Nantes is a creative, modern and lively city, that is home to many artists and has served as an inspiration to others – just look at the band Beirut and their famous song ‘Nantes’, not to mention French director Agnès Varda, considered the mother of French new wave cinema. The town exhales art from every street corner, but culture is just one reason to visit the sixth-largest city in France.
Situated between land and sea, Nantes is often ranked as one of the top places to live in France. Known as an eco-friendly green town, there are over 1,000 hectares of green spaces with plenty of parks, gardens and cycle routes.
No visit to Nantes should be considered complete without exploring the Château des Ducs de Bretagne. Once the former home to Anne de Bretagne Queen of France, today the castle-museum is a landmark of Nantes and Brittany’s history.
Access to the fortification walls, courtyard and moat gardens is free. Meanwhile, the Nantes History Museum takes you through the city’s history, including Nantes’ role in the European slave-trade, and its local industries and colonial port.
The city’s ‘Jardin des Plantes’ is a family-friendly interactive park. At the park you’ll find yourself surrounded by fantasy creations from the French Artist Claude Ponti, as well as a lovely cafe, plants and greenhouses on display.
The Machines de l’Ile is beyond anything you can imagine. Photos and videos don’t do this dream-world created by Jules Verne justice. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical universe, and the industrial history of Nantes, in the former shipyards in the l’Ile de Nantes you’ll find a 12-metre tall Grand Elephant (you can ride it), and a Marine Worlds’ Carousel featuring 35 moving sea creatures (doesn’t matter how old you are, it will blow your mind).
If you want to truly discover the city, pay a visit to the Le Lieu Unique. The first thing you’ll notice is the LU tower (built in 1909), an iconic symbol of the city. The celebrated biscuit factory that’s been converted into a creative space is home to a bar, a restaurant, a bookshop, a Turkish Bath, and a nursery.
The arts centre brings to the public music, performing and contemporary art all year long. At night, the bar is a popular spot with cool, edgy crowds, while on weekends, the space transforms into a venue for DJs and concerts.
Walk around the Medieval District and the Graslin District, located in the heart of the Cité des Ducs, as Nantes is commonly known. These districts feature plenty of landmarks, churches and creative shops where you can find designer pieces of clothing, furniture and decor. When hunger strikes, there’s no shortage of cute coffee shops, bars and restaurants to choose from too.
The Musée d’arts de Nantes is the largest museum in western France. The museum’s rich collection features over 12,000 pieces from ancient to contemporary art and pieces from some the world’s most famous artists including Picasso and Monet.
Le Passage Pommeraye, time-travel and shop in this 19th-century arcade, home to around 50 shops. Beautiful.
Le Mémorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage recalls the Nantes slave trade expeditions.
Le Nid, the bar located in the 32nd floor of the Bretagne tower offers 360 panoramic views over the city. The artist Jean Jullien, created a fun atmosphere, featuring bird- themed decor including seats and tables that are gigantic eggshells and an enormous white bird bar.
Le Voyage à Nantes created a green line on the ground to guide you to the main stops and landmarks of the city. Follow the green line through the heart of Nantes to find everything the city has to offer, from quaint curiosities to major sights.
In the beautiful Graslin Quarter, ‘Le quartier Graslin’, you’ll find the Art Nouveau restaurant La Cigale, opened in 1895, and a listed historical monument. La Cigale not only offers a never-ending display of ornaments but also divine French cuisine from both land and sea.
In one of the oldest buildings in the historic centre of Nantes, discover the restaurant Le Bouchon. Expect a warm, welcoming ambience and a lovely outdoor terrace during the summer. The restaurant is the ideal spot for a romantic date or a cosy dinner with friends. Here, creative French cuisine dishes are très chic - beautiful to look at and even better to taste.
La Cantine du Voyage offers a relaxing atmosphere just beside the famous landmark 'The Rings' (les Anneaux). The open table seating restaurant offers a set menu including a salad starter (from their organic vegetable garden just beside the restaurant), chicken, potatoes and a drink (wine, beer or juice). All for around €11. Simple and delicious.
For traditional crêpes, galettes and cider, head to Le Coin des Crêpes, a lovely crêperie offering plenty of options and great customer service. If you’re looking for galettes and crêpes made with good quality, fresh ingredients, this is the spot for you.
Craving a traditional crêpe on the go? Barapom is your place. The Crêperie serves cone-shaped crêpes so you can walk around Nantes while enjoying this treat. Try with a Breizh cola - traditional cola from Brittany.
For more options and information, visit the ‘Les Tables de Nantes’ guide, where Le Voyage à Nantes selected almost 150 restaurants in the area www.lestablesdenantes.fr
Make the most of your trip and visit the the home of Muscadet wine, Nantes Vineyard. Discover the hidden gems of the capital of Muscadet and its 11,500 hectares of vineyards, covering the largest area in the Loire Valley.
Tours are available in some vineyards in the region. At the Château du Coing de Saint-Fiacre, you can learn from knowledgeable staff about the region and the wine industry. The vineyard covers 45 hectares and is surrounded by a beautiful Italianate style castle (15th to 19th century).
The 4-star Hôtel La Pérouse is a design hotel situated in the heart of Nantes. An avant-garde building inaugurated in 1993 by the two Nantes-born architects Barto + Barto, its impressive architecture has deservedly earned awards.
The rooms feature a modern décor (updated in 2016). Breakfast is made from quality local produce, and you can enjoy it in the breakfast room or in your bedroom - for no additional charge.
The OKKO Hotel is a comfortable, modern and cosy 4-star hotel located just a stone's throw from the Château des Ducs de Bretagne. Convinced by the vision of Olivier Devys, and created by Patrick Norguet, the Okko Hotel has a perfect lounge area, ideal for business people. During the evenings the hotel offers a complimentary alcoholic beverage and a small selection of French tapas (bites).
Pass Nantes ‘the unmissable at the best price’ - is a single easy to use city card. It offers admission to the main museums and sights as well as the public transport in Nantes. Pricesrange from 25 euro for 24h; 35 euro for 48h and 45 euro for 72h. For more information visit: www.nantes-tourisme.com
Flights to Nantes
- Bárbara Soares
LE VOYAGE A NANTES (Every Summer: July - August)
All year long, the Voyage à Nantes brings you a sensitive and poetic street art itinerary featuring 110 permanent artworks. Every summer, artists of all kinds, gardeners, chefs and DJs are invited to make use of the public space.
New summer attractions are added to the city’s cultural route, making Nantes even more buzzing than usual. Pop-up and permanent art works, exhibitions, places to meet, and unexpected encounters are all in store.
To explore every little corner of the city, follow the green line on the ground!