Journey to Nantes: 10 Reasons to Visit



Journey to Nantes: 10 Reasons to Visit

From its truly unique, city-wide art trail, to refreshing green spaces in an around the city, Nantes is one of France’s most interesting cities – a perfect French city break destination for lovers of culture with a twist. Here are 10 reasons to visit.

1. The city art trail 

Nantes is the only city in France to boast a 22km-long art trail, cleverly linking more than 120 artworks from international artists with the city’s heritage, its stunning vistas and lively neighbourhoods. Since its first edition in 2012, Le Voyage à Nantes summer festival has allowed artists to use the city streets as their canvas, with some artworks becoming permanent fixtures, while others present only temporarily. Visitors can simply follow the green line to explore this innovative dialogue between art and its urban setting. 

Une oeuvre de Jean Jullien à l’entrée “Clemenceau” du Jardin des plantes : peinture du personnage “Le Fileur” par Jean Jullien

2. Mechanical beasts 

Head to the Île de Nantes for a ride on le Grand Éléphant, a colossal machine which carries up to 49 passengers 12m up on its back while spraying spectators with water from its trunk. Watch out for the Galerie des Machines’ other creatures too – a heron, a mechanical spider and huge hummingbirds, to name but a few…– try your hand at controlling one of the machines! Then, facing the River Loire, ride on the giant 25m-high carousel and watch as magnificent marine creatures revolve around you, guarded by 16 fishermen from across the world’s oceans. 

The Elephant on the île de Nantes © David Gallard LVAN

3. The Château of the Dukes of Brittany 

The Château des ducs de Bretagne, built in the late 15th century and expanded by Anne of Brittany, is the city’s most important historic building. It houses the Museum of History, which will transport you to various periods in the past, including the union of Brittany with France, the development of Nantes’ harbour and the slave trade.  

The Ducs de Bretagne castle © Philippe Piron LVAN

4. Museum of Arts 

Nestled between the cathedral and the botanical gardens in the heart of the city, the Musée d’arts de Nantes boasts a unique collection spanning nine centuries and featuring 13,000 pieces ranging from the Italian Primitives to contemporary art. It’s a wonderful place to explore the role of art and its place in times past as well as the world today. 

Musée d’arts in Nantes © C. Clos

5. The vineyards of Clisson 

This is the home of Muscadet, Nantes’ light-bodied, crisp and refreshing wine. A 100km wine route guides visitors through various villages around the colourful city of Clisson, inviting you to discover the changing landscapes and diverse heritage, including castles, vineyards and churches. Don’t miss Le Porte-Vue, a belvedere in the pretty little village of Château-Thébaud, which offers a panoramic view of the breathtaking countryside from its giddying cantilevered observation deck. 

A warm wine-country welcome awaits at the Guinguette La Huchette at Château Thébaud © Camille Guery, LVAN

6. Playgrounds and art combined 

Nantes has collaborated with artists to create a series of wacky playgrounds in the city. These include the Ping-Pong Park, the Aire de Jeux, a unique sea monster playground, the ‘We will walk on the Moon’ playground, and the Basketball Tree. They are ideal for letting the kids run off some steam, and grown-ups will enjoy them too

La Colline, Appelle-moi papa, la Cantine du Voyage, le Voyage à Nantes 2023 © Martin Argyroglo _ LVAN

7. An open-air museum along the Loire estuary 

Embark on a river cruise like no other to discover the river and its surrounding landscape peppered with a permanent open-air collection of 33 original artworks from Nantes to Saint-Nazaire. This 60km trail along the Loire boasts large-scale installations, sculptures and amazing architecture from the hand of some of today’s renowned international artists. 

A river cruise takes in 33 artworks, such as La Maison dans la Loire by Jean-Luc Courcoult © Adrien Pasquier, LVAN

8. Nantes seasonal, local gastronomy 

Freshness, quality, seasonality, and origin of products all combine to make Nantes stand out when it comes to cuisine. The connection between the area’s local producers and restaurants means menus feature gourmet delights such as fresh oysters, sea bass, langoustines and crabs from the Atlantic just an hour away. As well as the world-famous salt from Guérande and delicious local butter, the region is well known for its huge variety of vegetables that are grown with a pinch of earthy love – and then there’s the gâteau nantais to wrap it all up. To help you savour a local foodie experience like never before, check out the food guide Les tables de Nantes 

Farmers’ market in the Parc de la Sevre © Christophe Bornet by Kristo

9. Historical heart of the city 

A walk through Nantes will lead you through neighbourhoods with strikingly different personalities, from the city’s 18th-century monuments to its medieval streets. The history of Quartier Bouffay, where houses made from timber still stand to this day, is writ large on its diverse architecture. At shopping arcade Le passage Pommeraye, you will find a stunning blend of neo-classicism and Louis-Philippe eclecticism. A five-minute walk will bring you to the Île de Versailles, where a picnic or a kayaking session awaits you beneath the gently warming rays of the summer sun. 

Passage Pommeraye, Nantes © Franck Tomps _ LVAN

10. Nantes City Pass 

Le Voyage à Nantes has meticulously curated a pass that brings together all that can be seen, visited, tasted and experienced. Choose from 24-hour, 48-hour, 72-hour and seven-day passes and enjoy access to all the attractions around Nantes and its outskirts. The seven-day pass is the best way to enjoy a hassle-free, relaxed holiday, with unlimited public transport (trams, buses and airport shuttle), cruises, visits, tastings and many more activities. Get the Pass Nantes from a starting rate of €27 (£23) for 24 hours, and experience the city in every sense! 

A City Pass is the ideal way to see sights in and around Nantes, such as the Miroir d’eau in Carré Feydeau © Jean-Dominique Billaud, LVAN

For more information, maps and itinerary suggestions, visit Nantes tourist board

Lead photo credit : Daniel Buren et Patrick Bouchain, Les Anneaux, Quai des Antilles, Le Voyage à Nantes © Martin Argyroglo_LVAN, ADAGP

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