Nicknamed the Venice of the West, there’s a lot more to this French city than meets the eye. Enchanting, vibrant and full of good ideas, Nantes is built on creativity and it shows. Leave the green trail to the tourists, wander off the beaten track and discover seven of Nantes’ best kept secrets – you’ll be surprised at what you find!
On the 32nd floor of the city’s only skyscraper, a unique bar experience awaits you. Located inside Tour Bretagne, Le Nid or in English, The Nest, boasts incredible bird’s eye panoramic views over the entire cityscape. Living up to its name, bar’s quirky décor is what makes this such a hidden gem. Modelled in the shape of a massive white stork-heron hybrid, the bar sits in its body while the neck and eggs serve as tables and chairs. Open since 2012, the watering hole was designed by Nantais Jean Jullien and sits 144 metres high. One of the most popular rooftop terraces in France, Le Nid is most definitely one of Nantes’ best kept secrets.
Backing on to the south side of the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral, this 15th century discreet bourgeois house is a sight for sore eyes. Previously the lodgings of the vice-chancellor of Brittany, the granite building is designed in the Gothic style, taking on a medieval-esque feel with its towers and turrets. Hidden at the back of the square de la Psalette, this treasure is often overlooked by passers-by but is well worth exploring when you visit Nantes.
Tucked away behind a grey-green doorway, an oasis of peace and quiet is waiting to be found. Nantes’ most secret terrace is at Chez Marius, the bar at the Compagnie du Café Theatre and is open to the public from 6:30 pm till midnight. Set under a cover of blooming star jasmine and indigenous olive trees, the bar is on the old site of the Carmelites convent, and oozes a relaxed, serene atmosphere. A popular spot for a post-show nightcap, mingle with the performers and spend the evening sipping Aperol at one of the most idyllic locations in the city.
Nestled on the Ile de Versailles, the Japanese garden is the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon strolling in the sunshine. Find your inner zen wandering round the pavilions, bamboos, waterfalls and a typical little red wooden Japanese bridge. Take a seat and relax to the soothing sound of running water or hop in one of the Ruban Vert boats and float along with the river. The layout of the waterfalls and surrounding terrain link three Japanese inspired buildings together and the Maison de l’Erdre houses a zen garden where regular river life exhibitions are held.
Behind a massive, elegantly decorated gate, this studio-turned-art gallery is your next port of call on the hunt for Nantes’ best hidden gems. Formerly a granary, stables and wine warehouse, the space was the studio of local sculptor, Gerard Voisin before he gifted it to the city for showcasing the work of both regional and international artists. Putting on regular contemporary art exhibitions, the gallery has five rooms all set around a light-airy patio. The 19th century building is located in the heart of the city and presents diverse pieces of sculpture, video, painting, photography and graffiti. An art lover’s heaven, this little gem is definitely one to add to your list of things to do in Nantes.
A classic neighbourhood bar with a secret weapon, the terrace at Bon Pasteur has the best uninterrupted views over the Basilique Saint-Nicolas in the city. Grab a drink and head up the back stairs where you’ll be met with a large suspended terrace that looks down on the picturesque basilica. Escape the tourists, settle into a seat under one of the red parasols and watch the sun go down over one of Nantes’ most visited attractions for an experience you don’t want to miss!
A leafy paradise in the middle of the urban city, head north along the water’s edge and you’ll come across undisturbed sections of nature every few kilometres. Explore the area on foot or book a boat tour and sail down the scenic river for some incredible views of the city and its surroundings. Bring a picnic, sprawl out in the sun for the afternoon and enjoy one of Nantes’ best kept secrets.
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Flights to Nantes
- Lucy Norris