The city of Rennes and Ille-et-Vilaine

Geographic situation and communications

With its relatively small coastline in Northern Brittany, Ille-et-Vilaine is situated between the western Brittany, Normandy, Maine and Anjou provinces. The region, consisting of a rather dense network of medium-sized cities (Dinard, Fougères, Redon, Saint-Malo and Vitré), is oriented towards agriculture and the farm-produce industry, the car industry, the electronics and telecommunications industry, as well as the service industry.

Being the préfecture of Ille-et-Vilaine, Rennes is also the capital of Brittany. Its central position allows visitors to the city to travel easily to the northern coast, to places such as Le Mont Saint-Michel, Cancale, Saint-Malo and Dinard, to the Atlantic coast with the Gulf of Morbihan and the resorts of Quiberon and Carnac, or to the Loire and its châteaux (150 to 200 km away). The legendary Brocéliande Forest is also only 40 km away.

A brief history

Rennes is situated at the confluence of two rivers, the Ille and the Vilaine. Condate (its former Gallic name) became the capital of a Celtic tribe of Redones. After its conquest by the Romans and the Francs, the victory of the first Breton sovereign, Nominoë, over King Charles le Chauve in 846, meant that Brittany became an independent kingdom. In 1532, the duchy of Brittany was officially integrated into France and Rennes became the administrative center and the head office of the Breton Parliament. In December 1720, the center of Rennes was ravaged by a great fire, destroying many of its houses built of wood. The current structures seen today spread around two main sites from the 18th century: the Hôtel de Ville and the Parlement de Bretagne.

With its town-center from the 18th century, the Cathedral from Medieval times, the suburbs from the 16th and 18th centuries, etc., Rennes has a very rich architectural heritage.

Population and economy

There are currently 210,000 people living in Rennes (360,000 including the immediate surroundings). As the regional capital of Brittany, it contains most of the administrative activities of the service sector.

Apart from its administrative and political activities, Rennes is, at present, endeavoring to establish itself as a regional center for European exchanges. To achieve this, it bases its development on its renowned international research potential. The Rennes basin represents the biggest research center in the west. Today, about 4,000 researchers are working together to expand research and industrial transfers in several main areas:

  • Electronics, computing, images and communication: new techniques in telecommunications, videographics, audio-videographics, image production, digital networks to integrate services, software concepts, computer design, communication between man and machine, ... For example, the Minitel and the high definition television were developed in Rennes.
  • Bio-industry and Biotechnology: research into fine chemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry and animal products.
  • Health and environment: design and creation of medical image computer networks, biological and medical engineering processes.
  • Materials: characterization, conception and development of new materials: glass, ceramics, polymer, composite materials, ...

The creation of new technological centers reinforces the synergy between the worlds of research and industry, leading to the settlement of highly technological businesses.

Other sectors and industries have greatly contributed to the region's development, such as:

  • the farm-produce industry: this is a highly-developed industry in Brittany and many renowned products are exported overseas.
  • the car industry: the car Citroën factories support an important equipment activity.
  • printing and the press: both are very busy sectors. Ouest-France, the local newspaper, is the French newspaper which has the largest circulation.

Rennes as a cultural capital

With a large number of well-known artistic centers (Théâtre National de Bretagne, Grand Huit, Théâtre de la Ville, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée de Bretagne), Rennes plays an essential role in regional productions through the Orchestre de Bretagne, the Théâtre Chorégraphique de Rennes et Bretagne, and also the numerous people working in pictures and comic strips, cinema and photography, and music and theatre. The Transmusicales and Tombées de la nuit music festivals and the Travelling film festival are annual events that show this dynamism.

To know more about culture in Rennes, please consult the page 'Culture in Rennes'.

Cities twinned with Rennes

Rennes is twinned with twelve foreign cities:

  • Rochester, USA (1956);
  • Exeter, Great Britain (1957);
  • Erlangen, Germany (1964);
  • Brno, Czech Republic (1965);
  • Sendaï, Japan (1967);
  • Leuven (Louvain), Belgium (1980);
  • Cork, Ireland (1983);
  • Jinan, China (1985);
  • Sétif, Algeria (1987);
  • Almaty, Kazakhstan Republic (1991);
  • Poznan, Pologne (1998);
  • Sibiu, Romania (1999).

A twinning cooperative agreement was signed in 1995 with the Circle of Bandiagara (Dogon) in Malia.

In March 2000, a cooperative agreement was officially signed between Rennes and Hué in Vietnam.

To know more

For more information about the city of Rennes, please refer to