Mechanical elephant in Nantes France

5 Interesting Things To Do in Nantes France

There was so many interesting to do in Nantes France for a weekend break that 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, especially as there are so many things to do.

Things to do in nantes france
Inside Passage Pommeraye, Nantes France

Things To Do Nantes France

Nantes is situated on the Loire River in western France Europe and has a population of nearly 300,000. It is France’s 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.

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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 – Unusual and cool The Machines de l’Ile

If you are looking for unusual things to do in Nantes France then you can’t go pass visiting the 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 of 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 at this cool attraction.

Best Things to do in Nantes France Europe
The Loire River Nantes France

There are 3 different attractions at The Machines de l’Ile, Nantes France and they are all charged separately and are just as interesting to see.

The Galerie des Machines

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

The Grand Elephant is a 40ft mechanical Elephant that you can climb upon before it slowly strolls around the area while squirting water out of its trunk at bystanders.

Carrousel des Mondes Marins

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, this is such a cool thing to see.

Top 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.
 Unusual things to do in Nantes France - Mechanical Spider in The Galerie des Machines
The mechanical Spider in The Galerie des Machines, The Machines de l’Ile Nantes France

2 – Learn some facts about Nantes while eating La Cigale

Located on the same city square as the Theatre Grasling in the centre of Nantes France 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. Not only is a great place to eat delicious food but you can also learn some facts about Nantes at the same time.

It’s worth a visit just for the decor, which has remained unchanged due to it being protected as a historical monument.

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Top Tip:

  • If you don’t want to have lunch or dinner here, go in and have a coffee and take in the stunning interior
Top things to do in Nantes France - Colourful walls inside the brasserie
Inside the La Cigale, 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. Contruction was started by the late Duke of Brittany and then completed by his daughter. It was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries. Until this day many have believed it was the capital of Brittany. 

If you are a history buff and you love facts then you can’t go past visiting the Nantes history museum inside the castle. The exhibition houses over 850 historical items dedicated to Brittany culture and the history of the city.

You can stroll around the courtyard, go into the towers and walk atop the fortified ramparts for free. 

Visit the courtyard of the Chateau des Ducs Bretagne - Top Things to Do Nantes
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. It is centrally located and 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. There is a bar called Le Nid, which takes advantage of these views, on the same level.

Le Nid bar

Le Nid is a trendy place and a great spot to have a drink and watch the sun go down. The bar decor is home to a giant white bird not a real of course that you can sit on. The idea behind it is that he sleepily watches over the city, and gives visitors reassurance.

Top Tip:

  • You can gain free access to the top with your Pass Nantes
night view over Nantes from the viewing deck
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 2017, 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.

There had already been sixteen thousand people through the doors a week after the opening,

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 collection are over ten thousand artworks, sculptures, drawings and contemporary installations.

With it being one of the largest museums in the region, you will not run of things to see and read about. Even if you are not a fan of artworks this is still a great place to visit.

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Top Tip:

  • The museums gets really busy here, so I would suggest trying to go early in the morning before the crowds.
White staircase inside the museum - facts about Nantes France
Inside the Musée d’Arts de Nantes France

Where to stay

Hotel La Perouse

If you are looking for places where to stay in Nantes then Hotel La Perouse is a great option. I stayed here for the night during my press trip. Located in the heart of the city and in walking distance to most of the top things to do in Nantes. 

Do not worry if you don’t feel like walking, the city’s three main tram lines are within 100 yards of the hotel. Making it easy to get to and from the hotel and airport.  

Accommodation in Nantes - window of Hotel La Perouse, Nantes
Hotel La Perouse, Nantes France

Hotel La Perouse is urban 4-star hotel is in a 20th-century heritage listed building. 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.

Get a Pass Nantes to see the tourist attraction

If you are going for a weekend break or a few days, I would suggest getting a Pass Nantes. It is a great way to see the tourist attraction in 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 riverboat 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 top things to do or best places to see then see. Then check to see if they are included in the Pass Nantes before you decide. If you are unsure still, just wait till you get to Nantes France and then make your decision.

Tourist attractions in Nantes pass card
The Pass Nantes –

How to get to Nantes France

Nantes France 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.  Making it quick and accessible to get to central Nantes, especially for a weekend break.

Top Tip

  • There are numerous ways of getting to Nantes, Buses, private transfer, shared transfer or car hire all vary. However, if there is a small group of you, I would suggest getting a cab.
 Selfie at The Machines de l’Ile Best Things to do in Nantes France
A selfie at The Machines de l’Ile – Nantes France

Places to visit in France and Europe

If you are interested in wanting to visit more places in France or in Europe, feel free to read my following articles. All are great options for groups of friends or family.

A winter guide for Morzine Ski Resort – Morzine France

A village Preserved in Time Edam Netherlands

Domain de Chantilly Chateau – Chantilly France

Panoramic view across the Loire River Best things to do Nantes France
Panoramic view across the Loire River – Nantes France

Thank you for reading this article ‘5 Interesting Things to do in Nantes France’, I hope it helped you to decide what to do while in this city. 

It is truly a beautiful place to explore and learn about especially for a weekend break.


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Have you been on a city break to Nantes France or done any other tourist attractions that I could add? I would love to hear it! Please feel free to share your experience in the below comments section?

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.

“This post contains affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you if you click on one of the product links, we may earn a commission.”  For further details, you can view our Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions or contact me directly. 

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62 thoughts on “5 Interesting Things To Do in Nantes France

  1. Jackie Thomas says:

    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. Lisa says:

    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!

    • melbtravel says:

      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. Amber Smith says:

    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. Rose says:

    What a fun little city! I would like to visit the castle! It’s nice you were able to save money and see some things for free as well.

  5. Suzanne says:

    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?

    • melbtravel says:

      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.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Omg!! Definitely adding this to my dream destinations!! Your blog is inspiring some serious wanderlust in me!!!

  7. Kristina Dapaah says:

    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!

  8. Susan R says:

    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!

    • melbtravel says:

      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.

  9. Alex says:

    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.

  10. Talin says:

    This is so cool it seems fake. I would love to visit and do everything you listed. I’m thinking a little side trip next time I’m in Paris.

  11. jhilmil says:

    Awesome, so that drives me crazy now to have some gala time at France soon.. Loved the top view bar, shall bookmark it for my future visit!

  12. David McClane says:

    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.

    • melbtravel says:

      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.

  13. Suma says:

    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!

  14. C-Ludik says:

    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 !!

    • melbtravel says:

      I also like reading posts on London where I live, especially to see if I have been to any of the places and to get ideas. Btw you have a beautiful country.

  15. Ellue says:

    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!

  16. Ticking the Bucketlist says:

    Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes seems to be my fav in this list. I love art and the museum is a great idea in winters. Glad that you recommend the pass…will buy it when I am in Nantes for the weekend.

  17. Jurga says:

    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!

  18. Katie says:

    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!

  19. Abigail Sinsona says:

    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!

  20. Kathy@DavesTravelCorner says:

    Those machines are crazy! I’ve seen videos on Youtube. Worth going just to check those out in person.

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