10 largest cities in France




Rennes is a town in western France, capital of the Ille-et-Vilaine department and of the Brittany region. The city is located in Upper Brittany - the eastern part of Brittany - at the confluence of the Ille and the Vilaine. Its inhabitants are called the Rennais and the Rennaises.

Located on the European Atlantic Arc, 55 kilometers from the Channel coast, Rennes has 216,815 intramural inhabitants, which makes it the first city in the Brittany region, the second city in the West and the eleventh municipality. the most populous in France in terms of number of inhabitants. The urban unit was populated by 335,092 inhabitants in 2017 and its urban area, which included 727,357 inhabitants in 2016, is the tenth at the national level. Rennes is the seat of a metropolis of 447,429 inhabitants (2017), making it one of the eleven major French metropolises under common law (since January 2015).

The history of Rennes covers a period of several centuries. In Gallo-Roman times, the city founded by the Riedones bore the Gallic name of Condate. The city saw its political power increase in the Middle Ages, successively becoming the fortress of the Marches of Brittany and then the capital of the Duchy of Brittany. Under the Ancien Régime, the union of Brittany with France gradually ranked Rennes as a large provincial city. The establishment of the Parliament of Brittany in Rennes in the sixteenth century and then of the Palace of the Parliament of Brittany in the seventeenth century, however, enabled Brittany to retain a certain degree of autonomy with regard to the royal power of the time until the French Revolution. . Rennes notably played an important role in the Stamped Paper Revolt in 1675. Victim of a terrible fire in 1720, the town's medieval wooden center was partially rebuilt in stone (granite and tufa). Remained predominantly rural until the Second World War, Rennes really developed in the twentieth century.

From the 1950s, the town nicknamed "city of administrations" experienced an economic, urban and demographic boom linked in particular to the rural exodus and new industrialization (PSA La Janais car factory). During the 1980s and 1990s, Rennes acquired a strategic position in telecommunications (creation of Minitel and Transpac). It has since become an important pole of the tertiary sector by turning to digital and new technologies (Rennes Atalante technopole, Images et Réseaux competitiveness cluster, French Tech label, IRT b-com, choice of the automatic metro VAL). As of 2013, the Rennes employment area includes 791,601 inhabitants. It is one of the most productive and dynamic in France, with an unemployment rate of around 6.5% in 2018. This is corroborated by the fact that Rennes is, in 2011, the first provincial city for its production of wealth. per inhabitant.

In addition to demographic, historical and economic aspects, Rennes is one of the major French student cities, being in 2016 the eighth university city with nearly 66,000 students. Labeled city of art and history, it has preserved an important medieval and classical heritage within its historic center. 90 buildings are thus protected as historical monuments.

Rennes was ranked first in 2018 on the "list of cities in France where it is good to live" according to the magazine L'Express.

In 2019, Rennes joined the Fab City movement, following the call made by the mayor of Barcelona, ​​Xavier Trias, for all cities in the world to become self-sufficient by 2054.


Tourist Information
Tourism Office (Destination Rennes), Couvent des Jacobins, 1, rue Saint-Malo (In the Convention Center on Place Saint-Anne, bus-stop & metro station Saint-Anne), ☏ +33 8 91 67 35 35, ✉ infos@tourisme-rennes.com. Sep–Jun: M 13:00–18:00, Tu–Sa 10:00–18:00, Su 10:00–13:00 & 14:00–17:00; Jul–Aug: M–Sa 09:00–19:00, Su 10:00–13:00 & 14:00–17:00; closed on Dec 25th, Jan 1, May 1 and Oct 12. Moved since March 2019



To most people, Rennes is not very famous for its architecture or places to see. But this city has a lot of surprises, from wood-framed (colombages) houses in the old city centre to modern building like les Champs Libres.

One highlight, if you're after natural beauty and tranquility, is the Parc du Thabor. This park has a stunning collection of plant life, including a large bed of hundreds of species of roses, tropical, African and European trees, other beautiful and rare plants. It also offers a chance to see some budgies! There are cages with a dozen of species of small colourful birds. To get to Parc Thabor from Republique station, take bus number 3 (direction St. Laurent) and get off at the Thabor stop. Or you can walk about 10 minutes north-eastwards.
The Parliament of Brittany is a major building in Rennes. This grand palace was built in the 17th century to house the provincial court of justice.
The Portes Mordelaises is the last remaining city gate, just in front of the Cathedral. It boasts a classical façade, though the interior was rebuilt during the first French Empire and restored in 2015.

Colourful traditional half-timbered houses (maison à pans de bois) are primarily along the streets Rue Saint-Sauveur, Rue Saint-Georges, Rue de Saint-Malo, Rue Saint-Guillaume, Rue des Dames, Rue du Chapitre, Rue Vasselot, Rue Saint-Michel, Rue de la Psallette, and around the plazas of the historic city center (Place du Champ-Jacquet, Place des Lices, Place Sainte-Anne and Place Rallier-du-Baty). All these houses escaped from a giant fire which destroyed half of the city in 1720. Due to this fire, the northern city center was rebuilt in the 18th century on a grid plan.
Around Rennes
Mont Saint-Michel is a granite island in the former region of Basse-Normandie (now the region Normandie), about 70 km northeast. The main part of the island is the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, surrounded by fortifications, the 3rd most visited monument in France.
If you're going there, the easiest and more expensive way is to use keolis emeraude bus company. They'll charge you €11.40 each way, €8.60 for 16 to 25 year olds. But a cheaper option is to use the Illenoo public transport, which costs €3 each way, but stops in Pontorson (9 km south of Mont Saint-Michel). From there, you can even hitch hike or use the Maneo light bus link, which costs €2. Just make sure that the schedules line up so you're not stuck in Pontorson for 2 hours or more — it's a cute small town but there's not much to do there.

Both services offer a 20% discount for those under 26 years old.
Saint Malo
Etangs d'Apigné
Cobac Parc
The Vilaine river
Canal d'Ille-et-Rance
Forêt de Rennes
Château de Vitré


Getting in

By plane
Rennes–Saint-Jacques Airport (RNS IATA), avenue Joseph le Brix, 35136 Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande (6 km (3.7 mi) away southwest from the city centre (20 min drive); and bus No 57 links it with the city: bus-stop Aire Libre Aéroport 300 m (980 ft) from terminal (every 20 min on M-Sa, every 60 min on Su and public holidays); or railway station "Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande" TER bretagne line 8 & 15), ☏ +33 2 99 29 60 00, ✉ accueil@rennes.aeroport.fr. It has budget flights from Lyon, Nice, and Toulouse with easyJet. Volotea from Marseille. Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca on Vueling. There are flights from Dublin and Cork with Aer Lingus which has good offers. Iberia from Madrid, and Lufthansa from Frankfurt. There are numerous flights inside France with Air France and easyJet. Flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG IATA), Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS IATA), Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, Toulouse using Air France. Around 20 flights per day.
Dinard–Pleurtuit–Saint-Malo Airport (DNR IATA), D364, 35730 Pleurtuit (70 kilometres (43 mi) north, 1 hr drive), ☏ +33 2 99 46 18 46, ✉ contact@dinard.aeroport.fr. One hour away, Dinard's airport offers other cheap options, with for example a connection to London Stansted (STN IATA) and Nottigam East Midlands (EMA IATA) with Ryanair; Guernsey (GCI IATA) via Aurigny Air Services. 2–3 flights per day.

By train
Gare de Rennes, 19, place de la Gare, BP 90527 (bus & metro station Gares ), ☏ +33 892 35 35 35. M–Sa 05:00–00:30, Su & bank holidays 06:00–00:30. The easiest way to get to Rennes from Paris is through Gare Montparnasse. There are TGVs almost every 30 minutes and the ride is 1 hr 25 min. Tickets are available on the SNCF website, and €25-65 for one way. If you're under 26 years old, and planning to travel in France by train, get the "carte 12-25" (€49) which will offer you 50% off most of the time.

There are also direct trains, 4 a day, to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, which arrives at Terminal 2, taking approximately 2 hr 20 min ("OUIGO" direct service from Rennes) or 3 hr and 20 min (with one transit in Le Mans, or in Marne-la-Vallée/Disneyland Paris). The train to CDG terminates at Lille, taking 3 hr and 41 min (direct service from Rennes) or about 4 hours (standard service with 1 transit between stations in Paris), from where it's possible to take a Eurostar to the UK or numerous connections to continental Europe.

The Rennes train station also provides TGV service to Brest (via Saint-Brieuc) and Quimper (via Vannes), or regional TER services to Nantes (via Redon) and Saint-Malo, as well as other cities in Brittany, and some suburban municipalities with local stations in Rennes Metropole.

By shared ride
The cheapest way will be covoiturage or ride sharing. A lot of websites offer information about people wishing to share their car and budget. Covoiturage.fr, 123envoiture.com, or Allostop will help you out. Since 1968, travelling by car on motorways within Brittany is free.

By bus
RRennes has also an international and local bus station ("Gare routière"), right next to the central rail and metro station Gares. This is where you can get information about Illenoo (see below) and where buses such as Eurolines leave and arrive.


Around the city

By bus and metro
Rennes has a very good public transport system, called Star.

If you're planning to buy a pass (weekly or longer), you'll need to go to the agency Place de la République or in the central railway station to get a "Korrigo" card. You can also find agencies in the subways stations Henri Fréville a and Villejean-Université a . These are not open every day, so check the opening times before you visit. Remember to bring an ID picture for employees to scan, as the card includes your photo. It is a free electronic card on which your pass will be saved. Once you have it, just reload it anywhere tickets are sold.

Daily tickets can be bought for €3 a day, and are valid on all bus lines (urban and metropolitan) and metro. Star claims that its network has the cheapest prices in France, with a single ticket (valid for 60 min after validation for unlimited connections) costing €1.50 (December 2018). Locals using a one-hour ticket will often leave their used ticket on top of the ticket vending machines. You should check to see if any tickets are have been left before buying your own, as the one-hour validity usually means it will be valid for a number of ongoing journeys.

Rennes offers more than 50 urban bus routes and a metro, with 1 service every 5 min in each direction for the metro and main bus lines at peak hours. The hub of the network is at République a (a secondary hub is at the railway station Gares a , it will become the main hub when the second metro line will open), which feeds most of the 50 different routes in the city (suburban lines to the west and east of the city are also connecting there, suburban lines to the north and south are now preferably connected to the metro and may reach the city center only on Sunday for limited services). This bus and metro network connects all parts of Rennes (and all municipalities in the metropole), and so you're never far from a bus stop. All the bus stops conveniently have a map (une carte) of Rennes with all the lines on, and a timetable for the routes it provides, so there isn't much chance of getting lost.

The metro, called the VAL, has only one line with 15 stops and is 8.57 km long. It runs from one edge to the other in 16 min. It connects the main train station to the centre, Villejean university, the hospital, the city hall and more. It runs from 05:25 to 00:30, like the seven main bus lines. A second line is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2019.

By bike
Rennes offers very good options for cyclists. With plenty of cycle lanes, the city has plenty of cyclists. For residents of the city and tourists, bikes known as Le Vélo STAR, can be borrowed from 81 stations all over the city. These bikes are not particularly good, but they work and have three gears, so its worth checking them out. You can buy a 1-day or 7-day-registration on the website or at ten stations in the centre (pay with your credit card) for €1 or €5, respectively. Once registered, you can get a bike as often as you want from any station by typing your personal account number and PIN. The first 30 minutes of every rental are free, so the trick is to return your bicycle just before 30 min at the next station and immediately borrow another one.

If you are after a pleasant cycling trip, check out the canal route, which is flat and not very hazardous.

By car
Traffic in city center is heavy. Large areas are reserved for pedestrians and buses. Parking in the center is not free. You'll have to find an horodateur, to pay. The price will depend on the zone you are parked in. €0.75/hr and 2 hr 40 min maximum for green zone and €1.33/hr with 1 hr 33 min maximum for red zones.

The best way to discover Rennes is by metro and its parcs-relais. These are car-parks located in metro stations on the outskirts such as J.F. Kennedy , Villejean-Université in the north and Henri Fréville , Triangle and La Poterie in the south. They're free if you use the metro.

By bus (illenoo)
Illenoo is a public service of the Conseil départemental d'Ille-et-Vilaine. It offers affordable travel within the département (and a little bit outside) on 18 lines. For example, Rennes - Saint-Malo: €4.80, return for students under 26.

You can also go to Mont-Saint-Michel from Rennes, with the regional bus line. It is a direct service and takes 1 hr 20 min. Buses leave from the main bus station, next to train station, and the terminate at the foot of Mont-Saint-Michel.

Some long distance bus links to Nantes, Laval and Caen are cooperated with Lila (the public service of the Conseil départemental de Loire-Atlantique) or with TER (the train+bus networks of regions Britanny, Pays de la Loire and Normandy).