In our 5 Shops series, we’ll point you in the direction of our favorite independent shops across some of the world’s best cities. From food markets to bookshops, vintage and homegrown design, we’ve found a diverse and exciting mix of local retailers where you can pick up one-of-a-kind pieces.
As the capital of one of France’s most iconic regions, Rennes is renowned for its picturesque half-timbered houses and rich cultural heritage. Yet this vibrant, young and welcoming city in Brittany has much more to offer. Come for its great restaurants, thriving nightlife, diverse art scene, and, if you're here in December, one of Europe's most important music festivals.
Located just a swift one-and-a-half-hour high-speed train ride from Paris, Rennes is an ideal destination for a day trip from the capital or as a starting point for exploring the treasures of Brittany, including St-Malo and Mont St-Michel. Join us on a leisurely stroll to explore its hidden gems.
Best for souvenirs: Breizh Club
Established by a team of proud Bretons, this youthful brand has been passionately dedicated to ready-to-wear fashion and souvenirs since 2016. Situated close to the town hall in the heart of the city, this little boutique offers visitors a chance to acquire trendy products made from 100% organic cotton, and all locally printed.
For travelers seeking to take home a piece of the region’s allure, the shop boasts an array of options, including embroidered marinières – the iconic French maritime tops – showy tote bags and even “rain boot”–patterned socks celebrating Brittany’s, um, delightful weather.
Breizh Club celebrates Brittany’s rich heritage and even its cultural clichés, with plenty of home accessories: mugs, posters, beach towels, cooking aprons and more. My recommendation? A made-in-Bretagne upcycled toiletry bag (€40), crafted by two local seamstresses from the fabric of an old marinière.
Best for local design: Le Mur habité
Let’s step a bit away from the city center to discover a unique architectural project and hub for local designers: Le Mur habité. Built alongside the rail line, this soundproof wall of wood and glass is a testament to the thriving craftsmanship scene of Rennes. The place is now a creative nucleus where artists, designers and artisans celebrate the essence of Breton craftsmanship and innovation.
Here, visitors are greeted by an array of contemporary artisan-creators: silkscreen printing, artisanal plumassier (crafting with feathers), sewing or lampshade making. Visitors can pop in anytime to witness how well-crafted objects are created, like the tasteful jewelry from L’Atelier Septentrion, made using the technique of sand casting, which dates back to the Bronze Age. One of my friends even designed his own wedding with their help.
Located next to iconic art space Les Ateliers du Vent, Le Mur des Habité hosts regular workshops and events that promote collaboration and inspiration within the local creative community.
Best for vintage: Rossignol de mes amours
As thrift shopping has surged in popularity, finding affordable, quality vintage clothes has become trickier. But that’s not the case in Rossignol de mes amours, located in the lively neighborhood of Saint-Hélier, just a few blocks from the train station.
This small shop boasts a delightful collection of eye-catching vintage clothes carefully curated by Parisian-born Stéphanie. From made-in-France floral dresses to leather bags and cozy woolen cardigans, Rossignol de mes amours offers timeless and affordable pieces, both for men and women, that exude the charm of bygone eras.
An extroverted and passionate owner, Stéphanie loves sharing her knowledge and helping customers find the perfect piece. As a vintage enthusiast myself, I stumbled upon a black leather belt with a cowboy buckle from Lee (€25) and an asymmetrical silver ring (€20) that I’ve been wearing for almost a year now.
Best for books: La Nuit des temps
Facing the Vilaine river is a feminist institution that celebrates the power of literature and equality. Founded in 2017 by Ayla Saura and Solveig Touzé, this independent bookstore has in recent years become an essential destination for both locals and travelers seeking intellectual nourishment and a sense of community.
The shelves are filled with comic books, magazines, children’s literature and works by contemporary authors like Mona Chollet as well as icons like Simone de Beauvoir. Some versions are available in English.
But La Nuit des temps goes beyond being a mere bookstore: it has evolved into a thriving cultural hub, with regular talks by artists, activists and writers. This dynamic approach ensures that the space is always bustling with energy and a commitment to social justice and empowerment, with a strong focus on social sciences, ecology, anti-racism and LGBTIQ+ communities.
Best for food: Le marché des Lices
It’s a must-visit for weekends in Rennes and Breton gastronomy: le marché des Lices, one of the largest markets in France. For 400 years, people have been going there to buy the best products from the region (fish, meat, fruits, vegetables...) from between 200 and 300 local vendors.
Some visitors visit to snack on a hot dish after a late night out (spoiler: galette-saucisse never disappoints). Others browse among the colorful stalls for beautiful flowers to charm their loved ones. My favorite pastime? Buying some snacks for the early-afternoon apéritif and going for a fresh pint on the terrace of La Gazoline, just down from the market.