France is known for its rich culture, mouth-watering cuisine, and stunning architecture. However, it has so much more to offer than just these three things. If you are looking for the best of France's cities, then you should probably look to visit Nantes, where you will find plenty of exciting stuff to discover. Nantes is the capital city of Pays de la Loire, one of the 27 regions in France. Apart from this region's headquarters located in the town itself, it also has the highest population density among all French cities. With 4,341.54 residents per square kilometre, finding something interesting in Nantes and its surroundings is not difficult. There are a couple of reasons why you should visit this city. Nantes is such a popular destination and is widely referred to as the second home of every Parisian. The art and culture of the city are one of the most unique and outstanding. In addition, it ranks high among the cities with the best quality of life in France. You should, therefore, not be surprised to see retired men and women from Paris relocating to Nantes. Nantes Old Town is also very well preserved. If you love history, you can witness the city’s 1700 and 1800’s legacy when the city’s river port was lively. A stroll through the Passage Pommeraye will have you appreciate what is widely regarded as one of the finest covered passages in Europe. If you are taking a trip to this beautiful French city, you can never be short of options for a few exciting things to do. Here are the 20 best things to do in Nantes.
20. Enjoy some panoramic views at Tour Bretagne
This high-rise building offers jaw-dropping views of the whole city. Inside, there is a restaurant and a bar that are very popular with tourists and local people. The top floor also features temporary art exhibitions full of vibrant colors that will immerse you in Nantes' unique atmosphere.
19. Discover the world of Jules Verne at his museum
Jules Verne's house once lived has been turned into a museum dedicated to his life and work. The museum has a rich collection of objects, documents, and literature related to Verne, and it also features an impressive garden surrounding the house.
18. Do some shopping at Place du Bouffay
This place has been known as the city's market square since around 1000 AD, and it is one of the most lively places in Nantes. You can find many restaurants, bars, and shops here, and there are also some exciting street performers playing music or juggling with fire around this area.
17. Check out Musée de l'Imprimerie
This museum is one of the few places where you can see almost two millennia of printing history. It features everything from early Hebrew texts to books published in 1800, and it has a mouth-watering library.
16. Take a relaxing break at the Fountain at the Place Royale
This large square has been a favorite spot for locals and visitors, which is why it comes alive during warm summer nights. It features several bars and outdoor cafés, and there's also an open-air theatre here.
15. Wander around HAB Galerie
This place benefits from amazing, panoramic views of the Loire River, and it has also been an example of design excellence for many years. The new space includes a commercial gallery and a restaurant on the top floor, which means that you can enjoy exquisite dishes while taking in those lovely river views.
14. Check out Mémorial de l'Abolition de l'Esclavage
Mémorial de l'Abolition de l'Esclavage is a site in Nantes that remembers the victims of slave trade in the city. The site contains the names of slave ships and the dates when the slaves left the port of Nantes. It has a fantastic structure that remembers African people who were reduced to slavery on the triangular trade. The site, which is the world’s largest of its kind, has an entrance that features The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the word “freedom” written in 47 different languages. You can also see quotes from famous world figures such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Several Africans lost their lives on these ships, which were used for over three centuries.
13. Get captivated by La Grue Titan
This modern art marvel is one of the most visited sites in Nantes. It was built in 1954, and it is known for its grand size; the crane has a total height of 43 meters, which means that when you are standing underneath, you will feel like you are underneath an actual building. My personal experience in Nantes was quite remarkable since I booked an apartment near the La Grue Titan. I became pretty fond of it and was impressed by how it keeps moving slowly in different directions and its unique lighting, especially at night. You can also get to experience the city’s history of shipbuilding and enjoy some delicacies in restaurants near the area.
12. Visit Notre-Dame de Bon-Port
This place of worship was built is located right by the river, not far from Nantes Cathedral. It was built in Gothic style, and it also served as a prison during World War II. Inside, many religious relics were given as gifts to the church over the years, such as Saint Anne's head and pieces of Jesus' cross.
11. Soak up some history at Cours Cambronne
This pedestrian area links Boulevard de Stalingrad with Boulevard de La Beaujoire, and it is not just known as a walking route; it has also been used as a market for several years ( More than 500 years). It has many restaurants and bars too, and you can also find many exciting street performers here.
10. Visit Nantes Cathedral
This famous place of worship was built between 1434 and 1891, and it has been considered one of the prime examples of Gothic architecture in France. It has seven towers and more than 50 stained glass panels, and it is also known for its impressive organ built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. This impressive religious monument was listed as a French Historical Monument in 1862 by the Ministry of Culture in France. If you are always impressed with religious stuff and are in Nantes, you cannot afford not to visit this iconic church.
9. Check out Île Feydeau
For a long time now, Nantes has gained a reputation for the incredible modern arts and designs. However, you can take a trip to Île Feydeau, which is sort of an 18th century Beverly Hills. The Île Feydeau neighbourhood was built by 18th-century wealthy merchants who were making a killing in trades with the French colonies. Île Feydeau is not just known for its historical significance; it has also been transformed into a thriving business district. It features many shops, restaurants and it even houses the city's most popular nightclubs such as Le Palais de Tokyo and Folies Pigalle.
8. Tour Jardin des Plantes
Located in the city's centre, this garden has more than 1000 different species of greenery, and they display a wide range of plants from all around the world. Apart from that, there is also an ancient building in the garden that features historic pharmacy displays. Jardin des Plantes is the most extensive botanical garden in France and was named a Historical Monument in 1993. The garden also contains several museums, a botanical school, and the Menagerie zoo. Anytime you are in Nantes, you can visit this green space and see the 220-year-old magnolia and sequoia planted over 150 years ago.
7. Visit the Trentemoult
During your stay in Nantes, you cannot afford to miss taking a trip to Trentemoult. To get to the destination, you will need to take a boat or tram shuttle. Trentemoult is a former fishing village that belonged to the town of Reze. The riverside part of the village is quite beautiful, and it has some classy restaurants and bars. You can enjoy a walk along the paved walkways or enjoy a glass of wine. You can have food in the restaurants, or if you have some extra cash, you can get a spot along the river for lunch. The place also has a lot of artistic activity and contains several professional artists and their workshops.
6. Take a tour to La Tour Lu
Located on Nantes' outskirts, this castle is one of the most visited monuments in Nantes. It has been built on a former Gallo-Roman settlement, and it features Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance architectural styles. An impressive moat surrounds the castle, and it has beautiful gardens with orchards, ponds, and fountains. The monument also features a dome that is pierced with windows and carved with eagles which signifies prestige. It also contains an angel holding a trumpet in his hand on top of the dome. The La Tour Lu initially had two towers, although one was destroyed during World War 2. If you are in Nantes, La Tour Lu should be a must-visit.
5. Visit Eglise Sainte Croix
If you want to visit a lovely church in the centre of Nantes, you need to take a trip to this place of worship is not just known for its beautiful architecture; it also has the most extensive rosary collection in all of France. It has many rosaries given by the faithful as a sign of gratitude after going through hard times.
4. Visit the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle
If you are an animal lover, then this natural history museum is a must-visit. It features several specimens of animals that have been stuffed and displayed in glass cases for visitors to see. The museum has many collections, including skeletons, fossils, insects, birds, reptiles, and an extensive collection from Guyana. The museum also offers other possibilities that can satisfy the curiosity of any kind of visitor, including children.
3. Take a stroll to the Passage Pommeraye
Passage Pommeraye is a shopping arcade that was built back in 1843. Passage Pommeraye is a glass passageway that joins Place du Commerce with Rue Crébillon. The passage itself has been designed to allow plenty of sunlight to filter through, which is a unique feature. Apart from that, it also has two of the most famous landmarks in the city. The Passage Pommeraye is also host to more than 25 different luxury shops where you can go for some shopping. It also contains a tearoom pastry shop where you can enjoy some fine tea or coffee as you engage in a conversation.
2. Visit Les Machines de L'île
Machine Highland is a permanent amusement park that features different rides, including a giant wooden roller coaster, thrilling dodgems, and an impressive dancing fountain. Many live shows take place in the evenings. Another exciting thing it features is the gigantic kinetic sculpture named The Elephant. It takes visitors on a long and fascinating ride that ends with an equally entertaining descent.
1. Take a tour to Château des Ducs de Bretagne
One of Nantes' most famous landmarks, the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, is found on a natural rocky island cut off from the mainland. It lies on the right bank of the Loire River, and it is arguably Nantes’ most important historical monument. It features seven towers that are connected by several ramparts, and it also has a chapel. The castle was essential and acted as a defense fortress and the residential palace for the duke. It was built between the 14th and the 16th centuries, but its exterior and interior have undergone many changes. Nantes is a fantastic city, and there are numerous things you can do on a trip to the city. However, I doubt you can do all these things or visit all the places on this list within a day. In case you are touring the city, ensure it’s for several days so that you can visit all these 20 spots on our list.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn