Nantes, located on the Loire River in western France, is a vibrant and dynamic city known for its rich history, artistic culture, and architectural marvels. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply looking to soak in the lively atmosphere, Nantes has something to offer for everyone. Here are some of the best places to visit and things to do in Nantes:
1. Château des Ducs de Bretagne
Start your exploration of Nantes with a visit to the impressive Château des Ducs de Bretagne. This well-preserved medieval castle serves as a gateway to the city’s history and hosts the Nantes History Museum. Take a stroll through the castle’s ramparts, explore the exhibits, and learn about the region’s past.
2. Les Machines de l’Île
Image Source: https://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/
Prepare to be amazed at Les Machines de l’Île, an imaginative and whimsical artistic project located on the Île de Nantes. Inspired by the works of Jules Verne, this extraordinary attraction features giant mechanical animals, such as the famous Great Elephant and the Marine Worlds Carousel. Take a ride on these captivating creations and experience a world of fantasy and wonder.
3. Jardin des Plantes
Nature lovers should not miss a visit to Jardin des Plantes, one of the city’s most beautiful green spaces. This botanical garden, established in 1806, showcases a vast collection of plants, including rare species. Stroll through the serene pathways, admire the vibrant flowerbeds, and relax in the tranquil atmosphere.
4. Passage Pommeraye
For a unique shopping experience, head to Passage Pommeraye, an elegant 19th-century shopping arcade. This architectural gem features three levels of boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Take your time to explore the intricate details of the building’s design and indulge in some retail therapy.
5. Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul
Marvel at the stunning Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, a grand Gothic masterpiece that dominates the city skyline. The cathedral’s intricate stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings, and ornate chapels make it a must-visit for architecture and history enthusiasts.
6. Île Feydeau
Wander through the picturesque streets of Île Feydeau, a small island in the heart of Nantes. This neighborhood is renowned for its beautiful 18th-century townhouses with their distinct facades and elegant balconies. Enjoy the charming ambiance, admire the architectural details, and imagine the city’s past as a major trading port.
7. Musée d’Arts de Nantes
Image Source: https://museedartsdenantes.nantesmetropole.fr/nocturnes
Art aficionados should explore the Musée d’Arts de Nantes, which houses an impressive collection spanning from the 13th century to contemporary works. The museum features artworks by renowned artists such as Picasso, Monet, and Delacroix. With its diverse exhibitions, the museum offers a comprehensive overview of art history.
8. Loire River
Take a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Loire River, which runs through the heart of Nantes. Enjoy the scenic views, rent a bicycle to explore the riverside paths, or simply relax in one of the many cafes and restaurants that line the waterfront.
9. Machines Gallery
Discover more mechanical wonders at the Machines Gallery, located near the Château des Ducs de Bretagne. This interactive exhibition showcases a range of extraordinary machines, including a giant spider and a flying heron. Learn about the engineering behind these creations and be fascinated by their movements.
10. Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery
Image Source: https://memorial.nantes.fr/en/
Pay tribute to the city’s historical significance at the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery. Located on the Quai de la Fosse, this thought-provoking monument commemorates Nantes’ involvement in the slave trade and serves as a reminder of the importance of human rights.
11. La Cantine du Voyage
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Indulge in Nantes’ culinary delights at La Cantine du Voyage. This vibrant food court offers a variety of international cuisines and local specialties. Sample fresh seafood, artisanal cheeses, and mouthwatering pastries while immersing yourself in the lively atmosphere.
12. Nantes Erdre
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Explore the beautiful Nantes Erdre area, known for its picturesque landscapes and charming waterfront promenades. Take a boat tour or rent a kayak to navigate the peaceful Erdre River, dotted with elegant mansions and lush greenery.
13. LU Tower
Visit the iconic LU Tower, an emblem of Nantes’ biscuit-making heritage. Formerly part of a biscuit factory, this tower now houses a museum that traces the history of the LU brand. Enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top and satisfy your sweet tooth with some delectable biscuits.
14. Hangar à Bananes
Experience the vibrant nightlife of Nantes at Hangar à Bananes, a cultural hub located on the Île de Nantes. This former shipyard area has been transformed into a trendy district filled with bars, restaurants, and clubs. Enjoy live music, dance the night away, and immerse yourself in the city’s energetic atmosphere.
15. Le Lieu Unique
Visit Le Lieu Unique, a former biscuit factory turned multidisciplinary cultural center. This avant-garde space hosts art exhibitions, theater performances, concerts, and literary events. Take in the eclectic atmosphere, browse the bookstore, or enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant.
16. Brittany Tower
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tour_Bretagne
Take in panoramic views of Nantes from the top of the Brittany Tower. Located in the city center, this skyscraper offers a 360-degree observation deck where you can admire the city’s skyline, the Loire River, and the surrounding countryside.
17. Passage Sainte-Croix
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Discover the hidden gem of Passage Sainte-Croix, a charming covered passageway connecting the Place Royale and the Place du Bouffay. This historic corridor is lined with art galleries, bookstores, and boutique shops, offering a delightful shopping and cultural experience.
18. Parc de la Beaujoire
Escape to the sprawling Parc de la Beaujoire, a green oasis in Nantes. This vast park features walking trails, picnic areas, and a lake where you can relax and enjoy nature. The park is also home to the Stade de la Beaujoire, the city’s main sports stadium.
19. Les Bords de l’Erdre
Enjoy a leisurely stroll or bike ride along Les Bords de l’Erdre, the scenic banks of the Erdre River. This picturesque area is lined with beautiful mansions, lush green spaces, and charming cafes. Take in the peaceful ambiance and savor the natural beauty of the surroundings.
20. Le Nid
Visit Le Nid, a unique bar located atop the Tour Bretagne skyscraper. Designed by artist Jean Jullien, this bar features a giant stork sculpture and offers panoramic views of Nantes. Enjoy a drink while admiring the cityscape and the Loire River from this quirky and memorable spot.
21. Estuaire Art Trail
Embark on an artistic adventure along the Estuaire Art Trail, a collection of contemporary art installations spread across the Loire estuary. This outdoor gallery showcases striking sculptures and artistic creations that blend harmoniously with the natural landscape. Explore the trail by boat, bike, or car to discover these impressive artworks.
22. La Maison dans la Loire
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Marvel at La Maison dans la Loire, an extraordinary art installation by artist Jean-Luc Courcoult. This half-submerged house sculpture located in the Loire River appears to be floating on the water, blurring the boundaries between reality and imagination.
23. Musée Jules Verne
Pay homage to the renowned French author Jules Verne at the Musée Jules Verne. Housed in a beautiful 19th-century mansion, this museum celebrates Verne’s life and works through exhibitions and interactive displays. Immerse yourself in the imaginative world of this visionary writer.
24. La Cigale
Indulge in a gastronomic experience at La Cigale, an iconic brasserie in Nantes. With its stunning Belle Époque decor, this historic establishment offers a refined atmosphere to savor traditional French cuisine. Enjoy a delicious meal accompanied by live music for a truly memorable dining experience.
Take a day trip to Clisson, a charming town located just outside of Nantes. Known for its medieval architecture and picturesque setting on the banks of the Sèvre Nantaise River, Clisson offers a delightful escape from the city. Explore the medieval castle, stroll through the narrow streets, and savor the local wines in this idyllic countryside town.
26. Nantes Markets
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Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture by visiting one of Nantes’ lively markets. The Talensac Market is a bustling food market where you can find a wide variety of fresh produce, seafood, cheeses, and regional specialties. The flea market at Place Viarme is perfect for treasure hunters, offering an array of antiques, vintage items, and unique finds.
27. Les Anneaux de Buren
Discover Les Anneaux de Buren, a contemporary art installation located in Place du Bouffay. Created by artist Daniel Buren, this series of colorful rings suspended in the air adds a touch of modernity to the historic square. Admire the interplay of colors and shapes as you explore the surrounding area.
28. Musée Dobrée
Explore the Musée Dobrée, a museum that houses a diverse collection of art, archaeology, and decorative arts. Discover ancient artifacts, medieval manuscripts, and unique artworks as you delve into the rich history of the region.
29. Nantes Jazz Festival
If you’re a music lover, time your visit to coincide with the Nantes Jazz Festival, an annual event that showcases world-class jazz performances. Enjoy the lively atmosphere, immerse yourself in the sounds of jazz, and experience the city’s vibrant music scene.
30. Nantes Royal Palace
Attend a performance at the Nantes Royal Palace, a historic theater that hosts a wide range of shows, including plays, concerts, ballets, and operas. Immerse yourself in the world of performing arts and enjoy an evening of cultural entertainment.
31. HAB Galerie
Image Source: https://www.levoyageanantes.fr/en/places/hab-galerie/
Visit the HAB Galerie, an innovative contemporary art space that exhibits works by emerging artists. This gallery focuses on promoting experimental and interdisciplinary art forms, offering a unique and thought-provoking cultural experience.
32. Maison de l’Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire
If you appreciate classical music, attend a concert at the Maison de l’Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire. This modern concert hall hosts performances by the renowned National Orchestra of Pays de la Loire, providing an exceptional musical experience.
33. Street Art
Nantes is a haven for street art enthusiasts. Embark on a self-guided tour through the city streets and discover vibrant murals, graffiti, and artistic interventions. The island of Nantes, the Bouffay district, and the walls of the former shipyards are particularly rich in urban art.
34. La Folle Journée
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Folle_Journ%C3%A9e
If you’re a fan of classical music, don’t miss La Folle Journée, a renowned music festival held annually in Nantes. This event brings together talented musicians from around the world for a series of concerts, recitals, and chamber music performances, making it a must-visit for music enthusiasts.
35. Le Chronographe – Museum of Archaeology
Delve into the prehistoric past of the Loire-Atlantique region at Le Chronographe. This museum showcases archaeological artifacts, interactive exhibits, and reconstructions that offer insights into the region’s ancient civilizations and their way of life.
36. Nantes Botanical Garden
Escape to the serene oasis of the Nantes Botanical Garden. Explore its extensive collection of plants, including tropical greenhouses, themed gardens, and a remarkable collection of rhododendrons. Take a peaceful stroll, have a picnic, or simply unwind amidst nature’s beauty.
37. Puy du Fou
Plan a day trip to Puy du Fou, a historical theme park located near Nantes. This immersive park takes you on a journey through different eras of history, featuring grand spectacles, reenactments, and breathtaking performances. Witness medieval knights, Roman chariot races, and captivating theatrical productions that bring history to life.
38. Les Rendez-vous de l’Erdre
Image Source: https://www.rendezvouserdre.com/le-festival/
If you visit Nantes in September, be sure to attend Les Rendez-vous de l’Erdre, a renowned jazz and boating festival. Enjoy live jazz performances on various stages along the Erdre River, while admiring a colorful parade of traditional and unusual boats that sail through the waterway.
39. Guérande and Salt Marshes
Take a day trip to the medieval town of Guérande and explore the nearby salt marshes. Discover the well-preserved ramparts, charming cobblestone streets, and artisan shops in Guérande. Then, learn about the salt production process in the salt marshes, which have been active for centuries.
40. Jardin Extraordinaire
Immerse yourself in the whimsical world of the Jardin Extraordinaire. This enchanting park features creative sculptures, art installations, and lush greenery. It’s a perfect spot to wander, unwind, and let your imagination roam free.
41. Nantes at Night
Discover the enchanting atmosphere of Nantes after dark. Take a night-time walk along the illuminated streets and bridges, soak in the ambiance of the city lights reflected on the water, and admire the beautifully lit landmarks. The city takes on a whole new character at night, offering a magical experience.
Image Source: https://www.my-loire-valley.com/2020/08/trentemoult/
Take a ferry across the Loire River to the charming village of Trentemoult. Known for its colorful houses and artistic vibe, Trentemoult offers a delightful escape from the city. Explore the narrow streets, enjoy a meal at a waterfront restaurant, and soak up the village’s bohemian atmosphere.
43. Île de Versailles
Image Source: https://www.levoyageanantes.fr/lieux/ile-de-versailles/
Escape to the tranquil Île de Versailles, a small island in the Erdre River. Known for its Japanese-inspired garden, the island offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city. Take a leisurely walk through the gardens, admire the serene ponds and bridges, and enjoy a moment of tranquility.
44. Nantes Chocolate Museum
Delve into the world of chocolate at the Nantes Chocolate Museum. Learn about the history and production of chocolate, indulge in tastings, and witness the artistry of chocolate making. It’s a delightful experience for chocolate lovers and a chance to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Places and Things To Do