The Rue de Rennes is one of the long, straight streets that were cut through Paris during the Second Empire, under Napoléon III and his Prefect, Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891). Hundreds of old buildings that were in the way of the new street were expropriated and demolished.
The street now runs from the Montparnasse Tower northeast to the intersection with Boulevard Saint-Germain. From there it was supposed to be extended all the way to the river Seine, which would have meant demolishing many more buildings including the Institut de France, but this never happened.
This planned extension is the reason the house numbers on Rue de Rennes begin with number 41, because the numbers 1-40 were reserved for the section that was never built.
The Rue de Rennes got its name from the fact that it leads directly to the railway station Gare Montparnasse, where the trains leave for Rennes among other places. This was true in the 1850s and is still true today, except that the station is now a modern one located just behind the Montparnasse Tower.
The Félix Potin building at 140 rue de Rennes, at the corner of rue Blaise Desgoffe, is a seven-storey Art Nouveau building that was constructed in 1904 by the architect Paul Auscher (1866-1932).
Félix Potin (1820-1871) was the founder of a chain of food stores that was very successful in the 19th and early 20th centuries. His chain was the first in France to establish its own packaging plants and its own house brands, among other innovations. Today the lower floors of the building are used by the Zara clothing chain.
The metal-and glass fnac building at 136 rue de Rennes is not exactly an architectural masterpiece (no architect has admitted to designing it, as far as I know), but it does have the advantage that it reflects the nearby buildings including the Félix Potin building. Also, fnac is a useful store because they sell advance tickets for theaters and museums, and they have a large selection of books and other media. (There are several other fnac stores in different parts of Paris, for instance at Les Halles and Place d’Italie.)
Location and aerial view of the Félix Potin building on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2013. I revised the text in 2021.
See more posts on the 6th arrondissement of Paris, France.
13 thoughts on “Rue de Rennes”
Interesting, thank you.
I’m glad they didn’t extend all the way to the river – I like the Institut de France building and area around it 🙂
Yes, that’s a nice neighborhood — except for all the car traffic and on-street parking.
I remember picking up a few perfumes & a black jeans from the Zara store but not from this street. It was champs-elysee, then followed up with an evening show at Lido de Paris which was amazing. The tickets were expensive but 90 minutes of luxurious experience with a champagne was overwhelming. Paris is indeed a good city & there’s something for everyone.
Thank you Don for a wide variety of places you cover in this blog. I always enjoy reading your posts.
Thanks, Vijay. Glad you like the posts.
I’ve strolled rue de Rennes before, on my way to the Tour Montparnasse and the gare. It’s way less-touristy than other parts of Paris, and more of a residential feel, but it offers more space to breathe and enjoy another side of the city less-explored. 🙂
I’ve often gone up and down rue de Rennes by bicycle, especially when I was staying in a hotel in Montparnasse.
The glass building doesn’t seem to “fit” with the neighborhood. Are the other ones the same? [Of course the tower doesn’t ‘fit’ either]
I agree about the glass building. Some of the other fnac stores fit better, like the one at St. Lazare station.
Brought to mind the book “The House I Loved” by Tatiana de Rosnay about a woman during Hausmann’s time who refused to move out for his grand project. It must have been very difficult for many people even though it created the Paris we all love.
I don’t know that book, but I’ll look it up.