Rennes, the effervescent
Rennes is the kind of city that you’d want to visit… and live in. Among its many qualities are its Breton identity, its welcoming and dynamic atmosphere, and its abundant cultural life.
For years now, the most passionate city in Brittany has flaunted its fiery take on life. With its architecture and cutting-edge buildings, quirky shops, brightly coloured bars and inventive restaurants, Rennes is a young, vibrant metropolis. No other city seems quite as open, inspired by its own history, vitality, constant renovation, its genius and its contradictions. Everything that comes to it from outside seems to be accepted, contemplated, held up to the light, shaped according to the town’s desire, custom-tailored, and then incorporated into the city. Which is why, given all the incredible spots the city has to offer, making a list of everything you can do in Rennes is a thankless, Sisyphean task.
The legacy of Odorico mosaics
Whether medieval, neo-classical or contemporary, no sooner has an itinerary been decided upon than new places pop up that cannot be missed. So why not start by looking up and observing the treasures left behind by a dynasty of mosaic artists, adorning both the façades of buildings and the everyday life of locals? Indeed, Art Deco lovers will be in heaven when they discover the splendid mosaics created by the Odorico Family (father and son), who remain a reference in this medium. From the Halles Centrales covered market, by way of the Saint-Georges swimming pool, the Valton building, the République post office or the Église Sainte-Thérèse church, the rich heritage of Odorico mosaics is a must-see during any stay in the Breton capital.
In fact, sometimes all you have to do is to push open a shop door – like the optician, Regard-Marine (Place Sainte-Anne), La Taverne de la Marine restaurant (Place de Bretagne), the bar, Le Hibou (Rue Dupont-des-Loges) or the decoration shop Forma Design (Rue Leperdit) – to come across stunning floors or mosaic decorations. The Odorico Family has undeniably left its mark on the city – and more generally on the west of France. 122 cities have works by Odorico, but Rennes has the most – and the most beautiful examples of this technique, which comes to us from antiquity, and experienced a new golden age in the late 19th century.
A city of art and history
To get a feel for this “city of art and history” and feel how diverse it is, you must also take in its quays, enjoy its neo-guinguettes (i.e., riverside open-air cafés), and marvel at the reflections of the Vilaine river under the town’s bridges. From there, you can stroll through its harmonious, architectural patchwork of half-timbered houses, 18th century mansions and audacious buildings, like: Les Champs-Libres (a cultural hotspot designed by Christian de Portzamparc), Les Horizons (Maillols, 1970) the city’s iconic twin towers with its gentle curves, or the Cap Mail designed by Jean Nouvel in 2015, by way of Patrick Berger’s school of architecture or Odile Decq’s FRAC Bretagne. The city constantly reinvents itself, while simultaneously inviting visitors to a smooth journey through space and time, from the 16th to the 21st century.
With its sights set on the future, Rennes is also at the forefront of technological innovation with, for example, its fully automated metro, where stations on the new line will feature permanent contemporary artworks. Everywhere, brand-new initiatives are multiplying. And the vibrant cultural scene is no exception – which, in itself, sums up modern-day Brittany.