Nantes sights in France

Nantes – 16 places to see

The Dukes of Brittany Chateau

There’s no shortage of big names the French have come up with for Nantes! The historical capital of Brittany, city of art and history, the Venice of the West, the birthplace of Jules Verne. The city’s centuries-old past and its amazing present have shaped many points of attraction for tourists. Today we’ll tell you about 15 of Nantes’ must-see sights and even put together a walking itinerary.

You can get full access to Nantes museums, monuments, tourist attractions and public transportation if you buy a Nantes City Card Pass for 1-3 days. Read the offer here.

The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany

The Dukes of Brittany Chateau

Our walk begins at the residence of the Dukes of Brittany. Perhaps this castle is the most important and fateful landmark of Nantes, because it was here that the largest religious confrontation in France ended and the Edict of Nantes was signed, the law which finally allowed the Huguenots to practice religion according to their conscience. And Nantes Castle all its life was in the special account of the French monarchs, all because it was owned by Anne of Brittany – the Duchess, who managed twice in her life to become the Queen of France.

Now the castle has lost none of its former grandeur. Like hundreds of years ago, it is surrounded by a moat with water, and tourists get to the territory by a drawbridge. Inside you can walk along the castle walls, visit the Nantes History Museum, and in the evening admire the beautiful lighting.

Where is it located: 4 place Marc Elder

Open: 8:30 – 19:00, museum – 10:00 – 18:00, Mondays off.

Cost of admission: free of charge, museum – 8 €.

Feydeau – an island in the middle of the world

Feydeau

Nantes is still sometimes called the Venice of the West: there is plenty of water in a large port city, and in the past there were also canals running among the residential areas. In the 18th century, merchants rich in the slave trade liked to build mansions on one of these islands, bounded by two arms of the Loire. They often decorated their white-stone houses with stone masks of Africans, in memory of the goods that brought them prosperity.

A century ago the canals were filled up and the elite island area joined the land. Now Ile Feydeau is a favorite walking area of citizens and tourists, where instead of the river smooth surface, masses of green grass spread freely, and the buildings along the former promenade of Turenne seem to slope to the water. If you sign up for a cycling tour of the central part of Nantes, you’ll learn more about the history of this fascinating area as well as much more.

Where to go: L’ile Feydeau district

L’ile confectionery factory and L’ile Unic center.

LU Pastry Factory

Not far from the station, on the canal Saint-Felix, there’s a very interesting building: its architecture is very simple, as industrial sites should be, but the Art Nouveau dome is decorated with carved eagles, signs of the zodiac, and a tower on top. It is “le Lieu Unique” – “the unique place”. I must say, it really is one of a kind.

For a long time, huge batches of cookies were produced within these walls, but then production fell into disrepair. And 20 years ago, the abandoned factory was restored and turned into a center of modern culture. Now exhibitions, festivals, theatrical performances, lectures and concerts are held within the walls of the monument of industrial heritage. There is a bar, restaurant, and even a hammam.

Where to find: Ferdinand-Favre Promenade

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

The first botanical garden of Nantes appeared in the 17th century. At first it was a simple vegetable garden in the suburbs where they grew medicinal plants. However, the collection was rapidly expanded, because the sailors returning to Nantes from foreign lands were strictly forbidden to bring back home unusual curiosities of overseas flora.

For several centuries, the botanical gardens have seen ups and downs. Now it has reached its peak: come to think of it, it has 11 thousand plant species, including a tulip tree, a giant sequoia, long-lived magnolias and collections of rare camellias, cacti and orchids. And walking around the park the eye never tires of admiring the masterpieces of landscape design and blooming plants planted in mosaic flower beds.

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Where to go: 11 Boulevard de Stalingrad

Open: 8:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.

Cost of admission: free of charge, greenhouses: 3 €

Musée des Beaux-Arts

The Nantes Art Museum attracts attention from afar: its broad staircase, facades with allegorical sculptures and solemn columns give it a metropolitan air.

The museum’s collection is also not provincial: nine centuries of world art, from medieval painting to modern expositions and installations, are represented here. Fans of the old masters will be pleased with paintings by Rubens, Perugino and Georges de La Tour; fans of modernism will admire the works of Monet, Renoir, Picasso and Kandinsky. And, of course, the Nantes Museum is justly proud of its calling card – the famous “Veilmakers” by Gustave Courbet.

Where to go: 10 rue Georges Clemenceau East of Place du Marechal-Foch

Opening hours: Daily 11:00 – 19:00, except Tuesdays.

Cost of admission: 8 €

Saints Peter and Paul Basilica

Nantes Cathedral

Nantes’ beautiful Gothic cathedral, the most sumptuous and largest in Brittany, is as big as Notre Dame in Paris. But recently, on July 18, 2020, a serious fire took its toll and the cathedral lost its 17th-century organ.

Its long-suffering walls have suffered so much misery over the past couple or three centuries, one would think that St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral was haunted by some kind of evil fate. The greatest damage came, of course, during the French Revolution, when outraged rebels looted the cathedral and turned it into an army depot. In France, with its new orders, religious buildings were not in honor for a long time. The cathedral was almost demolished, and at one time it was even used for public experiments launching balloons under the dome.

The next century also brought a lot of trouble. But neither war bombing nor a major fire under the roof was able to quench the zeal of restorers who wanted to restore the building. And now, once again, we must wait for the day when we can see Nantes Cathedral in all its glory.

Location: 7 Impasse Saint-Laurent

Opening hours: Under restoration

Talansac marketplace

Talansac market

Welcome to the Talansak food market, the best place for lovers of authentic sights! If you decide to stay in an apartment with a kitchen (you can find some options here), it will be very convenient to follow the example of the locals and buy the freshest ingredients for your culinary achievements here every day.

The market building itself is also a landmark. It’s over 80 years old. Inside, you’ll find a huge variety of seasonal fruit and vegetables as well as the local produce: thousands of cheeses, hundreds of meats, wine, and mind-blowing sweets. Nantes is not far from the sea, so the fish, oysters and crustaceans come as fresh as possible – a few hours after the catch, and if you go to a local cafe they will be cooked for you.

Location: Rue Talensac

Open daily from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm except Mondays.

The Tower of Brittany and Bar Le Nie

Brittany Tower

In old Nantes there is a place where you can see every square inch of the city in the palm of your hand. It’s the Brittany Tower, the city’s only skyscraper, like the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. A high-speed elevator takes you to the very top of the building in the blink of an eye. Here is not just the highest observation platform of Nantes, but a cozy cafe-bar with an unusual interior and appropriate name – Le Nid (The Nest). An atmospheric place to sit on chairs shaped like bird’s eggs and enjoy the panoramic view from the 32nd floor while sipping cocktails and listening to music.

Where to go: Tour de Bretagne, Place de Bretagne

Open 2:15 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Cost per visit: 1 €

City quarters and Place Royale

Nantes Centre

Nantes’ central urban area makes it one of the most architecturally interesting cities in France. Its streets are sometimes excessively narrow and chaotic with half-timbered houses, and sometimes straight and solemn, designed in classical style by royal architects. An overnight stay within walking distance of the city center would be great value (click here for a list of hotels in the city center).

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The center of the architectural ensemble and the point of attraction for tourists in Nantes was the Royal Square. There is no monument to the monarch, despite the name. But on the square there is a historical fountain with a statue of Amphitrite, symbolizing the union of rivers and seas. By the way, the Place Royale is the starting point for an hour long Segway tour of Nantes, you can sign up here.

Pomme Place

Pommery arcade

The ornate Pommeraye shopping arcade takes us back to the days when the first shopping malls began to appear in French cities. It’s easy to imagine the delight that the beautiful ladies of the 19th century felt when strolling through this realm of mirrors and light and choosing anything they wanted. Passage has not changed its purpose now: on five floors there are a lot of stores and boutiques with products of exquisite taste. And if you’re not seriously planning to lighten your wallet, you can just come here to enjoy the atmosphere and admire the wrought ironwork, sculptures and other details of the eclectic interior.

Where to find it: rue de la Fosse

Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery

A memorial place on the waterfront tells the story of a dark page in Nantes’ history: the “black gold” trade. The city’s port used to be a sort of transit point for slaves from the African continent destined to work in the sugar plantations of America. It was here, on the banks of the Loire, where ships with “goods” were unloaded, that our contemporaries decided to erect a memorial. It is neither a monument nor a sculptural composition – just plaques with the names of ships embedded in the sidewalk, and a luminous corridor under the promenade, where on a glass plate are placed proclamations of abolitionists of all times and peoples for the destruction of slavery.

Where is it located: Quai de la Fosse, Passerelle Victor-Schoelcher

Les Machines de L’ile (The Machines of Nantes Island)

Nantes Island cars

We now abruptly switch from a serious note to carefree fun and invite you to visit the world of fantastic machines, where the dreams of Leonardo da Vinci and Jules Verne came to life. Let us finally remember that in every adult lurks an enthusiastic child!

Here, on an island in the middle of the Loire, adults and children can ride a mechanical elephant as tall as a four-story house and laugh at the way it deftly pours water from its trunk for tourists. You can also enter the pavilion and see a magic tree full of giant spiders and ants, ride a flying heron or sink to the bottom of an imaginary sea. You can also watch the operators at work, learn how these amazing creatures are built and maybe even try to control them yourself.

Where to go: Parc des Chantiers, Bd Léon Bureau

Opening hours: See the website.

Cost of admission: 8,5 € for each ride

Maillot-Brézé – ship museum

Maillé-Brézé

The naval legend of the French fleet, the Maillot-Brézé, was named after a brave admiral who served France until his death at the age of 27. Our destroyer was on active duty on the Atlantic for several decades, but it eventually moored up off the coast of the Loire and became a museum afloat.

On a tour of the ship, you can see for yourself the layout, the armament, the life of the crew and the history of the French navy.

Location: Quai de la Fosse BP 68721

Opening hours: 14:30 – 17:30 (see schedule)

Cost of visit: 10 €

Jules Verne Museum

Jules Verne Museum

A city at the gates of the Atlantic is just doomed to be steeped in the spirit of maritime romance. No wonder that it was in Nantes where Jules Verne was born. A writer who devoted his life to new lands and adventures. The Jules Verne Museum is in a white building on the steep bank of the Loire, which offers a beautiful panorama of the river. The writer never lived in this house, so the room where he worked on his works has been recreated from sketches and memories. Here you will see original manuscripts and letters, a collection of his books and his personal belongings: models, maps, stuffed animals, a globe and a compass – in short, everything that fed his imagination.

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Where to find: rue de l’Hermitage, 3

Opening hours: 10:00 – 18:00

Cost to visit: 3 €

The quarter of Trantemou

Trantemou Quarter

Having been by the water all day, you probably want to take a boat ride, and your feet are buzzing after a long walk. We take the Navibus (route 1) to the south bank of the Loire, straight to the fishing village of Trantem. The minute you step off the promenade into the heart of the neighborhood you enter a very special and simple atmosphere with narrow streets, brightly colored little houses, and lots of cafes and restaurants. There are no big hotels in Trantemo, but you can stay in an apartment or in a comfortable vacation home for a couple of nights here. Enjoy your stay!

Where to go: Trentemoult

Nantes cuisine

Crepes

And the last attraction of our top has earned the full right to be considered the most recognizable and favorite among visitors to Nantes. You can choose what you like: fish in salt crust, Loire chicken, duck Nantes-style in muscadet sauce, or Breton galettes – buckwheat pancakes with meat or fish. For dessert, they often serve Nantes rigolettes – candies with marmalade filling. And to visit the homeland of crepes and not to try the famous French pancakes with sweet fillings – it’s just a crime.

Of course, we could not list all the attractions in this brief report. So as soon as possible, come to Nantes in person. Residents of the capital, who love to vacation in Nantes, confirm: it is not worse than Paris!

18 Nantes sights recommended to visit

City sights in Nantes.

Nantes is the third largest industrial city in France. But do not think that because of this it is drowned in smog – just the opposite. Nantes is beautiful and despite its age is very dynamic. Moreover, every year it gets better.

Going to Nantes and you don’t know what to see in this beautiful city on the banks of the Loire? We’ve put together a list of the best sights in Nantes that you definitely shouldn’t miss during your trip.

The fantastic world of Nantes Island Cars

The fantastic world of the Isle of Nantes

The Fantastic World of Nantes Island Cars.

Nantes’ quirkiest sight is this fantastic world – a serious yet quirky collection of mechanical creatures “inhabiting” greenhouses filled with greenery. Here you can fly on a giant heron or ride a 12-meter, 48-ton mechanical elephant.

The huge Sea Worlds carousel outside by the river gives you the chance to “ride” giant mechanical crabs, octopuses and other strange sea creatures.

Address: Les Machines de l’île, Boulevard Léon Bureau, Nantes, France.

Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany

The Dukes of Brittany Chateau

The castle of the Dukes of Brittany.

Visitors to this castle-museum will not get bored looking at its old-fashioned furnishings. The light-flooded rooms of the Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany display many exhibits that tell the history of the city.

These include authentic documents attesting to the intensity of the slave trade in the region and old scale models of the cityscape illustrating the development of Nantes in different periods. The exhibitions are complemented by several multimedia programs.

The castle moats are overgrown with grass and trees, and you can take walks and even have picnics here at your leisure. Don’t miss the fun slide built near the 15th century castle walls by the contemporary Breton artist Tanguy Robert. Who wouldn’t want to go down it while outrunning the wind?

Address: Château des ducs de Bretagne, 4 Place Marc Elder, 44000 Nantes, France.

Musée des Beaux-Arts

Museum of Fine Arts

Musée des Beaux-Arts.

The Palace of Fine Arts, which was built between 1891 and 1900 to house the city’s fine art collection, reopened its doors to the public in 2017.

This was preceded by six years of restoration work by London architects from the Stanton Williams Bureau. Today, this historic building houses the Nantes Art Museum.

The museum’s permanent collection, which includes many masterpieces of 13th- to 21st-century painting and sculpture, fills both the palace itself and the new Cube building linking the palace to the 18th-century Oratoire chapel.

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Of particular interest to visitors to the museum is the 19th-century collection, including works by Gustave Courbet, Anemones (1900) by Auguste Renoir, and Water Lilies in Giverny by Claude Monet (1917), one of 250 paintings of water lilies painted by the Impressionist in his home in northern France.

The chapel we mentioned above hosts temporary art exhibitions.

Address: Musée d’arts de Nantes, Rue Georges Clemenceau, Nantes, France.

Jules Verne Museum

Jules Verne Museum

Jules Verne Museum.

In this magical museum, located 2 km from the city center in a small house overlooking the Loire, you will find many interesting things directly related to the life and work of the famous French writer, born in Nantes in 1828: his manuscripts, first editions of books, illustrations of his novels, cardboard models of theater sets.

Interactive displays, aimed primarily at children, will acquaint young visitors with the work of Jules Verne.

All the exhibits in the museum are in French, but Verne’s books are so well known around the world that it will be interesting to all, regardless of language skills. The widespread popularity of the writer and his works make this seemingly humble museum a real landmark in Nantes and France in general.

Address: Musée Jules Verne, Rue de l’Hermitage, Nantes, France.

Botanical Gardens.

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens | Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flicrk.

Opened in 1860, this exquisite landscaped park is among the most interesting botanical gardens in France. Centuries-old magnolias and mulberry trees, Japanese maples, tulip trees, magnificent cedars and sequoias tower over beautiful flower gardens, duck ponds, fountains and the charming “Palm Island”, a 19th century glass greenhouse.

In the northern part of the park, next to the train station, there is a children’s playground and goats you can pet.

Address: Jardin des Plantes, Rue Stanislas Baudry, Nantes, France.

Abolition Memorial

The Abolition of Slavery Memorial

Abolition of Slavery Memorial | Photo: XTOF360 / Flickr.

There are 2,000 brick-sized glass tablets embedded in the sidewalk of the riverfront, “shouting out” the names of the ships docked in Nantes on which slaves were regularly transported from 1750 to the early 19th century.

The plaques are part of a memorial dedicated to the abolition of slavery, designed in 2014 by Polish artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and American architect Julian Bonder. Steps lead down into a tunnel under the promenade, where a 90-meter-long glass panel is engraved with abolitionist texts in different languages.

Address: Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, Quai de la Fosse, Passerelle Victor-Schoelcher, Nantes, France.

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul

Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.| Photo: patrick janicek / Flickr.

Both the exterior and the interior of the Nantes Gothic cathedral leave one stunned. The tomb of Francis II (1433-1488), Duke of Brittany and his second wife, Marguerite de Foix, inside is a true masterpiece of Renaissance art.

Enjoy a moment of peace in the Psallette Garden next to the cathedral, where you can also access the crypt of the cathedral.

Address: Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul, Impasse Saint-Laurent, Nantes, France.

Le Cale 2 Center.

Le Cale 2 Center

Le Cale 2 Center | Photo: Pop In the City / Flickr.

Temporary art exhibitions and a wide variety of events fill this old shipyard in the shape of a piece of cheese with life. You can find it at the foot of the famous yellow crane Titan, which was installed in 1955 to lift ships on the slipway.

Address: Le Cale 2 Créateurs, Parc des Chantiers, 44100 Nantes, France.

Museum of Natural History

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum | Photo: Mathilde Fontano / Flickr.

The Nantes Natural History Museum has an amazing collection of minerals, fossils, stuffed animals, and an impressive whale skeleton. Temporary exhibitions are often held there as well.

Address: Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, Rue Voltaire, Nantes, France.

Feydeau Island

Feydeau Island

Feydeau Island | Photo: patrick janicek / Flickr.

When you walk around Ile Feydeau, you might wonder why this area south of the center is called an island. Why do the streets here have such strange names – the Turenne Quay, for example – since there’s no sign of water nearby?

The fact is that until the 1930s, when one of the branches of the Loire was blocked off, Ile Feydeau was indeed an island. And before the XVIII century Feydeau was not at all an uninhabitable swamp: the project of land reclamation made it worthy of life for the rich merchants of the city.

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By the way, the merchants’ houses which have survived up to now with their flat facades, iron balconies, mansard roofs and carved stone grotesque images are very attractive and definitely worth a look.

Address: 17 Rue Kervégan 44000 Nantes France.

The French destroyer Maié Brezet

French destroyer Maié Brezet

The French destroyer Maié Brezet | Photo: Emmanuel PARENT / Flickr.

Visit this impressive ship-museum to learn about the history of the French Navy.

Address: Le Maillé-Brézé, Quai de la Fosse, Nantes, France.

Passagge Pommeraye Shopping Arcade

Pommeraye arcade

Shopping gallery Passage Pommeraye.

This shopping gallery, located between the Rue de la Fosse and the Rue Santéil, was built in 1843. It was built on a steep slope. The difference in height of 9 meters was not a hindrance – simply an intermediate floor was added between the two levels.

The Pommeraye Passage is not just a fine place for shopping, but also a work of genius of architecture worthy of attention from photographers and just lovers of beauty. The stonework, neo-Renaissance sculptures, glass roofs that fill the galleries with natural light, wrought iron fixtures and railings… Passage is as magnificent as it was 160 years ago.

Address: Passage Pommeraye, Passage Pommeraye, Nantes, France.

Place de Buffaye

Place des Bouffets

Place de Buffaye. | Photo: Retis / Flickr.

This square is in the center of Bouffet, the oldest district of Nantes. You can get an idea of the age of this neighborhood if you pay attention to the names of its squares and streets – Place du Pilori (“Square of Shame Pillar”) or Rue de la Juiverie (“Jewish Street”), for example.

Bouffet Square as we see it today dates back to the 1700s, but there are memories of a more distant past. For example, on the corner of Eschevin Street, a Gothic fireplace, dating back to the 15th century, protrudes right out of the wall of a house.

In general the times are mixed up here: half-timbered houses from the 1400s are neighbors of modern restaurants and the busiest nightclubs of the city.

Place du Bouffay 44036 Nantes France.

Airfare calendar

Saint Croix de Nantes Cathedral

Sainte-Croix-des-Nants Cathedral

Saint Croix de Nantes Cathedral | Photo: Titem / Flickr.

St. Croix church made this list because of its ornate bell tower. However, the beautiful Gothic stained glass windows deserve no less attention.

Address: Église Sainte-Croix, Place Sainte-Croix, Nantes, France.

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Port

Notre-Dame de Bon-Port

Notre-Dame de Bon-Port | Photo: Emmanuel PARENT / Flickr.

Be sure to take the time to visit this beautiful Roman Catholic basilica, whose dome can be seen from afar. From where it stands you have a wonderful view of the river.

Address: Eglise Notre Dame de Bon Port, Rue Dobree, Nantes, France.

Place du Cours Cambronne

Place du Coeur Cambronne

Place du Coeur-Cambrone.

The Cour Cumbronne is a magnificent square between two 180-meter terraces of neoclassical mansions and is part of the new city quarter built in the 18th century.

Walk along the central avenue to see the statue of Pierre Cambronne, the military general born in Nantes and wounded at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It is in his honor that the square is named. In Cours Cambronne you can see the magnificent old mansions (sixteen of them are included in the list of French historical monuments).

Address: Cours Cambronne, Place Cambronne, Nantes, France.

Museum of typography

Printed Museum

Print shop museum.

The history of local printing dates back to the end of the 15th century. The first book printed in Nantes was Les Lunettes des Princes by the Breton poet Jean Méchino, in 1493.

The museum of typography was founded in 1986 by master printer Sylvain Ciffolo and typesetter Robert Colombo and has an amazing collection of manual and mechanical looms. Here you can see gravure plates, lithographic plates, typographic dyes, and antique printing plates.

If all these words seem equally incomprehensible to you, take a tour of this amazing museum. You’ll get a glimpse of Nantes’ book production and see how all this amazing equipment was used.

Address: Musée de l’Imprimerie, Quai de la Fosse, Nantes, France.

The fountain on the Place Royal

Fountain on the Place Royal

Fountain on the Royal Square. | Photo: Zhu / Flickr.

Don’t miss this magnificent fountain in the heart of the Old City.

Address: Fontaine de la Place Royale, Place Royale, Nantes, France.

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