5 Interesting Things to do in Nantes France

5 Interesting Things to do in Nantes France

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.

Things to do in Nantes France

Passage PoPommeraye, Nantes France

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:

Things to do in Nantes France

The Loire River Nantes France

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!

Things to do in Nantes France

Carrousel des Mondes Marins The Machines de l’Ile, Nantes

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.
Things to do in Nantes France

The mechanical Spider in The Galerie des Machines, The Machines de l’Ile Nantes

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.

Things to do in Nantes France

The entrance to the La Cigale, this Brasserie Nantes

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
Things to do in Nantes France

Inside the La Cigale, this Brasserie Nantes

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. 

Things to do in Nantes France

The grand entrance of the Chateau des Ducs Bretagne, Nantes

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.
Things to do in Nantes France

The courtyard of the Chateau des Ducs Bretagne , 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.

Things to do in Nantes France

Inside the Le Nid  Tour Bretagne, Nantes

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
Things to do in Nantes France

On the viewing deck of the Tour Bretagne, 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.

Things to do in Nantes France

The front of the Musée d’Arts de Nantes

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.
Things to do in Nantes France

Inside the Musée d’Arts de Nantes

Additional Information

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.

Things to do in Nantes France

Hotel La Perouse, Nantes

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.


Booking.com

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.

Things to do in Nantes France

The Pass Nantes

Location

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

Things to do in Nantes France

Overlooking the city across the Loire River Nantes France

 

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.

 

Things to do in Nantes France

A selfie at The Machines de l’Ile

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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Things to do in Nantes France

 

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61 Comments

  1. What a interesting looking place. I would love to head here for the weekend. I could spend ages in the museum that has been renovated over 6 years. Great pictures

  2. That’s a good tip about planning your trip before buying the Nantes pass. I think it depends how long you’ll be there, but free admission is always good! I I love Le Cigale, it looks like something straight out of a French classic film. Nantes is one place I’d love to see!

    1. Those types of cards are always quite tricky because you never know whether it is worth it or not. I ate in Le Cigale and I have to admit the food was pretty amazing too.

  3. This looks like such an amazing city for a weekend trip. I definitely want to go to The Machines de l’lle that elephant oh wow

  4. I would definitely like to check out the Machines de L’Ile. It sounds kooky and futuristic at the same time. Do the mechanical spider and the other animals move around?

    1. The food was La Cigale was pretty nice too, I was there for a 3 course meal and it was just so yummy. It is definitely worth a weekend trip and you can even walk the whole city.

  5. This press trip looked to be a blast. The Machines are so cool, we had some come to my city in Canada a few weeks ago from France and they walked the street and were a huge HIT. The Nantes pass is a fantastic suggestion as well, thanks for sharing!

  6. Despite having lived in France, I never visited Nantes but it looks amazing. I love the quirkiness of the giant machines and also the white bird in Le Nid. What a fantastic getaway it must have been!

    1. I want to go back and ride the giant elephant, as apparently, it is like your house is moving. I want to get a picture of the whole bird because it turns into a bar but there were way too many people in there.

  7. I had no idea the machines de l’isle was a permanant exhibition until recentlt – I so want to go! I told my patient about it this morning too and he’d never even heard about it.

  8. I often see fairly reasonably priced flights to Nantes but have never actually considered going – maybe I should! The Machines de l’Ile look incredibly weird and so Instagrammable – They would probably be worth a visit alone! It looks like it would be worth popping into La Cigale too, even if just to look at that stunning decor.

    1. I haven’t heard the word Instagrammable for ages. To be honest, I never thought about Nantes as a destination before I went but I am glad I did because it was so worth it.

  9. Nantes overall seems very different from typical French cities, unique in a every way. The Machines de l’Ile sounds like a fun place, I’m quite intrigued with the mechanical elephant and the spider. The interiors of the Brasserie Nantes is so stunning, thanks for sharing all the lovely places in Nantes!

  10. I always love reading post about my own country 😉 Your photos have perfectly captured the beauty of Nantes ! The city wears its history on its buildings and you find it dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. I really love the “Machines de l’Île” where the imagination of Jules Verne meets the technological mind of Leonardo da Vinci to create truly spectacular mechanical creations !!

  11. Its been years since I’ve been to Nantes or even to France but I cannot wait to go back there for a vacation. There’s always so much to do and see. Nantes is such a beautiful place to see when you’re in the area!

  12. I have been to Nantes many years ago, but I don’t recognise any of these places anymore… Definitely going back! The Machines de I’Ile would be a hit with my boys for sure!

  13. I confess, I am one of those Bad Brits that haven’t explored much of France but I definitely need to start! That castle looks like a fairytale and that elephant is so random but awesome! thanks for sharing some interesting places that are now on my bucketlist!

  14. Nantes France is truly a destination with so many interesting things to see or do! I would love to dine at La Cigale. The interior definitely looks breathtaking! But this city is so pretty as is, I would probably be content with just walking around the city and taking photos of everything!

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