Rennes is the capital of Brittany, four hours from London via a two hour Eurostar to Paris and then hour and a half TGV, and is home to 20 weekly markets including the Marché des Lices
A university town with amazing medieval architecture and one of the largest markets in France is just four hours by train from the UK.
If skipping airport security queues or the prospect of being stuck in a line of cars at Dover sounds up your street, then Rennes in France may be worth visiting – whether for a fleeting weekend break or for longer.
The town of 300,000 is the capital of Brittany, which offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity while being linked to the UK via a two hour Eurostar to Paris and then hour and a half on the TGV. The most striking aspect of the town are the half-timbered houses which sit around the edge of its town centre. Across the whole town several hundred of the wonky properties remain – the highest number in Brittany.
Many of the homes date back to the 15th century and survived the massive 1720 fire that blazed for six days, destroying 33 streets and more than 900 homes. The 280 which remain have muted red, brown and yellow-streaked wooden facades and present like a slightly altered version of the classic British Tudor design.
While not as mainstream as some French cities, Rennes offers a more authentic experience away from typical tourist routes. Exploring its charming streets can provide a glimpse into daily life in Brittany.
The lively atmosphere of Rennes’ markets should not be missed. The Marché des Lices is the second largest markets in France and offers a huge range of local produce, crafts and food.
Now in its 402nd year, the market sees 300 or so traders set up their stalls in the Place des Lices each week and attracts around 10,000 shoppers and tourists. Rennes as a whole is home to about 20 markets throughout the week, such as the organic market held on Wednesday afternoons at the Mail François Mitterrand, and the Wednesday morning Sainte-Thérèse market, which is popular with chefs in the area.
Lices is the biggest and oldest. Colourful selections of fish, charcuterie, fruit and veg, cheeses, flowers, bread and galettes-saucisse – the local speciality of a hot pork sausage wrapped in a buckwheat crêpe – are served each week in abundance.
As charming as it sounds, Rennes is no sleepy French village out in the sticks. The town is home to 60,000 university students who ensure that the bars are filled in the evening and the nightlife is excellent. They play an equally important role in the arts scene there.
Visitors can explore contemporary street art, and cultural events that reflect Rennes’ commitment to artistic expression, and galleries such as the Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes.
For nature lovers, Rennes provides numerous parks and green spaces. The Parc du Thabor, with its botanical gardens and vibrant flowers, is a perfect spot for a relaxing day outdoors. Alternatively, travel south on the train or road for around an hour and you’ll find yourself flecked by the salty power of the Atlantic Ocean.
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