5 Interesting Things to do in Nantes France
I was not too sure what to expect when I went to Nantes France for a weekend press trip but it did exceed all my expectations. From its splendid scenery as well as numerous galleries, museums and castles, visitors can spend days here exploring. Not to mention, it is only 13klms away from the closest international airport. I can see why it is becoming a hot favourite amongst travellers for a European weekend break.
Nantes is situated on the Loire River in western France and has a population of nearly 300,000. It is Frances 6th largest city and for many years it was regarded as the capital city of the province of Brittany, even though today it is in a different region. It has many colourful and artistic attractions and interesting exhibitions on old and modern history. Here is my selection of 5 Interesting Things to do in Nantes France, with some helpful tips:
1 The Machines de l’Ile
You can’t go to Nantes and not visit the amazing and fascinating French artistic project The Machines de l’Ile. It is a blend of the invented worlds of Jules Verne, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and the industrial history of Nantes. The whole place is like you have stepped into some mad inventors movie and you are one the characters. It is amazing to see how they built the machines and the finer details of the creations. Even adults feel like little kids here!
There are 3 different attractions at The Machines de l’Ile and they are all charged separately. The Galerie des Machines is an interactive demonstration of mechanical beasts, along with the story of how the whole park was imagined and created. The Grand Elephant is a 40ft mechanical Elephant which you can climb upon before it slowly strolls around the area while squirting water out of his trunk at bystanders. The last attraction is the Carrousel des Mondes Marins an amazing 84ft, 3-storey carousel made into a giant sea world. All sorts of mechanical marine creatures have been created to make you feel like you are discovering the sea like never before.
- Tip: All performances in the Galerie des Machines area are in French but you don’t have to hear anyone speak when watching the creations in movement.
2 Have dinner at La Cigale
Located on the same city square as the Theatre Grasling in the centre of Nantes is the La Cigale, this Brasserie is a firm part of the city’s history. Over the years it has attracted some interesting people and is known as a great place for celebrity spotting.
Established in 1895 this brasserie is considered to be one of the oldest (if not the oldest) restaurant in Nantes. It’s worth a visit just for the decor, which has remained unchanged due to it being protected as a historical monument.
- Tip: If you don’t want to have lunch or dinner here, go in and have a coffee and take in the stunning interior
3 Visit the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne & the Nantes history museum
The restored, medieval Chateau des Ducs Bretagne is a 15th century castle that was started by the late Duke of Brittany, then completed by his daughter. It was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries and many believed it was the capital of Brittany.
If you are a history buff then you can’t go past visiting the Nantes history museum inside the castle. Over 850 historical items are part of the exhibition which is dedicated to Brittany culture and the history of the city of Nantes.
If you don’t have time to visit the museum then you are more than welcome to stroll around the courtyard and climb in the towers, which is absolutely free.
- Tip: Take a walk atop the fortified ramparts which provides views not only of the castle and courtyard but also of the city of Nantes.
4 Go up the Tour Bretagne & have a drink in the Le Nid bar
Nantes is a low rise city, with the exception of the Tour Bretagne which stands at 37 stories in the centre and is visible from nearly everywhere in the city. On the 32nd floor, there is a viewing deck with amazing 360° panoramic views of Nantes and its surroundings. On the same level, there is a bar called Le Nid, which takes advantage of these views.
Le Nid is considered to be a trendy bar with amazing views and is a great place to have a drink and watch the sun go down. The bar is home to a giant white bird (not a real of course) and the idea behind it is that he sleepily watches over the city, and gives reassurance for visitors to come and contemplate the view.
- Tip: You can gain free access to the top with your Pass Nantes
5 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
Following a six-year refurbishment, the Musée d’Arts de Nantes or previously known as Nantes Fine arts Museum reopened in June of this year, with an additional 2,000 m2 of exhibition space. There was a lot of anticipation surrounding the reopening of the Museum, as it was only supposed to take two years to complete the renovation but instead took 6 years. By the time that I had a private viewing a week after the opening, there had already been sixteen thousand people through the doors.
Apart from Grenoble, it is the only museum outside of Paris that exhibits an extensive range of art expanding from 13th century to modern art. Included in this collections are over a ten thousand artworks, sculptures, drawings and contemporary installations.
Even if you are not a fan of art works this is still a great place to visit and with it being one of the largest museums in the region. You will not run of things to see and read about.
- Tip: The museums gets really busy here, so I would suggest trying to go early in the morning before the crowds.
Where I stay – Hotel La Perouse Nantes
We stayed at the Hotel La Perouse for the night, which is located in the heart of Nantes and in walking distance to most of the tourist attraction. If you don’t feel like walking, the city’s three main tram lines are within 100 yards of the hotel as well. So it is easy to get to and from the hotel and airport.
This urban 4-star hotel is in a 20th-century heritage listed building and the architecture of the hotel pays tribute to the distinctive leaning buildings found around Nantes. It has the European Union’s Eco-label accreditation and offers strong free WiFi in all areas especially the bedrooms.
Getting a Pass Nantes
If you are going for a weekend break or a few days, I would look at getting a Pass Nantes. It provides free entry to over 30 tourist attractions, which included the Tour Bretagne and Nantes history museum. You also get discounts, a free river boat cruise and free public transfer.
Depending on what you read, some people say it is worth it and some others say it’s not. I suggest making a list of places you want to go to and check to see if it is included in the Pass Nantes, then decide. If you are unsure still, just wait till you get to Nantes and then make your decision.
Nantes is a city on the Loire River in the West of France, near the region of Brittany
The closest international airports is Nantes Airport and it is only 13klms away from the city centre.
Thank you for reading this article, I hope it helped you to decide what to do while in Nantes, France. It is truly a beautiful place. If you are interested in discovering more of France you can read my post about Normandy and Domain de Chantilly Chateau
Have you been to Nantes?
I would love to hear it 🙂 Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below or if you know any other places see while there.
Disclaimer: Even though I was a guest on a press trip with Atout France. All views are my own and based on my own experience.
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