5 of the best museums in Nantes

Sitting on the banks of the Loire River, Nantes is a boiling pot of arts and culture waiting to be discovered. France’s sixth largest city is jam packed full of interesting galleries, innovative arts projects and historical gems. From stunning scenery to museums and castles, this city aims to please. Spark your curiosity and visit five of the best museums in Nantes. 

1. Galerie des Machines – Boulevard Leon Bureau

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The Giant Elephant and Marine Worlds Carrousel aren’t the only attractions on the iconic Iles de Machines. Galerie des Machines is located next to the workshops and offers a unique, behind-the-scenes look at how the attractions came to life. Take a guided tour and marvel at the prototypes and test models on display. Don’t miss the mechanical spider, giant ant and flying heron – you can even climb up and have a go at operating the machines yourself! Perfect for a rainy day or escaping the hot summer sun, Galerie des Machines is a must-see when visiting Nantes. 

2. Nantes History Museum – 4 Place Marc Elder

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Housed inside Nantes Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, the  history museum uncovers the city’s past through a series of multimedia displays and exhibitions. Spend time exploring the castle’s 19th century interiors, wandering through 32 rooms dedicated to display Nantes’ recent history from both World Wars until the present day. Some of the highlights include ‘Nantes and the Revolution’, ‘An industrial and colonial port’ and a special exhibit dedicated to the memorial of the Atlantic slave trade. Situated in the heart of historical Nantes, both the castle itself and the museum within are without a doubt some of Nantes’ best  attractions. 

3. Nantes Art Museum – 10 Rue Georges Clemenceau

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As the largest museum of its kind in western France, Nantes Art Museum is renowned for both its size and its diversity of exhibitions. Reopened in 2017 after a series of long renovations, the museum has more than 900 works on display including a permanent collection of everything from modern to primitive to contemporary art dating from the 13th century. Showcasing artists such as Max Ernst, Jean-Auguste-Dominique-Ingres, Pablo Picasso and Georges de la Tour, the museum is one of the biggest in the region. With vast exhibition spaces highlighting a continuously changing programme, this jam-packed spot is worth dedicating a few hours to during your stay. 

4. Natural History Museum – 12 Rue Voltaire

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What it lacks in size it makes up in diversity, the Natural Museum is a goldmine of age-old specimens. Home to an array of permanent exhibitions, the space displays examples of zoology, botany, ethnology, mineralogy and regional wildlife. Stroll through halls of taxidermy birds, take in the gigantic skeleton of a Rorqual whale and pay a visit to the reptile exhibition that features live snakes and an ant farm. Open since 1799, the museum is housed in the former mint, Hotel de la Monnaie and offers free entrance on Sundays. 

5. Jules Verne Museum – 3 Rue de l’Hermitage

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A tribute to one of Nantes’ most famous exports, this museum is dedicated to displaying the life and works of writer Jules Verne - and it’s out of this world. Located in the stunning 19th century white house overlooking the Loire River, the space is filled with antiques, personal items and first edition books. Follow, line by line, how the “Extraordinary Voyages” came to life by leafing through the original manuscripts on display in the seaside home. Opened to the public in 1978 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Verne’s birth, the museum features a plethora of interactive exhibitions and multimedia displays that everyone is guaranteed to enjoy. The building itself is a real sight for sore eyes, located on the hillside looking out on to the water. The picturesque white façade accented by terracotta brick is an iconic spot on the horizon. Don’t miss the chance to get to know the man who predicted the conquest of outer space and the submarine at one of the best museums in Nantes.


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- Lucy Norris