Things to do in Nantes

Things to do in  Nantes

Crumbling castles and crisp whites

On the banks of the Loire, westerly Nantes was long one of France’s most important port cities. Today, it has blossomed into a vibrant, livable urban center, with a wealth of history and culture. The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany dates to the 15th century and is one of the city’s most imposing landmarks, alongside the Gothic magnificence of the Nantes Cathedral. Nantes’ decidedly creative spirit can be seen in the Machines de l’Île theme park (inspired by the works of Nantes-born Jules Verne) and Le Lieu Unique, a contemporary arts space.

Top 6 attractions in Nantes

Machines of the Isle (Les Machines de L'ile)

Whether you’re climbing aboard a life-size mechanical elephant, riding on a carousel of fantastical sea creatures, or operating a flying machine, a visit to Les Machines de L'île is probably unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Inspired by the creations of novelist Jules Verne, Nantes’ flagship attraction is fun for all ages.More

Nantes Art Museum (Musée d'Arts de Nantes)

Inaugurated in 1900 and currently undergoing a thorough renovation and extension by the Stanton Williams architect group, the Nantes Art Museum (Musée d'Arts de Nantes) is Nantes’ flagship art museum, celebrated for its large and varied collection of works, dating from the 12th to the 20th centuries.Highlights of the vast permanent collection include works by Delacroix, Rousseau, Tintoretto, Perugino, Renoir, and Gauguin, among many others, with key pieces including Rubens’ The Triumph of Judas Maccabaeus, Delaunay’s David Triumphant and Chagall’s Le Cheval Rouge. A well-established series of temporary exhibits complement the main displays, with a greater focus on contemporary art, while late openings on Thursday evenings include music, dance and literature inspired events.More

Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany)

With its dramatic bridged moat, looming stone-brick watchtowers and gleaming white tufa, the Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is a glorious amalgamation of a grand ducal palace and medieval military fortress, set at the crest of Nantes’ Old Town. This is Nantes’ most impressive historic site, originally built in the 15th-century by François II, the last Duke of Brittany, and it’s an impeccably restored Gothic-Renaissance residence, surrounded by 500-meter-long curtain walls and atmospherically illuminated at night.Today, visitors can follow the sentry walkway around the castle’s 7 towers, affording impressive views over the city and the manicured lawns and moat below, then find a picnic spot below the walls or dine at the central courtyard restaurant. The extensively restored castle interiors now also house the Nantes History Museum, where a series of exhibitions explore the castle’s former importance, Nantes’ merchant history and colonial years, and the future of the modern city.More

Jules Verne Museum (Musée Jules Verne)

Devoted to the life and works of surrealist writer Jules Verne, who was born in Nantes in 1828, the Jules Verne Museum (Musée Jules Verne) opened its doors on the 150th anniversary of his birth, and offers a fascinating insight into one of France’s most unique and imaginative literary figures. Housed in a 19th-century waterfront residence frequented by the author, the museum’s striking white façade today stands opposite the spectacular Marine Worlds Carousel, part of Nantes’ ambitious Verne-inspired Îles des Machines.Inside the museum, an eclectic collection of Verne’s personal effects, hand-edited manuscripts and a recreation of the writer's drawing room offer a glimpse into the mind of the literary innovator, while interactive and multimedia displays, and replicas of his inventions serve to bring masterpieces likeTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea andAround the World in Eighty Days to life.More
Boissière du Doré Zoo (Zoo de la Boissière du Doré)

Boissière du Doré Zoo (Zoo de la Boissière du Doré)

Founded in 1984 and located 45 minutes from Nantes, the Zoo de la Boissière du Doré is home to over 800 animals and 70 different species, from giraffes to panthers to blue poison dart frogs. A popular destination for families, this conservation center and zoo gives visitors the chance to learn about wildlife from around the world.More


In the French port city of Saint-Nazaire, near Nantes, get a glimpse of what life would have been like aboard a historic ocean-going vessel. Escal’Atlantic, an interactive museum dedicated to “the historical ocean-liner experience,” displays more than 200 artifacts, all of which hail from ships built in Saint-Nazaire.More
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All about Nantes

When to visit

Nantes is most popular in summer. It’s when tourists flock to landmarks such as the Château des ducs de Bretagne, head beyond city limits to the Brittany coast, and attend events such as the Summer Hours Festival (Festival aux Heures d’Été), which brings a wide-ranging program of concerts, screenings, and other performances to the city. To discover the university city’s scholarly side, visiting in autumn is also a pleasant and comfortable time to explore.

Getting around

Nantes is accessible by mainline trains from Paris via the Nantes Station (Gare de Nantes), and the Nantes Atlantique Airport connects the city to domestic and international destinations. Nantes itself operates a tram system, multiple bus routes, and an airport shuttle. Otherwise, Nantes is eminently walkable (its medieval Bouffay district is best explored on foot), and is also bike-friendly.

Traveler tips

The people of Nantes are food lovers, and one of the best places to discover the city’s gastronomic side is in the covered Marché de Talensac, which dates to the 1930s. Inside, visitors can browse produce stalls; shop for cheese, meat, and freshly caught seafood; or visit the small cafés and bars nearby, which offer an easy way to indulge in all that fresh and local fare.


People Also Ask

What is Nantes known for?

Nantes is the birthplace of French writer Jules Verne and is renowned for its unique Verne-inspired Machines of the Isle, which include a giant mechanical elephant that takes visitors for rides across the city. The city is also famous for its medieval Château des Ducs de Bretagne and muscadet wine.

How many days do you need in Nantes?

Nantes is compact, allowing you to see the highlights, including the elephant from the Machines of the Isle, Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, and Passage Pommeraye, in one day. Alternatively, plan a weekend or 3-day stay to visit the vineyards and Voyage à Nantes art trail and experience the buzzing nightlife.

Does Nantes have a beach?

Nantes is less than an hour’s drive from the Atlantic Coast, but there are no beaches in the city itself. The closest beaches to Nantes are Pornic and Saint-Brevin-les-Pins on the south side of the Loire, and Saint Nazaire and La Baule on the north side.

What food is Nantes known for?

Nantes has a burgeoning gastronomic scene influenced by its Breton heritage and its Atlantic coast location. Tuck into a tasty galette, some fresh oysters, or seafood with creamy beurre blanc sauce. Local specialties also include Curé Nantais cheese, Nantais cakes, and white muscadet wine.

When was Nantes founded?

Nantes was founded in 70 BC by the Namnetes, a Gaul tribe, and passed between Frankish, Breton, and Norman rule until it was claimed by the Duchy of Brittany in AD 937. Nantes remained the capital of Brittany until 1941, when it became part of the Loire-Atlantique department.

Is Nantes worth visiting?

Yes, Nantes is one of France’s most dynamic and innovative cities, and it’s worth a visit to experience its Voyage à Nantes art trail and atmospheric Old Town. Where else can you ride a giant mechanical elephant, walk a medieval castle, take a river cruise, and go wine tasting in one day?

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