© Frank Hamon
Culture and heritageVISIT RENNES DIFFERENTLY

The hidden treasures of Rennes : mosaics, secret courtyards

Discover or rediscover the capital of Brittany by unearthing its many treasures. Whether you comes just for the weekend or whether you live here, Rennes still has some secrets for you to discover… Are you curious to find out more ? Stroll around the city to pierce the mysteries of Rennes and enter the closed circle of its true connoisseurs.

On the trail of Italian Odorico mosaic makers

In many respects, Rennes is an open-air museum! It is partly thanks to the talent of a family of Italian mosaic-makers: the Odorico family. Originally from Friuli in Italy, these Italian immigrants chose to settle in Rennes in 1882, after a time in Paris during which they worked on Opéra Garnier. This date marks the start of a real saga, because the descendants of the Odorico brothers, Isidore and Vincent, took over the family business when they died.

Driven by the hygienic trend of the era, these entrepreneurial artists decorated a great number of buildings in the city. Among the most emblematic productions are: Saint George’s swimming pool (see box), the Poirier building, Sainte-Thérèse church, the Valton building on Rue d’Antrain, the pediment of the Criée Municipale, the Papu crèche, and so on. Public monuments, churches, schools and also the entrance halls of private buildings and bathrooms: the Odorico style is everywhere. Look around as you stroll through the streets of Rennes and you’ll discover these little coloured and golden ceramic squares that are so recognisable, such as on the step of the Alaska Brocante. Have fun finding this 19th-century pixelated décor, hidden throughout the city in the most unusual places.

Saint George’s swimming pool: a gem of Art Deco, ranked the 8th most beautiful swimming pool in the world

Even if you don’t intend to go swimming, enter the sumptuous Saint George’s pool in the heart of Rennes! You’ll be amazed. Built in 1926, this swimming pool is a wonderful illustration of provincial Art Deco: a traditional desk, a rotunda, numbered wooden changing rooms and a pool entirely covered in little tiles in shades of blue. It was even enhanced by a giant moon, a work of art by artist Luke Jerram, for the Tombées de la Nuit festival! Thanks to all this, the Rennes pool is ranked the 8th most beautiful swimming pool in the world by the magazine Architectural Digest, a reference publication in the design world.

Deep inside : visit the secret patios, terraces and courtyards of Rennes

Forget the usual buzzing and festive city of Rennes that puts on a show for everyone to see, and instead set off to explore the city’s unknown side: its interior courtyards, its secret terraces, its hidden patios, etc. Many guided tours are organised.

The first essential visit (often forgotten by tourists) is the courtyard of the former Saint Michel prison in the centre of Rennes. A terrifying jail in the Middle Ages, this mythical site in Rennes now contains a nightclub in the basement and restaurants on the floors. This well-preserved medieval building is a listed historic monument. Another hidden place is the Blossac mansion house in the centre of Rennes. Do you want to extend this immersion in the secret sites of Rennes? Have a little snack or enjoy an aperitif with friends on a discreet terrace: the Loco Loca for a warm atmosphere, the Combi Bar for a delicious cocktail, the Peacock for its delicious pastries and cosy sofas, or the Panama for a barbecue with friends.


Rennes : the beautiful medieval city

It’s impossible to overlook the medieval history of Rennes! Profoundly rooted in the architecture of the Breton capital, the medieval period shaped its identity. This fabulous heritage can be seen just be lifting your head up! As you walk, you’ll notice that the city is lined with colourful buildings and half-timbered houses (286 well preserved) and the remnants of fortifications. On Place du Champ Jacquet, admire how the half-timbered buildings seem to lean on each other in a fragile feat of balance! Don’t miss Rue du Chapitre: this little cobbled street behind the cathedral has busts on the façade that were sculpted in the 16th century. Another flagship of the historical heritage of the capital of Brittany: Portes Mordelaises, connecting the bottom of Place des Lices to Rennes cathedral. Don’t forget to discover these medieval gates flanked with their towers and drawbridges, proudly built on ancient foundations. And for a truly successful visit, hire a guide to accompany you.

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