Things To Do In Nantes
Known as the most historic territory in France, Nantes is a beautiful city with many attractions and plenty of activities to explore. Make sure to visit the Galerie de Machines with its brilliant automatic elephants, merry go rounds, contemporary craftsmanship, old and modern architectural structures and establishments on the green line.
The green line is a well-known route that takes you to the typical places in the city where you can admire many art installations. It is a journey to be completed on foot because that is the best way to see Nantes from different points of view. Before planning any excursion, drop by the tourist office and buy the "Pass Nantes". The pass allows entry to the five museums located along the route.
When To Go:
Located along the western coast of France, Nantes actually has a maritime climate, which means there are constant downpours as the year progressed (but somewhat less from June until August) along with mellow summers and chilly winters. The best time to enjoy a hassle-free tour is during the summer (June until the first week of September). In the event that it happens to get really hot, take a trek (or swim) along the Erdre waterway, or simply go island hopping along the stream to the Ile de Versailles or the Ile de Nantes. The months of May and September-October can be a bit nippy with increased amounts of rain, but they are some of the best months to visit the city.
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To learn more about France and its history, wander along these attractions and things to do in the city of Nantes:
Jardin des Plantes
The Jardin des Plantes has the distinction of being educational and equipped with three greenhouses with various floral species. It is nice, tidy, fun, free, and located in the center of Nantes. The park is located opposite the train station in the heart of the city, but while here you will feel like you are in the countryside.
The gardens are extremely gorgeous and loaded with plants that form figures of animals (bears, snakes, etc.). They have a variety of plants from around the world; some are outdoors and others are in greenhouses. The site also highlights the rich aquatic wildlife, features a children's corner and provides lots of time to get acquainted closer with sheep, goats, and chickens. When visiting during most seasons, you’ll find a collection of camellias that are the most beautiful flower beds that you will ever see in this part of the city.
There are decorations, including a series of benches that grow from tiny to giant. The garden also has a bar, restaurant, and a lounge. At the pond area, you can see turtles, several species of ducks, and other birds who love being in the water, as well as small parrots, and a greenhouse full of carnivorous plants. Admission is free and the park is located within a 10-minute walk from the city center near the train station. It is strongly recommended to make this your first stop in Nantes.
Cathedrale de Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul
It is only by entering the Cathedrale de Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul that you will realize the solemnity of the place. Like all the cathedrals built during the early period of France, the tall aisles will make you realize how small man is in front of the sacred sanctuary. It is worth close inspection, especially the monument dedicated to the two great apostles of the church: St. Peter and St. Paul. Look carefully at the details of the angels holding the pillars, it is quite a show. Particularly interesting is the tomb of the last Dukes of Brittany that lies buried here. The cathedral has an extensive breadth of beauty and grandeur, but it was severely compromised by the fire of 1972 and the rehabilitation work took away much of the original charm.
When you reach Sull’anima square, you can see this old church in all its splendid Gothic style. It is the most beautiful and significant religious building in the city and it seems that the square was built to size to accent its imposing presence. The façade is distinguished by its simplicity and also serves as the entrance (enclosed between the two towers where each has a terrace). What surprises you most about the interior is the ceiling height and the pure lines of the pillars supporting the vault. The cathedral is located in the city center facing the castle and is a few minute's walk from the train station.
Les Machines de L'ile
If you stay in Nantes for more than a day, do not miss Les Machines de L'ile - it will transport you back to your childhood. You can spend almost 16 euro (including 8 for the entrance to the pavilion of herons flying and 8 for a ride on the robotic elephant). If you cannot get on any of the machines because of the long lines, you can take part in a guided tour (in French), which illustrates the operation of the elephant. A ride on the elephant can be an experience for a small child, but an adult must accompany the tour because there is a high balcony to overlook as the robot elephant proceeds slowly. It surely becomes more impressive when admired from the ground.
This area is a magical place where giant elephants roam the city and you can hop on a carousel that is almost 3 stories tall and full of animals. You’ll also go on a flight in a wicker basket and take a spectacular ride on top of a giant ant. The self-propelled machines are impressive enough, but its location in a former shipbuilding yard is also quite a site.
Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes in Brittany)
The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany or the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne is beautiful and worth the trip to Nantes. The circular bastions are impressive but interesting and note-worthy are the preparation of captions on the walkway of the city walls. It is one of the castles of the Loire where you can visit the moats and walls. It is also beautiful at night with the play of light on the walls. It's not like going to an amusement park, but it is worth seeing. Before boarding, if you can, prepare yourself with the audio guide that narrates the explanations of the courtyard, walls, halls and beautiful rooms with findings, reconstructions, models, photos, paintings and writings. You can spend more than two hours here learning lots of interesting information about Nantes and France.
This castle can be visited only from the outer court and the high walls. It is quite elegant, and although it is not as majestic as other French castles it is still worth a brief visit. It is located in the center of Nantes and can be reached by a pleasant stroll through the picturesque streets of the city. In the courtyard, there is a beautiful well with a wrought-iron work. There is also a bar with outdoor seating.
Located within walking distance of the city center along a pedestrian path marked with a green strip that serves as a guide, this manor is surrounded by a moat with drawbridges that are perfectly preserved leading to the courtyard. The courtyard is dominated by the towers and the walkway guard. There is a spectacular tour available along the walls built between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. This tour will let you view the roofs with the strange tall chimneys on the surrounding buildings. Inside, there is a famous museum tracing the history of the city as well as being a venue for art and cultural exhibitions.
Parc de Proce
Parc de Proce is a pleasant park where you can have a relaxing walk in the middle of a busy city. You can enjoy your walk along the paths of the park, sit on a bench, and plan your next journey around the city. The park also grows many unusual plants; it is not a typical park but more like a forest. For lunch, consider using the sunbeds and chairs that are available on the site.
This well-maintained park feature exotic plants that are spread throughout the entire grounds. There are also large areas for picnics, with many people stopping by at lunchtime and early joggers in the morning. There is also a large lawn where you can lie down or play football. You can even visit the ponds area where ducks, geese, and swans reign. For children, there is a bobsleigh track (for ages 2-12 years old) and carousel ride. The park is well maintained and serves as a beautiful beginning to a long walk along the Chezine.
Musee d'Histoire Naturelle de Nantes
If you are in Nantes, visit the Musee d'Histoire Naturelle de Nantes, a museum about nature. Here you will find skeletons of winged and sea creatures. You will also find stuffed animals and a large exhibition of rocks and whale skeleton. Admission is very cheap and even free every 1st Sunday of the month.
The building is beautiful and it shows an extensive collection of botany, stones, exotic birds, and much more. It is very well organized so you will not run around aimlessly. Be prepared to stay awhile because you can easily spend two hours in this museum. The height of the visit comes at the end of the video installation. A visit to this natural museum is a must when in Nantes.
Memorial de l'Abolition de l'Esclavage
The Memorial de l'Abolition de l'Esclavage is an impressive memorial on slavery, that is engaging and well-prepared. It is not too easy to find because it is entirely covered and just below the street level. You can stroll along the river on the path that contains small plaques listing the names of old boats or ships that once transported slaves. The memorial of the abolition of slavery is an important part of history for the city of Nantes; it has also become a major landmark of the city. A visit to the memorial is quick, but it's free and not too far from the downtown area.
A local guide is available to help you understand the significance of this place for Nantes and France. It is also included in the memorial bike ride because the ground is flat and the bike trails are easy to travel on. The best part is that you can go at your own pace. The attraction is will leave you with your own thoughts about slavery. This memorial must be visited by everyone while in Nantes.
The Jardin Japonais is located in the heart of the city. Guests find its scenic flora the most enticing part of the garden. You can go to the tourism center and follow the route map to find places to enjoy a leisurely stroll or relax from a busy day. Entrance is free but be aware of the time because the Japanese Garden closes at 17:00. If there is not much of a crowd, the place looks empty and desolate but it is still quite tranquil.
You will gladly wander along the paths, stone by stone on the water, in a thicket of trees. It is a beautiful garden, not very big, but you can go and have a splendid time in all the interesting and picturesque corners of it. The place is fantastic for anyone who wants to take a break and practice meditation. Best of all, when the cherry trees are in bloom, it really seems as if you are in Japan!
Parc de la Beaujoire
The Parc de la Beaujoire is better known as the park of tranquility. It is filled with majestic trees, flower beds, and multicolored roses that deserve to be sniffed and photographed. Even the plants are well maintained! The garden of heather is a pleasure and the amphitheater of iris flowers hints at the blazing bloom in season. You can take a few more steps and admire the open views and the nearby small valleys with hills and trees; the clean river also deserves to be commended.
The park is located along the Erdre where you can walk quietly, relax, and take in a little of the sun during the few times when it does not rain. The best time is perhaps in the spring and summer because the roses are in bloom and that is when the view of the Erdre is most beautiful.
On a clear day, enjoy the greenery and the view from the boats. There are toilets at the entrance and in the middle of the park it is filled with many benches. It is large enough to easily spend two hours of walking while admiring its idyllic scenery. Do not miss the tour of the flower park located on the large and hilly wooded area with multiple flower species and a beautiful collection of magnolias. The rose garden is especially beautiful as it is lined with hundreds of roses all with their origin and names shown.
For former sailors and lovers of the sea, a visit toLe Maille-Breze is a must. This is the last vestige of a floating Navy from the 50s. On a tour, you can find on board the memories of those who have had the privilege to sail this vessel, as well as all of its materials, machinery, and other equipment. You can explore the navigation instruments and imagine the lives of sailors on board. It is not recommended for the claustrophobic and those who struggle to use narrow and steep staircases. The guide is an old man who is very knowledgeable and smiles as he kindly responds to every question his guests have. It is a former military ship that can be visited (for at least two hours); where the guides are the most passionate people of seafaring. The guides make it interesting even if there are some rough passages. Do not miss this boat tour while in Nantes.
When in Nantes, the stroll along the waterway is amazing as well as the short ship ride to the little village of Trentemoult. Don't miss the monument to the abolition of slavery: it’s located underneath the asphalt road and you can stroll through at stream level. Indulge in fine dining, explore a three ring circus complex, shop till you drop at its dainty and art deco shopping centers, watch the play of lights along the Quai des Antilles, go island hopping to other key attractions, or simply enjoy long walks around the town; Nantes never runs out of things to do and new adventures to discover. A tour of Nantes is lovely and exceptionally moving the more you explore its breathtaking vistas and learn about its interesting history.
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