Rennes is famous for its fantastic gardens, such as the Thabor, Oberthür park and the Palais Saint-Georges gardens. The city can even pride itself on being among those that have the most square metres of green space per resident in France. However, there are a lot of other parks and gardens that are worth visiting. Some have become popular recently and others are secret little gardens that are appreciated only by their residents. One thing that they all have in common is that they are at the water’s edge and close to the Vilaine, the Ille or the canals. We will take you on a discovery of these green spaces in Rennes Métropole, where we like to take time to do nothing, except taking it easy.
1. Jardin de la Confluence garden
Where the Ille meets the Vilaine
When Rennes was established, there was a confluence. The city’s old name, Condate (Latin for confluence), is a reminder of this strategic location where the courses of the Vilaine and the Ille rivers meet. Today, this is the Jardin de la Confluence, which forms an angle at the western part of the city. With its unobstructed view of the sunset and passing boats, its footbridge pontoons and its insect hotels, the Jardin de la Confluence is a rural corner that is a popular meeting place for the people of Rennes at cocktail hour. Although it’s not the largest garden, it doesn’t want for charm thanks to the decorative “follies” created by artist Stéphanie Buttier. Following them all along Mail François Mitterrand will bring you to the end of Rennes’ Champs-Elysées and this little triangle of greenery that comes to life while the day ends.
- Things to see and do nearby: Le Bacchus café theatre with a restaurant and wine bar is opposite the Confluence garden.
2. Prairies Saint-Martin
A natural park between the Ille river and the Saint-Martin canal
The Prairies Saint-Martin stretches over 30 hectares along Saint-Martin canal. This natural space has been arranged entirely around leisure to take advantage of the fauna and flora with a pastoral feeling. There is gym equipment, picnic and rest areas, birdwatching posts and kiosks practically everywhere: perfect for leisure. A giant play hill allows children to clamber and climb, while gentle paths wind between all the leisure areas, giving runners, cyclists and pedestrians multiple options for different routes.
- Things to see and do nearby: The Ille-et-Rance canal runs towards Betton and its banks and towpaths are perfect for a short cycle.
3. The Plages de Baud and Vertugadin terraces
A pleasant park, feet in the water
Among the new green spaces recently created in Rennes are the Baud beaches. Located at the bottom of the new Baud-Chardonnet district, this “urban beach” stretches along the Vilaine river with grassy spaces, a guinguette and pontoons. Dotted around are play areas and hammocks to cater to both activity and inactivity alike. Open to all to sit back while watching the kayaks and rowers go by. Just opposite, another stepped area offers a view over this new natural wilderness: the Vertugadin terraces that will soon be connected by a walkway above the riverbanks. It’s both a wetland and space to accommodate flooding by the river.
- Things to see and do nearby: Rennes kayak club to hire equipment or taking a kayaking course (35 Rue Jean-Marie Huchet), phone +33 (0)7 82 69 25 23
4. Parc de Champagné in Cesson-Sévigné
An island of greenery on the Vilaine
The Cesson landscape is defined by water. There are several parks dotted in the centre and the Parc de Champagné is the most fully surrounded. It is a real island that is lovely to visit for a walk and to enjoy the view over the ancient Gallo-Roman bridges. There is a total of 3 hectares for spending time in the shade of the tulips trees and the paulownia tomentosa, which is an elegant-looking tree that originates in China. The walk extends a little further to the city’s other green spaces: Parc de Bourgchevreuil, the Parc de la Monniais, Parc de la Chalotais.
- Things to see and do nearby: the outdoor sports centre for hiring paddle boards, kayaks, canoes or for a river rafting excursion. Excitement is guaranteed! More information on health and safety rules and opening times can be found at www.ville-cesson-sevigne.fr/base-sports-nature.html
5. Parc de Robinson in Saint-Grégoire
A leisure island along the Ille-et-Rance canal
Setting a course for Île de Robinson is a journey in itself. Starting from Saint-Martin lock, it is barely 4 km away from Rennes by the towpath. After just a few turns of the pedal, the scenery has completely changed: the Robinson mill is opposite the lock, where barges and boats are stationed. There is also a small recreation area where the blooming flowerbeds are an invitation to stroll along the paths that span the meandering route of the Ille river. The centre of the countryside on the city’s doorstep. The towpath (on either side) has a range of walking routes that have something for everyone. It is a little piece of paradise for adventurers in the making, keen fishers and fans of watersports.
- Things to see and do nearby: on the other side of the bridge, the Île Robinson canoeing and kayaking club (CKCIR) is not just for keen athletes. The club has light crafts to hire: whether kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddling, it is the perfect place to enjoy watersports safely. https://ckcir.net
6. The Ille Valley in Betton
One of the most beautiful viewpoints over the canal and the river
In Betton, through which runs the Ille Valley and the famous Ille-et-Rance canal, water is an essential part of the landscape and way of living. There are many walking routes along the banks of this corner of Ille-et-Vilaine, which is especially beautiful. But it’s also perfect to just sit and daydream, have a picnic or go cycling. Cycling is undoubtedly the best way to see the towpaths. The flat and safe landscape along the banks of the canal is perfect for family walks, starting from Rennes and passing through Betton towards Chevaigné. For walkers, Betton is also the starting point for the Planchette hike, which alternates between the banks of the canal and exploring the locks and local history.
- Things to see and do nearby: Betton market takes place every Sunday morning at the place de la Cale next to the canal and is one of the busiest markets in the Rennes region. It is the perfect place to stock up on local products.
7. Parc de l’an 2000 in Bruz
19 hectares of nature at the edge of the Seiche river
The Seiche river is no Amazon, but the Vilaine’s tributary regularly bursts its banks when it wants to remind us that it’s not as somnolent as one might think. In the Parc de l’an 2000 in Bruz, opened at the turn of the millennium, as the name indicates, this 19-hectare natural space fully realises its role as a buffer zone. And when crossing the walkways, you can also observe the wetland’s natural life. The path allows you to explore and learn more about the wooded countryside, the riverbanks and the wetlands. Another route provides an escape to follow the traces of legends, fables and poems.
- Things to see and do nearby: continuing along the Laillé route brings you very close to Le Boël, which is an unmissable spot for walking with its large red schist cliffs and its mill that cleaves the water.