20 Things To Do In Nantes

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Nantes has long been recognised as a bustling port city allowing trade to move to and from the city via the Loire River. In the 15th century, the city was the primary residence of the Dukes of Brittany, and their main residence in Nantes can be visited today. Nantes has transformed over the centuries. Beginning as an important port, the city is now a dynamic center for culture and innovation, but has not forgotten its commercial roots. Many of the city’s former industrial areas and warehouses have been transformed into desirable apartments, restaurants, clubs and museums. Nantes is an exciting and inviting city to visit in France. Explore its cobblestone streets, historic landmarks, and vibrant arts scene. Here are 20 things to do in Nantes to get you started.

Nantes, France

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20 Things To Do In Nantes

1- Château des Ducs de Bretagne

Courtyard Castle Of The Dukes Of Brittany
Visiting the castle of the dukes of Brittany (Château des Ducs de Bretagne) is one of the top things to do in Nantes France.

Château des Ducs de Bretagne is a beautiful yet imposing castle overlooking the banks of the Loire River.

The Dukes of Brittany built the castle in the heart of the city during the 15th century as their primary residence in the region.

The castle is a documentation of 6 centuries of history, as it has been continually added to and developed, showcasing a range of architectural styles including Renaissance and Gallo-Roman.

Today, the castle is open to the public to explore its towers, admire the medieval drawbridges and ramparts.

Inside the fortress is the Museum of Nantes history.

Château des Ducs de Bretagne is at 4 Pl. Marc Elder, 44000 Nantes.

2- Shop At Passage Pommeraye

Enjoy a shopping spree in one of the most beautiful arcades in Nantes.

Dating from the 19th century, this charming Victorian shopping arcade is famed for its elegance, nostalgia and of course desirable shops.

Visiting the arcade simply for its architecture is well worth it.

Throughout are exquisite examples of delicately formed wrought ironworks, polished marble staircases and vast glass ceiling.

Adding to its already elaborate design are the numerous Renaissance style statues throughout the arcade.

Over its three levels are toy shops, trendy boutiques, jewellers and of course bakeries selling traditional French patisserie.

Passage Pommeraye is at 20 Passage Pommeraye, 44000 Nantes.

3- Step Back In Time At Place du Bouffay

Place du Bouffay is Nantes medieval heart, and a spot that is well-worth visiting.

This medieval square has cobblestone streets running from it in every direction, half-timbered houses and historical touches throughout.

There are plenty of cosy cafes and restaurants to dine at while watching the world go by, or to admire the buildings while you dine on traditional regional delicacies.

One of Nantes’ best kept secrets lies within Place du Bouffay and the surrounding medieval streets.

Nestled under the shadow of the cathedral is the Psalette Garden, a tranquil patch of land that was once the garden of a 15th century mansion.

Place du Bouffay is at 44036 Nantes.

4- Eat Your Way Across Talensac Market

There is nothing better than sampling local delicacies as you travel to new destinations, and a trip to Nantes is no different.

Talensac Market has been serving hungry locals and tourists alike since 1937.

One of the best places for the widest variety of cuisines, dishes and specialties is Talensac Market.

The market has stalls overflowing with colourful and fresh produce, local cheeses, freshly baked pastries and given its riverside and coastal location, plenty of freshly caught seafood.

The seafood and fish stalls at the market are among the most popular, so expect crowds.

Talensac Market is at Rue Talensac, 44000 Nantes.

5- Be Inspired By Inventions At Machines Of The Isle of Nantes

For a unusual yet great thing to do in Nantes for families or fans of steampunk and ski-fi, a trip to Les Machines de l’Île makes for the perfect day out.

This steampunk wonderland draws inspiration from the fantastical inventions and diagrams of Leonardo Da Vinci and local sci-of author Jules Verne’s Invented Worlds.

Frqnçois Delaroziere and Lierre Orefice created this imaginative landscape and settled it inside a former shipyard, further adding to its industrial and mechanical appearance.

Inside the park are colossal mechanical creatures including the beloved and famous Great Elephant.

Many of these fantastical inventions and sculptures can be ridden, climbed and explored in more detail.

Les Machines d’île is at Parc des Chantiers, Bd. Léon Bureau, 44200 Nantes.

6- Nantes Art Museum

Museum Of Nantes, Italian School
Visiting Nantes Art Museum is one of the things to do Nantes.

Located in a striking and ornately decorated 19th century building is Nantes Art Museum, a museum dedicated to the fine arts.

The museum is divided into two main areas; works from the 13th to 18th centuries, and the 19th and 20th centuries.

Displayed in the museum are works from Abraham Bloemaert and Jan Brueghel the Elder to more contemporary pieces from Eugene Boudin and Camille Corot.

After exploring the museum and admiring its works of art, spend a quiet moment in the museums serene garden.

Nantes Art Museum is at 10 Rue George’s Clemenceau, 44000 Nantes.

7- Learn About Naval History Aboard Maillé-Brézé

The Belem Moored In Its Home Port Of Nantes
Learning about naval history is one of the things to do in Nantes at night.

Experience the legacy of the French Navy by boarding the Maillé-Brézé.

The Maillé-Brézé is a T 47 class destroyer warship that, now that it has retired from active service, serves as an interactive museum on French naval history.

The ship was named after Jean Armand de Maillé, a former colonel, general and grand admiral in the French navy.

Maillé-Brézé was one of many warships built following WWII and served in active service till the 1980s.

Following opening as a museum in 1988, the ship is now filled with interactive and family friendly exhibits on the history of the French Navy.

Maillé-Brézé is at Quai de la Fosse, 44000.

8- Frac des Pays de La Loire

Frac des Pays de La Loire, a contemporary arts centre and museum, is located on the outskirts of Nantes.

This modern museum is well-known for its thought-provoking exhibitions, cultural events and many workshops suitable to all ages and abilities.

The museum is also an exciting destination for unique artistic installations.

The museum’s permanent collection has been gradually gathered across a period of approximately 40 years and includes a diverse range of artworks including photographs, film, sculpture and installations.

Many of the artists whose work is displayed at the museum cover a range of hot topics including politics, the current world climate, sustainability and social injustice.

Frac des Pays De La Loire is at 24 bus Boulevard Ampère, La Fleuriaye, 44470 Carquefou.

9- Trentemoult

Head out of the city and into one of the most beautiful villages bordering Nantes.

Trentemoult is a former fishing village on the banks of the Loire River and is a popular destination to visit.

Trentemoult is filled with traditional and colourful fishing houses, cosy restaurants and an all-round relaxing atmosphere.

Let yourself get lost among its pretty cobblestone streets, and be prepared to take lots of photographs.

The village is easily accessible from the city via the Navibus, a ferry service that hops across the river from the city centre.

10- La Grue Titan

Admire a truly unusual and unique landmark in Nantes at La Grue Titan.

This gigantic yellow crane was installed in Dubigeon Shipyards in 1954, and has remained at the site as a constant reminder of Nantes’ industrial and shipping heritage.

The crane has a lifting capacity of 80 tonnes, and while it is not actively used today, it makes for an imposing and impressive landmark.

The crane is classified as a historical monument, and is a beloved part of the city’s skyline.

La Grue Titán is at 44200 Nantes.

11- Le Lieu Unique

Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, France
Discovering art in Le Lieu is one of the unique things to do in Nantes.

Set inside a former biscuit factory is Nantes’ Le Lieu Unique, a centre for contemporary art.

Jean Blaise founded the museum at the 1990s as a way to preserve the former factory and provide somewhere for creative individuals to work and to display their pieces.

Nantes is a popular destination for artists, and Le Lieu Unique is the perfect destination for artists to share their work, and art lovers to experience it.

Inside the centre are spacious theatres for dance, visual arts, installations and performances.

There is also an excellent bar and restaurant, and a dedicated arts library to further your artistic knowledge.

Le Lieu Unique is at Quai Ferdinand Favre, 44000 Nantes.

12- Jardin des Plantes

Museum D'histoire Naturelle De Paris Et Jardin Des Plantes
Wandering around Jardin des Plantes is one of the relaxing things to do in Nantes.

Jardin des Plantes is a welcome green space in the city, and it is only a short walk from the station.

The garden is green and picturesque, with a wide variety of flowers, shrubs and trees, and plenty of places to pause for a picnic.

Jardin des Plantes has been captivating visitors for more than 150 years, as they have carefully cultivated an excellent collection of a variety of species of plants.

Gardeners plant approximately 50,000 flowers each season to create a pleasing year round landscape.

The gardens also aims to reintroduce rare species of plants and to encourage species to grow and thrive.

Jardin des Plants is famous for its beautiful and fragrant camellias.

Explore the garden at a leisurely place and admire its beauty, before calling into Café de l’Orangerie for a bite to eat.

Jardin des Plantes is at Rue Stanislas Baudry, 44000 Nantes.

13- Cathedral Of St Peter And St Paul

Nantes Cathedral, Cathedral Of St. Peter And St. Paul
Admiring the Cathedral Of St. Peter And St. Paul is one of the best things to do in Nantes France for fans of architecture and history.

One of the most striking pieces of architecture in the city is the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul.

Construction began on the cathedral in 1434 with it only being completed in 1893 making it one of the longest religious constructions in France’s history.

A fire severely damaged the cathedral in 1972 however thankfully the cathedral was carefully restored, ensuring much of its original splendour was saved.

The cathedral is known for its spectacular stained glass windows and double tower at the cathedral entrance.

Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul is at 7 Imp. Saint-Laurent, 44000.

14- Have A Seafood Dinner At La Cigale

Indulge in some of Brittany’s finest seafood at Nantes’ institution, La Cigale.

The seafood restaurant is an iconic brasserie in the city and is one that only offers the freshest dishes.

Enjoy fresh oysters, sharing platters offering a variety of seafoods, and for those looking for something a little more traditional, a dedicated menu of classic French cuisine.

The excellent dishes offered by La Cigale are emphasised by its magical interior.

The building dates from the 19th century and is filled with gold, colourful mosaics and leafy plants, making you feel as though you have stepped back in time.

La Cigale is at 4 Pl. Graslin, 44000 Nantes.

15- Versailles Island

Versailles Island is the ultimate relaxing destination when visiting Nantes.

The artificial island is in the centre of Erdre River and was created in 1831.

The island was originally used as part of the city’s industry, offering tanners and carpenters in the navy a place to work with easy access to all parts of the river.

Today the island is a pristine and leafy park spanning 1.7 hectares (4.2 acres).

On the island is a dedicated Japanese Garden, rockeries and waterfalls.

16- River Erdre

Make the most of your time by the river and book onto a river cruise to explore the beautiful riverbanks at a more leisurely place.

The river stretches for 97.4 kilometres (60 miles) throughout western France.

From your boat admire elegant mansions, lush greenery and charming bridges.

Some boat tours call at Versailles Island offering a chance to stretch your legs and explore another unmissable part of the city.

If sailing is not for you, the riverbanks also have dedicated cycling and walking tracks.

17- Musée Dobrée

Thomas Dobrée spent much of his life collecting a vast quantity of historical artefacts.

The museum, founded by Dobrée, is housed inside a former Roman Revival palace located just outside of the city centre and is filled with paintings, books, sculptures and other interesting artefacts.

One of the most beloved parts of the museum is the library where old Breton printed books, forgotten manuscripts and miniature paintings adorning the pages of books can be found.

Many of the museums collections come from the Old Breton culture, however there are also examples of works of art from the Netherlands and Germany.

Musée Dobrée is at 18 Rue Voltaire, 44000 Nantes.

18- Admire The Architecture Of Kervegan Street

Wander along the beautiful Kervegan Street to admire the beauty of Nantes’ architecture.

Kervegan Street is in the heart of former Nantes island Feydeau, which was incorporated into the main land of the city when the arms of the river were filled in and the waters were diverted.

This unusual landscaping development is partly associated with the otherworldly feeling visitors experience when exploring Feydeau’s Main Street,

Along the street are many interesting buildings from a range of architectural styles including Renaissance and Art Nouveau.

Many of the largest buildings along the street belonged to ship owners who made their fortunes on the river and beyond.

Take your camera to snap some excellent examples of classical architecture intertwining with modern places of business.

Kervegan Street is at 44036 Nantes.

19- Jules Verne Museum

Jules Verne, author of sci-if novels From Earth to the Moon and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, was born in Nantes on 8th February 1828.

The writer grew up in the city and began his love for writing there before leaving to peruse his career in Paris.

The museum is dedicated to the life of Verne and his creations, exploring his creative process through a number of artefacts and replicas displayed.

Within the museum are many themed rooms designed to reflect the imaginative roles Jules Verne created.

There are also many interactive exhibitors throughout the museum.

Jules Verne Museum is at 3 Rue de l’Hermitage, 44100 Nantes.

20- Natural History Museum Of Nantes

For a great thing to do in Nantes for families head to the Natural History Museum.

The museum covers the history of animals and wildlife across the centuries, from ancient fossils to more modern day discoveries.

There are many taxidermy specimens throughout the museum displayed alongside fossils and interactive exhibitions.

The museum also includes samples from mineralogy and geology, zoology and information on native and local wildlife.

A must-visit section of the museum is the reptile house, where a number of native reptiles can be seen, with some from more exotic landscapes.

Nantes Natural History Museum is at 12 Rue Voltaire, 44000 Nantes.

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sarah holmes travel writer
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.