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Why You Should Visit Rennes, France

By Laura Neilson

Jan 27, 2012

From the November/December 2010 issue

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Photo by Pascal Poggi

A revived cultural scene mingled with medieval charm make this town in Brittany worth a visit.

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At first glance, Rennes’ cobblestoned streets and half-timbered homes evoke medieval France. But in the last decade, Brittany’s beautifully preserved capital has evolved into a contemporary cultural center with a packed festival calendar.

Rue St-Michel

To experience Rennes’ lively nightlife, visit the bars along Rue St-Michel, nicknamed “Rue de la Soif” (street of thirst).

LeCoq-Gadby

From $190, 156 Rue d’Antrain, Rennes, France. 33/(0) 2-99-38-05-55, lecoqgadby.com.

A 15-minute walk from downtown, LeCoq-Gadby is a former family estate turned boutique hotel. At the Michelin-starred restaurant, dine on capon stuffed with morel mushrooms, a popular Christmas meal. Learn to make macarons in chef Pierre Legrand’s on-site cooking classes or warm up in the spa’s Turkish bath.

Marché de Lices

Sample regional delicacies at the nearly 400-year old Marché de Lices, a sprawling market that takes over the city's historic center efvery Saturday morning. Among the stalls, you’ll find vendors selling beurre salé (butter laced with fleur de sel), Timanoix (a semisoft cheese washed in walnut liquer), and raw oysters. Indulge in traditional galette-saucisse (sausage wrapped in a buckwheat pancake), and the Breton specialty kouign-amann, a glistening pastry of buttery, breadlike dough layered with caramelized sugar.

Startijenn

Startijenn (noun) \ star-tee-zhen \

If you’re feeling amped, then you’ve got startijenn. The word translates to “dynamism” in Breton, an ancient Celtic language spoken in Brittany. Originally, startijenn signified vitality and spirit, but it can also indicate an energy-boosting beverage. Looking to fuel up for the night ahead? Ask a bartender for some startijenn, and you may receive a stiff drink in return.

>> Next: This Beautiful Region of France Is Best Seen From the Sea

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