1. Come to Brittany without taking the car
The train is the ideal mode of transport for coming to Rennes. A journey between Paris and Rennes, which only takes 1 hour 25 minutes, emits only 1.9 g of CO2 per kilometre, which is 100x less than if you drive and 77x less than flying. It’s an easy choice to make as it’s quicker, less polluting and less tiring – all good reasons to choose the train. Moreover, for several years, the Regional Tourism Committee (Comité Régional du Tourisme) has made your journey easier through the “Bretagne sans ma voiture” (“Brittany without my car”) programme, with ideas for excursions and turnkey solutions.
2. Getting out to the country
While it is the ideal urban destination for a city break, Rennes has the notable feature of being surrounded by a green belt that can be reached by cycling along towpaths. From the communes of the metropolis, just a couple of minutes is enough to find yourself in the centre of peaceful forests that do not see a lot of visitors. Along the 103 lakes of the Vilaine Valley, you won’t miss the spots of green to explore, remarkable trees to admire and watersports to try.
3. Visiting gardens unlike any others
Beyond the 28 parks in the city centre, the unique gardens offer interesting activities and visits. At Jardin des Mille Pas, a stone’s throw from the towpath that leads to the Apigné lakes, a cooperative and educational garden stretches over 3 hectares. Located close to the entrance to the city, it allows residents to learn a bit more about permaculture techniques and take advantage of the on-site shop to browse some excellent produce. Not far from there and still in the La Prévalaye area, the Perma G’Rennes micro-farm offers vegetables, plants and grains to budding gardeners. Visits, free or guided, are organised in the summer.
A bit further outside Rennes is another garden: the Jardins Rocambole in Corps-Nuds is a quirky, environmentally friendly vegetable garden that is worth visiting. Established by a couple of enthusiasts, it is now classed as a “jardin remarquable biologique” (remarkable organic garden).
4. Take part in slow tourism by walking or cycling
So what if you take time for a slower pace? From Rennes, you can just go with the flow to explore the department’s treasures. From the city centre, it is easy to travel around by bike following the walking and cycle paths and the tow paths. These are gentle routes and flat paths that are suited to the whole family – what more could you want?
By going north, you can head towards Saint-Malo and the Emerald Coast by following the Ille-et-Rance canal for almost 120 kilometres of bikepacking. Alternatively, go south to see the Vilaine and Redon rivers and, beyond, the Atlantic Ocean. To the west, the routes leading to Cesson-Sévigné are also charming. On the water’s edge, far away from cars, you don’t notice the kilometres going by.
You can also simply visit Rennes on foot. In the historical centre, a walk through the squares and monuments is an opportunity to see all of Rennes’ cultural history. It is a “people-sized city” that is also divided by the GR39 grande randonnée hiking route that connects the English Channel to the Atlantic Ocean.
5. Follow the beaten paths
The finest luxury for tourists is to able to travel in the off-season. Rennes is a lovely destination for a fun weekend, but there are also lots of things to do during the week. If you want to know the best time to visit the Breton capital, the answer is simple: it is great all year round. Late autumn is especially pleasant. For example, September has a holiday ambiance as students return to the city centre and the Indian summer lasts longer.
To follow the beaten paths, you also need to go beyond the city centre. Go on mini-adventures or go on a quest for the city’s little-known gems.
6. Environmentally responsible dining
There are many restaurants that prioritise local, organic or locally distributed products. It must be said that Brittany is not lacking in resources, with local produce (agricultural products and seafood) within easy reach. Not to forget iconic specialties, such as Breton galettes made with seasonal products. Chefs need to just hop on their bikes to go and stock up at the closest market. Destination Rennes has also launched an ethical approach with restauranteurs through an environmental responsibility charter.
7. Have a local artisanal beer
There’s more to life than wine, as beer can also be paired with some of the finest dishes. And Brittany is at the forefront of this as microbreweries and artisanal breweries have flourished here in recent years. These enthusiastic new brewers make it a point of honour for their products to be organic and ethical as far as possible. Explore a region and a city like Rennes by tasting its local beers, which are well stocked by bars and restaurants. Perhaps order a Rye IPA from Brasserie Skumenn, a Souffle Tropical from Brasserie du vieux Singe or an amber beer by Brasserie de la Bizhhh. There are many others to try (in moderation) that have been made in Rennes and its surrounding area.
In the very centre is Origines microbrewery in Hôtel Dieu, where the beer is both brewed and consumed on site. It’s hard to have a network that’s any shorter: directly from producer to consumer, in a venue of unique cultural history.
8. Sleeping in a certified hotel
Rennes has three hotels with the EU Ecolabel. It is an environmental certification label that guarantees that these establishments are committed to an environmental and social approach to limiting waste, saving water and using renewable energy sources. These three addresses mean that you can combine a comfortable stay with your ecological principles. Meet in the luxurious Château d’Apigné (five stars) and Best Western Plus Hotel Isidore (four stars) in the La Courrouze environmental district or the Garden Hotel (two stars), near to the train station. There’s a full range of certified hotels to choose from for accommodation that suits your requirements and your budget.
9. Opt for local products and souvenirs
Brittany is the champion of local distribution networks. It is one of the regions that has best developed organic agriculture. So take advantage of this to taste locally grown seasonal products and take home real local souvenirs by heading to independent boutiques for souvenirs and to markets to find excellent fresh products. The Marché des Lices is the best known market with several stalls selling organic products and, in the Halles Martenot, you’ll find a substantial range of local products that have been made with local: bread, cheese, cider, honey, more cheese, to name a few.
There are also organic markets held during the week that have something to suit even the most demanding customers. We recommend the organic and fair trade market in Bruz (Tuesday from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.), the organic market on Mail François Mitterrand (Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and the organic market on place de l’église in Cesson-Sévigné (Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.).
In Rennes, we also love going to pick the products directly in the fields and at the farm, like at Jardins d’Orgères, Le Rheu Maraîchers, Ferme du Châtaignier (Corps-Nuds) and Ferme de la Réauté (Thorigné-Fouillard).
And if you want to take some local products home, they are available at the Tourism Office shop. Other souvenirs, such as Rennes brand Far-Bay postcards, are also available there.
10. Go meet the locals
People in Brittany are famous for their welcome. Here, it is easy to get to know them, especially over a good Breton beer with a galette-saucisse, the local specialty par excellence. Travelling is enriched by meeting people who live in your destination. The locals have the best recommendations and love to share them.