I’m going to tell you why you NEED to Visit Nantes. If you’re looking for the perfect weekend getaway, a trip to a city filled with art, culture, and nature, then look no further than Nantes, France.
Located in the upper region of Brittany, Nantes is a city that has been rising in popularity over the last 10-15 years. This beautiful and charming city has upwards of 10,000 people relocating there each year. Nantes has gone from a small city people were running out of to a city people are flocking to.
When I was invited to visit Nantes I was quite sure what to expect. I had read a bit about the city, its rising popularity, and the Art Festival [Le Voyage à Nantes]. Little did I know I would fall in love. Fall in love with the beauty of the city, with the welcoming feeling you get when you arrive in Nantes, the friendly people and culture, the sense of serenity everywhere you go, the lifestyle, the food, the artwork, the sustainability efforts… I could continue on, but, I think you understand the point I’m making. I’ve travelled quite a lot around France and Europe and I can honestly say this is in my top 3 all-time favourite destinations in Europe.
Nantes is very different from other French or European cities. It truly cares about the future of the city and values the quality of life for the people in it. The city has made huge efforts over the past 10 years to transform itself, and it has succeeded. Personally, I love a place where you can see plants flourishing, artwork everywhere, and culture – there is nothing more cleansing for your mind than nature and creativity! With the city filled with so much artwork and greenery, it’s easy to see why so many are taking up residence here every year. Nantes differentiates itself from Paris by being friendly and cheaper, it is steadily putting itself on the map for tourists from around the globe. In 2023 they will even be hosting some of the Rugby World Cup matches (including an Ireland game!)
Nantes is only a 1.5-hour flight from Dublin, which makes it a perfect city break for anyone in Ireland who wants to get away for a long weekend. While there is so much to see, do, and experience, I would suggest 3-4 days for the perfect long weekend break here. You could definitely spend 6-7 days if you want to, as you will never run out of things to do and see in Nantes and the surrounding area.
How to Get to Nantes?
So getting here is quite easy. This city is easily accessible from most European locations.
By Air ✈️ – you can fly directly to Nantes from many locations around Europe, including Dublin!
By rail🚆 – it is about 2 hours from Paris.
Where to Eat in Nantes?
If you’re planning to visit Nantes, check this post on the Best Restaurants in Nantes | Where to eat in Nantes.
Things to do when you visit Nantes
Visit Jungle Interieure [My Personal Favourite]
This is a beautiful urban passageway between streets where the artist, Evor, has grown an array of beautiful forestry in this little passageway in the heart of this city. From building climbing plants to banana trees, this area is a calming and peaceful tranquillity in the middle of a big city. This is something I loved about Nantes, all the hidden gems of nature and art everywhere.
Visit the Machines De L’ile
Located in an old shipyard, this is where the well-known ‘Grand Éléphant’. This art installation/amusement ride is one of a kind and I have never seen anything like it anywhere else. The joining of artwork with the mechanical world is quite intriguing. The grand elephant, which is a piece of mechanical artwork that you can ride on and sprays water, is just one of many attractions here. You will find The Galerie Des Machines, the Carrousel Des Mondes Martins and others. This is an attraction for people of all ages!
Attend the “Le Voyage à Nantes” [the Journey to Nantes] Festival (Summer time)
Every year during this festival there is artwork throughout the city of Nantes. Some permanent, some temporary. Some get selected to stay and become permanent art fixtures of Nantes. As you walk this city, you will see these artwork installations everywhere.
Walk Some or All of the Green Line
The green line is a free walking tour of the city of Nantes painted. It stretches for about 20K in and around the city. Along this trail, you will find an abundance of interesting and quirky artwork, monuments, and historical sites of Nantes.
Visit the Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany)
The Château des ducs de Bretagne or in English, Castle of the Dukes of Brittany is a beautiful medieval castle situated right in the city of Nantes. Originally built in 1207, the Château des ducs de Bretagne served as the historical centre of Brittany until 1956. Home to the Dukes of Brittany from the 13th to the 16th century, it later became an official national heritage site in 1840. Now it is the residence of the Nantes History Museum.
Visit the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery
Such an important part of history. The triangular trade was prominent in France and in Nantes, and they not only want to acknowledge this but it is a memorial for all those who suffered these crimes. It’s important to acknowledge and educate future generations so we can abolish all kinds of slavery from the world, and Nantes understands this. This is the biggest slave trade memorial in the world.
Explore the Pommeraye Passage
Pommeraye Passage is a shopping building that was constructed in the 1800s. This is a very cool building to visit, especially if you like architecture! There is an array of shops, cafes and more inside.
Drive the Estuaire trail
This is a beautiful drive where you will see multiple artwork displays from a house floating in the water to a melting boat- If you even do part of this trail, you won’t be disappointed! The trail is about 60km long and runs on the estuary of the Loire river from Nantes to Saint-Nazaire. Currently, it comprises of about 33 art installations and has been increasing since 2007 when it started. We stopped at the artist rooms at Château du Pé, Belvédère de L’Hermitage, La Maison dans la Loire, and Misconceivable.
Visit a Vineyard
‘When in Rome’ as they say! Of course, when you think about visiting anywhere in France, a vineyard is on your mind. While some of the more well-known regions like Bordeaux, might come to mind, regions like Loire-Atlantique are often just as nice, but with fewer tourists! We took a trip out to Château-Thébaud, where we did Muscadet wine tasting at Jérémie Huchet cellar. I’m not going to lie, Muscadet might be my new favourite wine! It has a beautiful taste while also being very easy to drink (although this might be a little dangerous if you enjoy it too much!)
Take a day trip to Clisson
Clisson is a fairytale picturesque town not far from Nantes. You can get out to this medieval town with your Bon Voyage city pass – will cover your travel here and also grants you entrance to the castle (The Château de Clisson).
Unfortunately, we did not have time to tour the inside of the castle while visiting Clisson as we were under some time constraints. The castle looks so beautiful from the outside that I would return in a heartbeat just to see the inside.
We had lunch at Restaurant de la Vallée, it was delicious! I don’t think there could be anything nicer than sipping wine and eating delicious food with a view of the Sèvre river. Bonus – There is a huge Rock festival called Hellfest that takes place here every June. The 2022 lineup saw bands like Metallica, Guns N Roses, Korn, and Bring me the Horizon.
Extra things to do:
- Visit one of the 102 greenery areas in the city
- Explore the Botanical gardens
- Spot the signs outside some shops that have been designed by artists
Where to Stay in Nantes?
We stayed at Hôtel de France Océania. It’s a beautiful 4-Star hotel. The staff was very friendly, it’s located in the centre of the city and the rooms were nice and spacious. My room had a view of the courtyard but some rooms have balconies and great views of the city on the higher floors.
Let me know if you visit Nantes!
Thank you for following along! If you are on Amazon please consider buying through this link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but it helps me continue to bring you this content for free! xoxo
* I was invited to visit Nantes – All views are my own.