection of beers on tap and shots. Ideal for taking over whole tables with friends and catching one of the matches being played at the Stade Rennais.
Delirium Café, 15 PLACE DES LICES (OPPOSITE THE HALLE MARTENOT)
A SMALL PUB FOR BIG FANS OF RUGBY AND RILLETTES
Football and rugby fans come here to support their teams on the Kilkenny's benches. Other than sport, the pub is known for its unrivalled selection of beers and whiskies (connoisseurs will recognise the ale it is named after) as well as its platters of light bites, and its sardine rillettes especially. A nod to Ireland's fishing heritage, and simply delicious when enjoyed on a sunny summer day on the terrace. A colourful little pub ideally located between Place Saint-Germain, Place de la Mairie and Place du Parlement de Bretagne.
KILKENNY’S PUB, 3 RUE DU VAU SAINT-GERMAIN
Pubs are veritable institutions in Brittany, as they are in all Celtic countries. So very different from a traditional French bar, the word comes from the English 'public house', and is where friends, family and colleagues flock to enjoy a drink after work, catch football or rugby matches, have lunch, play darts, or listen to music. An institution and a place where people of all walks of life come together, there are rules here that don't apply anywhere else. Here's our insider guide to respecting pub tradition:
ORDER AT THE BAR
Unlike in a normal continental bar, punters order at the bar. There's no point in sitting down on the terrace or at a table and waiting for the waiter to take your order. Head over to the bar to ask and pay for your pint*. In other words, service is easier and less formal than in a traditional continental bar. Get yourself settled where you like, even at a table full of strangers. That's the whole point of a pub. You can also leave your glass down and find it exactly where you left it. Unless it was already empty...
GET A ROUND IN
The key word at any pub is friendliness and coming together. This is the only place where you can discuss sport, religion and politics in the same breath with total strangers, without emotions running high. How? By getting your round in. That's another of the pub's major rules: as soon as glasses are drained, someone gets a round in. This is another way of making friends easily and getting to know locals until the kegs run dry.
WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND PADDY'S DAY?
Every 17 March is Saint Patrick's Day in Ireland. This was originally a Christian holiday held in celebration of Ireland's patron saint. According to legend, Saint Patrick was said to have explained the concept of the Holy Trinity using a shamrock. And if that isn't worth a few rounds, we don't know what is!
A feast day adopted in the 17th century, Paddy's Day gradually became the party we know it as today (it became a bank holiday in Ireland in 1903). A chance to celebrate Irish culture by partying and decking yourself out in the Emerald Isle's symbols (shamrock, harp, stout) and wearing green. The tradition was exported to the States thanks to the country's many Irish expatriates and descendants. Today, Paddy's Day is celebrated around the world, with everyone becoming 'Irish for the day' on 17 March. And this is definitely the case in Rennes, a city that knows how to throw a party!
* Please drink responsibly. Alcohol abuse is harmful to your health.