Rennes (French pronunciation: [ʁɛn] (listen); Breton: Roazhon [ˈrwɑːzən]; Gallo: Resnn; Latin: Condate Redonum) is a city in the east of Brittany in northwestern France at the confluence of the Ille and the Vilaine. Rennes is the capital of the region of Brittany, as well as the Ille-et-Vilaine department.
Rennes's history goes back more than 2,000 years, at a time when it was a small Gallic village named Condate. Together with Vannes and Nantes, it was one of the major cities of the ancient Duchy of Brittany. From the early sixteenth century until the French Revolution, Rennes was a parliamentary, administrative and garrison city of the historic province of Brittany of the Kingdom of France.
Since the 1950s, Rennes has grown in importance through rural flight and its modern industrial development, partly automotive. The city developed extensive building plans to accommodate upwards of 200,000 inhabitants. During the 1980s, Rennes became one of the main centres in telecommunication and high technology industry. It is now a significant digital innovation centre in France.
In 2015, the city was the tenth largest in France, with a metropolitan area of about 720,000 inhabitants. With more than 66,000 students in 2016, it is also the eighth-largest university campus of France. The inhabitants of Rennes are called Rennais(e)(es) in French. In 2018, L'Express named Rennes as "the most liveable city in France".
- Canton of Rennes-1 (38,672 inhabitants)
- Canton of Rennes-2 (40,124 inhabitants)
- Canton of Rennes-3, which includes parts of Rennes but also the commune of Chantepie (43,829 inhabitants)
- Canton of Rennes-4 (37,036 inhabitants)
- Canton of Rennes-5, which includes parts of Rennes but also the commune of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande (43,072 inhabitants)
- Canton of Rennes-6, which includes parts of Rennes but also the commune of Pacé (44,888 inhabitants)
Rennes is divided into 12 quarters:
- Edmond Hervé (b. 1942), Socialist mayor from 1977 to 2008;
- Henri Fréville (1905–1987), mayor MRP from 1953 to 1977;
- Eugène Quessot (1882–1949), interim mayor from 15 July 1947 until 26 October 1947;
- Yves Milon (1897–1987), mayor RPF from 1944 to 1953.
Among previous well-known mayors are:
- Jean Janvier (1859–1923), from 1908 to 1923;
- Edgar Le Bastard (1836–1891), from 1880 to 1891;
- Toussaint-François Rallier du Baty (1665–1734) from 1695 to 1734.
The mairie (city hall) is right in the centre of Rennes.
Rennes has the distinction of having a significant Green Belt around its ring road. This Green Belt is a protected area between the city proper (rather dense) and the rest of its urban area (rather rural).
Rennes features an oceanic climate. Precipitation in Rennes is considerably less abundant than in the western parts of Brittany, reaching only half of the levels of, e.g., the city of Quimper, which makes rainfall in Rennes comparable to the levels of larger parts of western Germany. Sunshine hours range between 1,700 and 1,850 annually, which is about the amount of sunshine received by the city of Lausanne.
In 2018, the inner population of the city was of 221,272 inhabitants, the Rennes intercommunal structure connecting Rennes with 42 nearby suburbs (named Rennes Métropole) counted 450,593 inhabitants and the metropolitan area counted over 720,000 inhabitants.
Rennes has the second fastest-growing metropolitan area in France after Toulouse and before Montpellier, Bordeaux and Nantes.
The inhabitants of Rennes are called Rennais in French.
Rennes is classified as a city of art and history.
The historic centre is located on the former plan of the ramparts. There is a difference between the northern city centre and the southern city centre due to the 1720 fire, which destroyed most of the timber framed houses in the northern part of the city. The rebuilding was done in stone, on a grid plan. The southern part, the poorest at this time, was not rebuilt.
Colourful traditional half-timbered houses are situated primarily along the roads of Saint-Sauveur, Saint-Georges, de Saint-Malo, Saint-Guillaume, des Dames, du Chapitre, Vasselot, Saint-Michel, de la Psallette and around the plazas of Champ-Jacquet, des Lices, Saint-Anne and Rallier-du-Baty.
The Parlement de Bretagne (Administrative and judicial centre of Brittany, Breton: Breujoù Breizh) is the most famous 17th century building in Rennes. It was rebuilt after a terrible fire in 1994 that may have been caused by a flare fired by a protester during a demonstration. It houses the Rennes Court of Appeal. The plaza around is built on the classical architecture.
On the west, the Place de la Mairie (City Hall Plaza, Plasenn Ti Kêr):
- City Hall
On the east, at the end of the Rue Saint-Georges with traditional half-timbered houses:
- 1920s Saint George Municipal Pool, with mosaics
- Saint George Palace, and its garden
On the south-east:
- Saint-Germain square Saint-Germain Church Saint-Germain footbridge, 20th century wood and metal construction to link the plaza with Émile Zola Quay, across the Vilaine River.
The Place des Lices is lined by hôtels particuliers with the place Railler-du-Baty, is the location of the weekly big market, the marché des Lices.
Near the Rennes Cathedral (cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes) is the Rue du Chapitre:
- Hôtel de Blossac
- There are 16th century polychrome wooden busts on the façade of 20, Rue du Chapitre.
On this era are the former St. Yves chapel, now the tourism office and a museum about the historical development of Rennes and the Basilica Saint-Sauveur
Built from the 3rd to the 12th centuries, the ramparts were largely destroyed between the beginning of the 16th century and the 1860s.
Place Saint-Anne (Plasenn Santez-Anna)
- Saint-Aubin Church, built in the beginning of the 20th century
- Location of a former 14th century hospital
- Jacobite convent, the convention centre
South-western, La Rue Saint-Michel nicknamed Rue de La Soif (Road of Thirst) because there are bars all along this street.
South-eastern, the Champ-Jacquet square, with Renaissance buildings and a statue of mayor Jean Leperdit ripping up a conscription list.
Area of Saint-Melaine square
- Tower and transept from the 11th century Benedictine abbey of Saint-Melaine
- 14th century Gothic arcades
- 17th century colonnade
- Bell tower topped with a gilded Virgin Mary (19th century)
- 17th century cloister
17th century promenade "la Motte à Madame", and a monumental stairway overlooking the Rue de Paris entrance to the Thabor.
The south city centre is a mix of old buildings and 19th and 20th centuries constructions.
The Fine Arts Museum is situated on Quai Émile Zola, by the Vilaine River.
Les Champs Libres is a building on Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, and was designed by the architect Christian de Portzamparc. It houses the Brittany Museum (Musée de Bretagne), the regional library Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole with six floors, and the Espace des Sciences science centre with a planetarium..
At Place Honoré Commeurec is Les Halles Centrales, a covered market from 1922, with one part converted into contemporary art gallery.
The Mercure Hotel is located in a restored building on Rue du Pré-Botté, which was the prior location of Ouest-Éclair, and then of Ouest-France, a premier daily regional newspaper.
There are large mills at Rue Duhamel, constructed on each side of the south branch of the Vilaine in 1895 and 1902.
There are two halls of the printer, Oberthür, built by Marthenot between 1870 and 1895 on Rue de Paris in the eastern part of the city. Oberthür Park is the second biggest garden in the city.
The 17th century manor of Haute-Chalais, a granite château, is situated to the south of the city in Blosne Quarter (Bréquigny).
Parc du Thabor contains a compact but significant botanical garden, the Jardin botanique du Thabor. The University of Rennes 1, with a campus in the city's eastern section, also contains a botanical garden and collections (the Jardin botanique de l'Université de Rennes).
Local economy include car manufacturing, telecommunications, digital sector and agrofood.
The ITC firm Orange (ex-France Telecom) is the largest private employer with 4,800 people. PSA Peugeot Citroën, is the second largest private employer in the metropolitan area of Rennes, with 3,000 people. PSA opened a manufacturing plant at La Janais in Chartres-de-Bretagne in 1961. Technicolor, one of the biggest firms in TV and cinema broadcasting in the world employs over 500 people.
The Rennes Atalante Science Park, created in 1984, is the center of new technology development in Rennes. The area is well served by regional highway networks and the TGV high-speed train. In a few years, Rennes became one of the main centres in high technology industry and digital. The city hosts one of the first Technopoles established in France: Rennes Atalante which employs over 20,000 people.
Rennes is the 2nd concentration of digital and ITC firms in France after Paris (with well-known companies and startups like Atos, Google, Neosoft, Orange S.A., Thales, Ericsson, Harmonic France, STmicroelectronics, Technicolor R&D, Ubisoft, Regionsjob, Capgemini, OVH, Dassault Systèmes, Delta Dore, Canon, Artefacto, Enensys Technologies, Exfo, Mitsubishi Electric R&D Europe, Digitaleo, CapGemini, Kelbillet, Klaxoon, Sopra Group, Niji, Airbus Cybersecurity,etc. ). Rennes was one of the first French cities to receive the French Tech label in November 2014. Moreover, Rennes hosts the 3rd public research potential in digital and ITC sectors in France, after Paris and Grenoble, with 3,000 people working in 10 laboratories, like well-known IRISA, IETR, IRMAR, DGA-MI (cyberdefense), SATIE, etc. It is also the 3rd innovation potential in agrofood French industry with lots of firms in this field (Lactalis, Triballat Sojasun, Coralis, Panavi, Bridor, Groupe Avril, Loïc Raison, Groupe Roullier, Sanders, etc.), an agro campus (Agrocampus Ouest) and a big international and professional expo, the Space (every year in September).
Other large firms located in Rennes include the restaurant conglomerate Groupe Le Duff (owners of Brioche Dorée, Bruegger's, La Madeleine, Mimi's Cafe, Timothy's World Coffee), the first French newspaper Ouest France (800,000 daily copies) and Samsic Service (cleanliness, industrial safety, job search, etc.).
Rennes is known to be one of the most festive cities of France. It invests heavily in arts and culture and a number of its festivals (such as the music festival Les Transmusicales, Les Tombées de la Nuit, Mythos, Stunfest (fighting game competition) and Travelling (a cinematic festival)) are well known throughout France. During the 80s, Rennes was often cited as the French town of rock and new wave music.
Rennes is well equipped with musical facilities:
- The MusikHall, for large shows (near the airport). (7,000 seats)
- Le Liberté, dedicated to major cultural events and touring shows. (5,300 seats)
- La Cité, dedicated to contemporary music & local artists. (1,150 seats)
- L'Etage (Le Liberté), dedicated to contemporary music & local artists. (900 seats)
- Rennes's Opera House (650 seats) and National Theatre of Brittany, TNB in French (Vilar room, 950 seats) for the Brittany orchestra.
- The Ubu, an associative concert hall. (500 seats)
- L'Antipode MJC, also an art centre. (500 seats)
There are also five museums in Rennes:
- Musée des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes). This art museum holds many works by the sculptor Pierre Charles Lenoir
- Musée de Bretagne (Museum of Brittany) at the Champs Libres, together with the 'espace of sciences' and a planetarium.
- Museum of Farming and Rennes Countryside at Bintinais, south of Rennes.
- Musée des Transmissions (Museum of Broadcasting) at Cesson-Sévigné, east of Rennes centre.
- FRAC Bretagne Fond Régional d'Art contemporain (Regional Fund for Contemporary Art).
In addition to this list, there are art facilities such as 40mcube exhibition space or the Centre for contemporary art La Criée.
There are also miscellaneous cultural places: the dance dedicated place the Triange, two "Art et Essai" - art house cinemas - cinemas called l'Arvor and Cine TNB. Note also that surrounding cities house many other cultural venues.
Rennes was one of the first towns in France to have its own local television channel 'TV Rennes', created in 1987.
Rennes has also local radio stations (Hit West, Radio Campus, Canal B, Radio Caroline, Radio Rennes, Radio Laser) and local newspapers or magazines (Ouest-France, Le Mensuel de Rennes, Place Publique, 20 Minutes Rennes).
In Brittany, two regional languages are spoken: Breton and Gallo. In and around Rennes, Gallo was traditionally spoken as a local language, but Breton has always been spoken by regional migrants coming from the western part of the region.
The municipality launched a linguistic plan through Ya d'ar brezhoneg on 24 January 2008.
In 2008, 2.87% of primary school children were enrolled in bilingual primary schools, and the number of pupils enrolled in these schools is steadily growing.
Specialties from Rennes include:
Many other Breton specialties (seafood, milk, vegetables, cheese, meat) are seen at the Marché des Lices, a weekly market held every Saturday morning (one of the most important markets in France).
The Rennes agglomeration has a large student population (around 63,000).
The city has two main universities; Université de Rennes 1, which offers courses in science, technology, medicine, philosophy, law, management and economics and Université Rennes 2, which has courses in the arts, literature, languages, communication, human and social sciences and sport. The official website of Université Rennes 2 identifies that facility as "the largest research and higher learning institution in Arts, Literature, Languages, Social Sciences and Humanities in the West of France."
There are a few École Supérieures in Rennes, like the École Normale Supérieure de Rennes on the Ker Lann campus, just outside Rennes, the Institut d'études politiques de Rennes or the ESC Rennes School of Business.
There is also branches of École Supérieure d'Électricité – Supélec and Telecom Bretagne in the east of the city (Cesson-Sévigné), a campus of the École pour l'informatique et les nouvelles technologies, a campus of the École pour l'informatique et les techniques avancées, and the grande école Institut National des Sciences Appliquées, which is next to the "École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Rennes".
The computer science and applied mathematics research institute, IRISA, is located on the campus of the Université des Sciences, nearby Cesson-Sévigné. The Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (defence procurement agency) operates the CELAR research centre, dedicated to electronics and computing, in Bruz, a neighbouring town.
Catholic University of Rennes (Institut Catholique de Rennes) is a Catholic university founded in 1989.
The city is also home to an American study abroad program for high school students, School Year Abroad, in which students are immersed in French culture through five classes in the language and a nine-month home stay.
- Rennes is home to Fortuneo-Vital Concept (UCI Team Code: BSE), a professional cycling team.
- Rennes is home to Stade Rennais Rugby, a women's rugby team who plays in Championnat de France de rugby à XV féminin, which is the top national competition for women's rugby union football clubs in France. Rennes is also home to REC Rugby  , a men's team competing in Fédérale 1, the third tier of the Men's Rugby Union championship.
Rennes has well-developed national road, rail and air links.
Local transport is based primarily on an extensive bus network (65 lines) and a light metro line that was inaugurated in March 2002 and cost €500 million to build. The driverless Rennes Metro (VAL) is 9.4 km (5.8 mi) in length and has 15 stations, including one designed by architect Norman Foster (La Poterie station). A second light metro line is being planned, it should be operational by 2020, and the construction began in 2014.
Rennes provides other modes of local transport: a bike sharing system with 900 bicycles (named vélo STAR). Rennes created the first system of modern French bike sharing (1998).
The city is an important hub of Brittany's motorway network and is surrounded by a ring road: the Rocade (national road 136). The construction of the bypass was started in 1968 and completed in 1999. It is 31 km (18.5 mi) long, it has 2 lanes each way (sometimes 3 lanes) and toll free. Many other expressways are connected to the Rennes ring road for local and regional service. By road, Saint-Malo can be reached in 45 minutes, Nantes in 1 hour, Brest in 2 hours and 30 minutes, Paris in 4 hours, Bordeaux in 5 hours and Bruxelles in 6 hours and 30 minutes.
Rennes has a major French railway station, the Gare de Rennes, opened in 1857. Since July 2, 2017, it is now one hour twenty-seven minutes by TGV high-speed train from Paris (after the extension of the High Speed Rail Line). Train service is available to other big cities in France such as Lyon, Marseille, Lille and Strasbourg.
Rennes is also an important railway station for regional transport in Brittany. The TER Bretagne provides links to Saint-Malo, Nantes, Redon, Vitré, Saint-Brieuc, Vannes, Laval, Brest and many other regional cities. It is served by Gares station on the VAL Rennes Metro.
It notably operates regular or seasonal flights to Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Toulouse, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Rome-Fiumicino, Southampton, Dublin, Exeter, Manchester, Amsterdam Schiphol, Madrid Barajas, Birmingham, London-City, London-Gatwick and daily flights to London Southend Airport with Flybe.
(by alphabetical order)
- Soazig Aaron (born 1949), writer
- Bertrand d'Argentré (1519–1590), jurist and historian, seneschal of Rennes in 1547 than head of the présidial court
- Georges Ernest Boulanger (1837–1891), general and politician, born in Rennes
- Jean-Claude Bourlès (born 1937), writer traveler
- Nicolas Courjal (born 1973), operatic bass
- Maxime Daniel (born 1991), professional cyclist
- Madeleine Desroseaux (1873–1939), poet and novelist
- Félix Dujardin (1801–1860), Professor and Dean, University of Rennes, famous parasitologist
- René Guillou (1903–1958), Composer and organist
- Paul Jausions (1835–1870), musicologist specialising in Gregorian chant
- Hélène Jégado (1803–1852), serial poisoner executed in 1852
- Jacques Legrand (born 1946), linguist and anthropologist, specialising in Mongolian literature, language and history
- Charles Vanel (1892–1989), actor born in Rennes
- Malika Ménard (born 1987), Miss France 2010
- Louis Pérouas (1923–2011), priest and historian
- François-Henri Pinault (born 1962), Chairman and CEO of PPR.
- René Pleven (1901–1993), twice President of the Council of Ministers, born in Rennes
- Pierre Robiquet (1780–1840), chemist member of Académie des Sciences, discover of among others codein, asparagin and alizarin
Rennes is twinned with:
(These twinned towns save one are inscribed on the bridge over the central canal of Rennes)
Pacts of cooperation
Rennes also has the only Institut Franco-Américain in France.