Rennes, enjoying the night the Breton way

Some French cities have the image of having a limited bar-and-sidewalk-café scene and practically no nightlife. But not Rennes.
Rennes is a special city. On my recent visit I saw again that the Bretons enjoy a wholehearted beer-and-music lifestyle in the same festive tradition as their Gaelic brothers and sisters.
I’m going to suggest a few places where you can enjoy the night in Rennes, areas with bars and sidewalk restaurants, and a few other spots where you can drink in the atmosphere of Brittany’s capital.

Music festivals in Rennes

In the last few years Rennes has upped its festival activity, hosting electronic music events where young people flock to hear DJs groove. For instance, there’s the Big Love Festival, which takes place in early June, and the Match Festival, which is held in early July on the island of Moulin du Comte, which I attended when I was in Rennes. There’s a huge array of cultural events on offer in the city all year long, especially in the summer, proving that Rennes is eager to earn itself an image as a modern, dynamic city.

After work at Mail François Mitterrand

We’ll start our day of laid-back enjoyment in Rennes soaking up the after-work atmosphere of bars and outdoor watering holes on the new boulevard Mail François Mitterrand, a pedestrian area where slews of sidewalk cafés have sprouted up, making a name for themselves as spots to meet up for a beer and a bite to eat after work. La Piste (68, Mall de François Mitterrand) is the busiest bar, with a large sidewalk area whose long tables are always full of people, and where you have to queue up at the bar to order drinks (Beer is king here). La Piste’s regular customers while away the time playing palet, a traditional Breton game.

Dine on galettes at Creperie La Saint Georges

You can’t say you’ve been in the capital of Brittany if you haven’t tasted a Breton galette. This regional specialty food is to be found in the kinds of restaurants that call themselves crêperies. Galettes are a good dinner alternative in your night-time round of Rennes. You can get them savoury or sweet, with a wide variety of fillings, at the popular Crêperie La Saint Georges (17, Jules Simon). I tried the galette complète, which has cheese, ham and a fried egg. And of course, I washed it down with a glass of typical Breton cider.

Rue Saint Michel

Saint Michel, popularly known as ‘Thirst Street’, is the busiest part of the old town to enjoy the night in. There you can savour a beer or have a bite to eat at a fast food place. The university students who live in Rennes love Saint Michel and the surrounding area, and its popularity is not limited to night owls; at any hour of the day you’ll find a lively atmosphere at its bars and sidewalk cafés.

Having a drink at the former Saint Michel Prison

If you’re looking for an original place to have few drinks on your nocturnal ramble of Saint Michel, this is the spot. The old prison dates back to 1455, but now it’s become a bustling meeting place for people out to have fun and get down to the music between cocktails. When I entered the tiny courtyard, I was struck by the contrast between the half-timbered walls of the medieval building and the old cells now occupied by nightlife. It’s in the old Prison Saint-Michel where you’ll find Delicatessen, Rennes’ most popular dance club.

Brunch at Les Bricoles

How better to recover on the day after a good night out than by enjoying a typical brunch in a charming location? In Rennes we went to Les Bricoles (17, Quai de la Prévalaye), a restaurant on the banks of the river across from Mall de François Mitterrand. I don’t know what I enjoyed the most about my brunch in the small, cosy courtyard, the original salads or the big sweet gallete with strawberries and cream.