Two years ago I had the opportunity to participate in an exchange program offered by my university and moved to France for a year of studies. I applied to three universities in different cities and I got into the one in Rennes; living in this city is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
This medieval city is full of history- walking around downtown you feel like you have travelled back in time. The old buildings, the narrow roads, the cobblestone streets all tell stories. I’m a person who loves to wander, to observe little things, and try to understand why they’re there- there is so much I love about this city.
At the same time the city is very modern because a third of its population are students, so there’s always something going on. Feel like clubbing on a Tuesday? In Rennes you can, because Tuesdays are known as the ‘exchange students night’ so bars and clubs play music from all over the world to please the crowds of foreign students who want to share their culture with their new French friends.
After a year in Rennes I had to go back to Toronto to finish my undergrad. Once I did, I felt like I had to come back, so I did, and now I’m here working on getting my Master’s Degree. Don’t get me wrong, I love Toronto, but this little French city has charm.
Here are 5 reasons why I love Rennes so much:
1. The Architecture. As I had mentioned before, pretty much every building is full of history. And yes, you can say that every city in Europe has beautiful architecture, but here, there’s a mixture of styles that make this city so very unique. In the historic centre you can still find colourful half-timbered houses, which were the traditional houses of the region. In 1720 there was a major fire in the city which destroyed most of the buildings and after that, they started building houses in stone. The combination of old and new world charm is what makes this city so beautiful to me.
2. Thabor Park. It’s a huge park right downtown and it’s beautiful! There are French gardens with all kinds of flowers and bushes perfectly arranged. There is also a ‘wild’side where trees aren’t manicured and you forget you’re in the city because all you can actually hear is the noise of the waterfall and the abundance of trees and greens makes your forget where you are. When you think things can’t get better you stumble upon a petting zoo. I must say that this High Park meets the Versailles gardens, is one of my favourite spots in the city, especially on Sundays when everything is closed. There is nothing better than a stroll through the park.
3. The Partying! It just doesn’t stop! A third of the city’s population are students, which of course explains everything. There are tons of places to go to in Rennes, and for all kinds of tastes. Some clubs here have taken it to a whole other level- wouldn’t it be cool to be able to say that you partied in a medieval prison? Well if you come to Rennes and visit the Delicatessen, you can! Here they turned what was a prison hundreds of years ago into a club. Or, if you’re looking for a chill night at the bar, you can try Cactus- a bar that upon entering doesn’t look too special at first; you then notice a little rail that goes all around the bar, and when you place your drink order, your drinks are served by this little train that carries them to your table, hence the rail- how cool?
4. The Food! Yes, France is known for its cuisine, but the best things you can find in Rennes aren’t really your typical French haute-cuisine kind of places. It’s a student city, so prices aren’t too high and restaurants have had to adapt to this. The region’s specialty are galettes, which are pretty much like crêpes but made with a different kind of corn and nothings goes better with a good galette than a glass of Cider.
5. Le Marché des Lices. This market has been around since the early 1600’s! Every Saturday, hundreds of artisans and farmers bring their products to the city. From around 5am to 1pm you can shop for fresh vegetables, beautiful flowers, the most delicious cheeses, and all for a very reasonable price. It’s one of France’s biggest markets and in it you can find everything you need. You can even find fresh meat and fish, and you know that what you’re buying is of the best quality!
Rennes is definitely a charming city that is able to meet all your modern day necessities. Simultaneously, it is a place that takes you back in time and somewhere you can go to escape. You can walk through the park, sit in front of the Opera or the City Hall and imagine what life must have been like in this city hundreds of years ago, when they didn’t have buses or the subway but horses and carriages on the cobblestone streets. FYI- If you visit this city, I would reconsider bringing heel- walking on cobblestone in heels? Yeah, not so easy.
Have you ever been to Rennes?
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