Packed with students during the school year—its Place Ste-Anne studded with bars and cafés housed in medieval buildings with character to spare—Rennes (pronounced wren) is the traditional gateway to Brittany. Since the province was joined to Paris in 1532, Rennes has been the site of squabbles with the national capital, many taking place in the Rennes's Palais de Justice. Long the political center of Brittany, this is the one building that survived a terrible fire in 1720 that lasted a week and destroyed half the city. The remaining cobbled streets and 15th-century half-timber houses form an interesting contrast to the classical feel of the cathedral and Jacques Gabriel's 18th-century disciplined granite buildings, broad avenues, and spacious squares. Many of the 15th- and 16th-century houses in the streets surrounding the cathedral have been converted into shops, boutiques, restaurants, and crêperies. The cavalier manner in which the French go about running a bar out of a 500-year-old building can be disarming to New Worlders.
Rennes at a Glance
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