Nantes, France: 10 Best Things To Do In The City

a photo of the landscape of the city of Nantes in France
©Photo by barskefranck on Pixabay

France is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. The charming country has much to offer. Beautiful cities, history, and art run course through France. Nantes, a city in the western region of the country, is an ideal illustration of the beauty of France.

 

Nantes is the cultural capital of France. It has heritage, art, and history. The home of the famous writer, Jules Vernes. It has inspired generations of Surrealists. But besides these, Nantes is also an economic center of France. The city boasts of impressive industrial growth and is always at the forefront of innovation.

 

With a population of 900,000 within an area of 523 km2, life in Nantes is the perfect French holiday. The warm climate with its gentle breezes makes for wonderful sightseeing, particularly for tourists in France. For an art and culture enthusiast, this French city makes it to the top of their exploration list. But what is it about Nantes, France, that gives it its charm? The answer lies in its history.

 

Nantes: The Glorious Past

The historical sight of the old Nantes
©Photo from Photoglob Zürich on Wikimedia Commons

 

The story of this port city goes back to the Gallic period with a tribe known as the Namnetes, but Nantes truly flourished in terms of heritage as the capital of Duchy of Brittany. Following the death of Charlemagne, from 850 AD, many battles were fought in this land between the kings of France and Britain. The region was looked over by the Dukes of Brittany who supervised the battles and the truces that followed.

 

Their old seat, Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, is a historical landmark that continues to beguile the tourists of Nantes, France. Name any historical movement and Nantes has probably played a major role at it. The western city was the center of the religious war between Catholics and Protestants. During the industrial revolution, Nantes flourished in the agribusiness sector.

 

Nantes was also at the forefront of the French Resistance in World War II. Cours des 50-outages is a square in Nantes, France, named after the fallen heroes of the movement.

 

Culture fused with the modern- today, Nantes seems to have it all. If you’ve made up your mind to visit Nantes, France, it’s time to get going. There is, believe us, much to explore. But if you’re wondering where in Nantes to start, here’s our list of the top 10 best things to do in Nantes:

 

1.

Retreat To The Loire Valley

tourists visiting the Loire Valley
©Photo by tasart on Pixabay

 

The rolling valleys of Loire, green and fertile, are relaxing to the eyes. The beautiful landscape has also, for years, been home to France’s most elite. Majestic castles and chateaux dot this gem in Nantes, France, and there are approximately 300 of these.

 

Take Château d’Ussé, for instance. Supposedly the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty, this hauntingly beautiful castle dates back to 1,000 AD when a Viking warrior set up a fortress here. Or perhaps you might find Château de Villandry more to your liking. This chateau from the Renaissance period is built on the banks of Loire River and overlooks the most beautiful sights of France.

 

The estate includes one of the most famous gardens in the country too. The three terraces with geometric patterns, gardens with their own themes will surely steal your heart away.

 

Nantes, France abounds with fairy tale establishments, and it seems that most of them are here in Loire Valley. Make the most of your French holiday, feasting your eyes on the magic of Loire.

 

2.

Explore The Magical Chateau Des Ducs De Bretagne

a few people seen walking around the beautiful Magical Chateau Des Ducs De Bretagne
©Photo by pjacquet on Wikimedia Commons

 

We’ve discussed the Chateau country, the many treasures of Loire Valley. It’s time we introduce you to the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne. While Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne is the last of the chateaux on the hallowed valley, just before the river empties into the Atlantic, it deserves a mention of its own.

 

Built-in the 13th century, Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne has a complex yet fascinating history. Initially, it used to be a residence for the Dukes. After Brittany was integrated into France, it became a French royal residence. And it has also been used as a military barracks in the past, an arsenal, and even as a prison. The high fortress and the towering walls certainly confirm that fact.

 

When in Nantes, France, the courtyard and ramparts are free to be explored. You can also pay to visit the Nantes History Museum to see how the city has evolved through the ages, but our favorite is Douves du Château. The green patch by the castle moat is a wonderful place to spend a lazy afternoon.

 

3.

Enjoy The Mechanical Adventure Of Les Machines Del’ Île

people looking and taking photos of the Mémorial De L’Abolition E L’Esclavage
©Photo by Duch on Wikimedia Commons

 

Nantes, France is a city of unique fusion, which is best seen in Les Machines de l’île. This extraordinary project blends the fantastic worlds of Jules Verne with the mechanic precision of Leonardo Da Vinci.

 

The city’s history is generously peppered in and the end result is a cacophony of the living machinery. A French holiday in Nantes is incomplete without experiencing the interactive machinery. Maybe you would like to go out on a walk in The Grand Elephant. Yes, it is the giant mechanical elephant that walks as you watch its gears in motion.

 

You might also enjoy the Marine Worlds Carousel. With marine creatures, this carousel is a vision to behold with its concrete lacework and magnificent marquee. Don’t forget to stop by The Machine Gallery. You can watch mini-shows of the machines, take charge of the mechanical animals and even learn the inner workings of it all.

 

 

4.

Learn Something New At The Nantes Natural History Museum

 

locals and tourists appreciating the artworks at Nantes Natural History Museum
©Photo by ProtoplasmaKid on Wikimedia Commons

 

Nantes is a place of wonderful history and the city is proud to celebrate it. The Nantes Natural History Museum surely shows it. This museum was created in 1793. And since then, it has been boasting an impressive collection.

 

Specimens that date back to centuries, minerals from the core of the earth and even the skeletal remains of what was thought to be ancient folklore – the Nantes Natural History Museum is a first-grade history lesson. The Vivarium, with its selection of exotic reptiles, is especially recommended.

 

The museum is open every day of the week, except for Tuesdays, from 10 am to 6 pm. Besides, it is closed from 1st to 11th November, on 25th December and 1st January. Now, you know when to put on your explorer hat and get to learning!

 

5.

Take A Moment In The Nantes Cathedral

a couple of people seen entering the Nantes Cathedral
©Photo by JF974 on Pixabay

 

Nantes, France exhibits the finest of European architecture. It is best demonstrated in the city’s churches and cathedrals, especially the Nantes Cathedral. The Nantes Cathedral is a labor of love that took more than 400 years to complete. Construction started in 1434, ended in 1891 and has undergone only a few restorations since then. The intricate gothic design, the brightly stained windows are just a few of the elements which make the cathedral so special.

 

In Nantes Cathedral, be sure to see the Tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany and his wife, Marguerite de Doix. The design of the tomb combines Italian and French styles for a unique rendition of art. Decked in hauntingly beautiful sculptures, it is widely considered to be a Renaissance masterpiece.

 

6.

Relax With Nature In Jardin Des Plantes De Nantes

plants trimmed into the shape of a duck in Jardin Des Plantes De Nantes
©Photo Jean-Pierre Dalbéra on Flickr

 

Some days, you just want to lay amidst nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Nantes, the French city that seems to have it all, offers this recluse. For the perfect French holiday, easygoing and relaxed, Jardin des Plantes de Nantes is the place to be. The work for this botanical garden began in 1807 and ended only in 1865.

 

The years of effort that went into its creation were definitely worth it. The trickling waterfalls, floral decorations, numerous exhibitions, and installations — Jardin des Plantes de Nantes doesn’t fail to impress. Look at centuries-old Grandiflora or take a pleasant walk down the pathway, this garden is a breeze of fresh air. Once again, Nantes, France, proves itself as a sensory delight.

 

7.

Learn About The Man At Jules Verne Museum

photo of the exterior of the Jules Verne Museum
©Photo by Jibi44 on Wikimedia Commons

 

As a reader, have you found yourself immersed in the worlds created by Jules Verne? We are as fascinated by this man as with his works. His hometown is in Nantes, France, and here’s where you can learn more about him.

 

Jules Verne Museum is housed in a 19th-century mansion that takes you back to the writer’s era. The house itself is not related to Jules Verne, but it is quite close to where he grew up. Besides, the atmosphere certainly reflects what influenced his literary work. 

 

The museum is filled with tidbits belonging to the writer or those influenced by him. Jules Verne Museum has eight rooms, each with a theme, and a unique story to tell.

 

7.

Visit The Historic Mémorial De L’Abolition E L’Esclavage

a big signage outisde the Historic Mémorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage
©Photo by Jean-Marc Ayrault on Wikimedia Commons

 

When in Nantes, France, a history lesson is always around the corner. Nantes’s past as an active slave-trading port is no secret. The Mémorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage is a poignant tribute to the struggles of slavery.

 

The memorial took place in 2012 as a joint project by the artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and the architect Julian Bonder. Together they wanted to create an emotional reminder of the slave trade and its abolition, the affirmation of human rights. The underground wing of the memorial includes information about the many struggles, historical facts and the timeline of the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. It’s indeed an opportunity to educate yourself when in Nantes.

 

9.

Shop ‘Til You Drop At The Passage Pommeraye

people busy shopping in Passage Pommeraye Nantes, France
©Photo by edmondlafoto on Pixabay

 

Tourism in France is incomplete without shopping bags filled with goodies. Luckily, Passage Pommeraye, a shopping mall in Nantes, isn’t just a shoppers’ haven – it even packs in a historical punch. 

 

Built more than 160 years ago, Passage Pommerage is an architectural goldmine. Three floors built on a steep incline, an ornamental staircase, neo-renaissance sculptures, glass roofs with natural light seeping in – this small shopping complex takes your breath away. The stairway adorns high-end boutiques, flaunting French fashion. For a shopping fix in Nantes, France, this is the ultimate destination.

 

10.

Indulge In French Cuisine

cream sauce drizzled over grilled salmon with vegetables on the side
©Photo by Yenni Vance on Pixabay

 

Traveling in France opens a window to delicious food. When in Nantes, where the land and sea meet, you will certainly be in awe of the cuisine.

 

Located near the banks of Loire River, it is no wonder that Nantes has some of the best French seafood. The fish is as fresh as can be and paired with Muscadet, local Nantes wine, it is simply divine. Gâteau nantais is another specialty of Nantes. A soft pound cake made with almonds and rum, Gâteau nantais is light yet indulgent.

 

There are plenty of eateries in Nantes to satisfy your culinary cravings. But be sure to visit La Civelle and Restaurant le Nouveau Monde, two of the finest in the city.

 

Getting To Nantes, France

a local TBM tram traverse the streets of Nantes
©Photo by Goran Waldt on Pixabay

 

Nantes, with its tremendous prosperity and wonderful cultural sights, is a haven for curious tourists. It is no wonder that thousands of travelers ask, “Where is Nantes in France and how do we get there?”

 

Nantes, a city in Western France, is a riverine land with River Loire and River Erdre coursing through it. Fondly known as Venice of the West, the city can be accessed from many points. You can get to Nantes via airplane, landing in Nantes Atlantique Airport (NTE). The airport is outside of the city and so you will need to take the airport shuttle, reaching Nantes in 20 minutes.

 

You can also arrive by train. The SNCF station can bring you to the city center of Nantes from anywhere in France. You may even drive to Nantes in a car. The journey should take approximately 4 hours from Paris. Inside Nantes, you can take the local tramway to get around the city.

 

Fall In Love With Nantes

Now that you know where is Nantes in France, let the exploration of this French city begin. Abound with history, there is so much art and culture to experience that it simply cannot wait. Because of the gentle climate, the warm and welcoming locals and of course, the countless sights, travelers in France are absolutely going to fall in love with Nantes.

Preeti Dhakappa
Preeti is a travel enthusiast who loves to meet new people, learn about cultures and experience cuisines. Her fixation with travel made her a published author of an Indian travel book. She merrily explores the world, using her eyes as a kaleidoscope to uncover gems beyond the visual.

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