Rennes, medieval houses and university environment in the capital of Brittany

Half-timbered houses in historic center of Rennes in Brittany France

I was traveling to Rennes with the expectation of seeing the typical medieval houses with wooden facades that characterize the region of Brittany, West of France.

Good examples of them I could see on a trip made a while ago to Quimper.

But what was my surprise that upon arriving at the capital of Brittany I found a city with corners that moved me to Paris or Bordeaux, with a classic architecture totally different from my expectations.

Half-timbered houses in historic center of Rennes in Brittany France

Facing the image of a historic center with pedestrian streets and medieval houses, I saw a city with large squares and monumental buildings of classic style, a wide avenue, many buses and a great commercial animation.

Rennes It is a city of about 150,000 inhabitants, smaller than the nearby Nantes, which at first impression seemed much bigger than it really is; But that had an explanation.

At the time the city was kicked, I confirm that there is indeed a historical Center and you will see many medieval houses, some of them forming beautiful architectural ensembles,

Rennes history

In fact I can tell you that Rennes It has three faces from the architectural point of view.

St. Michael's Square in historic center of Rennes in Brittany France

On the one hand, said historical Center, which is the area of ​​the city that tourists mostly visit.

On the other, the administrative and commercial area, the heart of the city and the result of the reconstruction that had to be done in it after a great fire occurred in the year 1720.

In that fire 9,000 people were left homeless and more than 900 of the typical wooden houses were lost.

It is in that area where the city was rebuilt with classic French-style stone buildings, built by the same architect who built the classic area of ​​the Stock Exchange in Bordeaux.

And thirdly, the most modern city, with areas of expansion like the François Mitterrand Mall where you can see buildings of contemporary architecture including the studio of the famous French architect Jean Nouvel.

Half-timbered houses in historic center of Rennes in Brittany France

From the historical point of view, Rennes It was a Roman city with a small wall that was preserved until the fifteenth century, with two subsequent extensions that were made during the Middle Ages.

A good example of its heritage is that the Rennes Tourist Office it is located in the building of what was the chapel of a 15th century hospital.

Behind the French Revolution This chapel was occupied by a shop, and in 1980 it was acquired by the town hall to enable an exhibition of the city, and then became part of the said tourist office.

What to see and do in Rennes

In you walk through the historic center of Rennes You will see several groups of houses from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries in whose inner courtyards are worth entering, which can only be done during guided tours of the city.

St. Michael street in historic center of Rennes in Brittany France

They are houses of medieval structure that you can see better by accessing the courtyards, with decoration from the time of Renaissance which includes figurative statues and paintings on some facades.

San Miguel Street

The main axis of the historic center is the San Miguel square and the San Miguel street, the latter popularly known as the thirst street, and located near the great Lices Market.

This area is located on the outside of the old wall, and along narrow pedestrian streets, bars and restaurants follow each other in open spaces on the ground floor of the wooden houses, with terraces in front of them.

It is the area that students usually frequent, because you should know that Rennes It is a city of university character, with a community of students that in winter represents 20 percent of the total population.

Old jail of St. Michel in Rennes in Brittany France

To highlight in this area of ​​great atmosphere the enclosure of the old St. Michel Prison, from 1455, in whose inner courtyard the rooms of the old cells are now occupied by bars and the most popular disco in Rennes, Deli.

On your walk through this area of ​​the historic center, in the Lices square, in front of the aforementioned market, a pair of tall wooden houses of the seventeenth century with central stairs, in which potent people of the time, such as politicians or judges, would call your attention.

You can also see another set of tall houses of the same century in the Chamo Jaquet square, with facades with a curious large slope, but without a central staircase.

Interior of the Rennes Cathedral in Brittany in France

Rennes Cathedral

When you go to visit the Rennes Cathedral you will be surprised, because it is not the usual characteristic Gothic building in most of the French cathedrals

Initially there was a Gothic cathedral XII and XIII, but the facade sank and then it had to be rebuilt, so that its lower part of Renaissance style and the upper part of classical style.

For its part, the interior of the cathedral was also rebuilt in the second half of the nineteenth century in the neoclassical style.

Pinault Collection in Jacobnes Convent of Rennes

Now, the archbishop of the time wanted to give this interior another decorative style, which led to the granite columns being covered with stucco to emulate the marble, and a neo-Byzantine decoration was also incorporated.

Convent of the Jacobins

At the end of the San Miguel street, in the Santa Ana square, is the old Convent of the Jacobins, which has been recently completely remodeled to turn it into a large event space.

In this room there are exhibitions such as what you can see during this summer, the Pinault Collection of the French collector of French art Francois Pinault, one of the most important collectors in the world, which is open until September 8.

Corner of the historic center of Rennes

His collection, which is usually shown in the Palazzo Graci of Venice, incorporates works of remarkable social denunciation, among which some hyperrealist sculptures will call your attention, such as that of the boy praying on his knees whose face is that of Hitler.

In the aforementionedSanta Ana square You will also see a neo-Gothic church, whose construction began during the 19th century with the aim of hosting pilgrims, but in the end it was a project too large and the building is unfinished.

Rennes shopping area

Beyond the historic center, the commercial hub of Rennes is theLe Bastard street, where you will see a great atmosphere of shops very crowded by people.

Note that in Rennes The stores have an opening hours from 10 am to 7 pm, more extensive than usual in most French cities.

Rennes Opera in Town Hall Square

Rennes Town Hall Square

This street crosses the Town Hall Square and the Republic Square, the two large urban spaces of the Neoclassical Rennes.

The building of Rennes Town Hall It dates from 1730, and is of classic style with elements of baroque decoration.

The building is configured in three parts, with a central tower in a space where until the French Revolution there was a statue of King Louis XV, and two lateral areas, one of them seat of the town hall, and the other, of the courthouse.

Parliament of Brittany in Rennes in Brittany France

In front of the town hall building is the building of the Opera.

Parliament of Brittany

The building of the Parliament of Brittany, one of the most outstanding monuments of Rennes, and which you can visit.

Built in 1620, it was saved from the great fire of the city and is now the central axis of the Royal Square who built Jean Gabriel With a great aesthetic unit of French-style buildings.

Lices Market in Rennes in Brittany France

In February 1994 the building suffered a fire that affected the upper parts of it, so they have had to be rehabilitated, especially the roof paintings that were affected by firefighters' water.

Lices Market

If your visit from Rennes coincides with a Saturday morning, it is very worth visiting the aforementioned Lices Market, the second largest in France after Lille.

Apart from the closed market grounds that open every day, on Saturday mornings this food market extends around the historic grounds.

Cider selling stand at the Lices Market in Rennes

It has two buildings are metallic architectural style built in the early twentieth century, so fashionable at that time.

If you get to him by the San Miguel street You will see what the busy terraces of the bars give way to the flower market stalls.

The main feature of this food market is the large presence of small producers that directly sell what they produce in their gardens and farms, highlighting the area of ​​sale of organic vegetables and fruits.

In the fish and seafood stalls you can see large crabs weighing up to two kilos caught on the nearby coast of Sant Malo, and you can also buy a wide variety of ciders.

Far Breton, specialty of Breton gastronomy

Did you know that up to 2,000 different varieties of apples are grown in Brittany?

In the market you find a farmer who managed to save from extinction the CouCou native chicken, white body with black pints, which was disappearing and now there are several farms that raise them taking care not to mix the breed.

You can taste and buy the butter cake type Breton Konign, and don't be surprised to see some stalls of oriental sweets, an expression of the country's multiculturalism.

As opposed to the usual in France, Brittany is not a region with a great cheese tradition, although in the market you can see a small Breton producer that offers you various own elaborations, including a white cheese whose strong flavor reminds you of Cabrales from Asturias.

Typical cookie in a Rennes creperie in France

Eat in Rennes

Regarding the gastronomy I remind you that Rennes is in Brittany and there are typical type restaurants creperie where they are offered biscuits with various elaborations and where it is typical to drink cider.

In this regard, you should know that in Rennes and the rest of the Breton region the priority drink is beer, but local cider and wine are also consumed to a lesser extent than in the rest of the country.

Video: Brittany. Wikipedia audio article (November 2019).