18 Nantes sights recommended to visit
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 Nantes Island Cars.
Nantes’ quirkiest spectacle is this fantastic world – a serious yet quirky collection of mechanical creatures “inhabiting” greenhouse-filled greenhouses. 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 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
Musée des Beaux-Arts.
The Palais des Beaux-Arts, which was built between 1891 and 1900 to house the city’s fine art collection, reopened its doors to visitors 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.
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.
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 | 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 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
Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.| Photo: patrick janicek / Flickr.
Both the exterior and the interior of Nantes Gothic cathedral stand in awe. A true masterpiece of Renaissance art, the tomb of Francis II (1433-1488), Duke of Brittany, and his second wife, Marguerite de Foix, lies within.
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 | 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 | 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 | 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.
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
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
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 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.
The Place du Bouffet, as we see it today, dates back to the 1700s, but there are memories of a more distant past as well. For example, on the corner of Eschevin Street, right out of the wall of a house there’s a Gothic fireplace from the 15th century.
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.
Saint Croix de Nantes 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 | 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 Cours Cambronne.
Cours Cambronne is a splendid 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.
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 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.
The 18 best sights of Nantes – description, photos, map
Nantes (France) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Nantes with descriptions, guides and maps.
City of Nantes (France).
Nantes is a city in western France in the Loire Land region. It is the capital of the western part of the country and the historic region of Brittany. Nantes is a bustling modern city, which is one of the largest industrial and innovation centers in France. It is a place rich in history and cultural heritage, with many magnificent sights and museums, castles and art galleries.
What to do (France):
51€46 per person
The Louvre in the morning or evening. Tickets guaranteed!
Two hours in the company of great masterpieces and without the tourist crowds on a minigroup tour
€285 per tour
One Day in Paris” sightseeing tour
Grand tour of the city for a full day – all the best things to see in the city.
Geography and climate
Nantes is located at the mouth of the Loire, on the Armorican highlands, 50 km from the Atlantic Ocean. The north of the city, the plain changes to hills, and to the south there are marshes. Nantes has a temperate maritime climate with warm summers and cool winters.
- Population over 290,000.
- Area – 65,19 km2 .
- Language: French.
- Currency – euros.
- Visa – Schengen.
- Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.
- Nantes has an international airport, which connects the city with Paris, Lyon and cities in the UK.
- Nantes is accessible by train from the French capital, Lyon, Lille, Le Mans, Marseille, and other major cities.
- Nantes is a major educational center. More than 30 thousand students study at the local university.
- Nantes has a rich gastronomy and is famous for its seafood. It is also the birthplace of the famous crêpes.
- Bars and clubs are concentrated in the Bouffay area, the Place du Commerce and the Graslin Theater.
Nantes has its origins in the Gallo-Roman era. The city was founded by the Nemnites between the end of the second century and the beginning of the first century BC. This settlement soon became an important port and their capital. After the Roman conquest of Gaul, the city lost its leading position in the region to neighboring Ratiatum. In the 3rd century AD, after an attack by Germanic tribes, the people of Nantes built city fortifications that were among the largest in Gaul. Nantes remained an ally of Rome in fact until the collapse of the empire.
The streets of Nantes
The city was invaded by the Visigoths in the 5th century and by the Franks later that century. A bishopric was formed in the city. Also during this period, the legendary Margrave Roland lived here. The city was on the border of the Frankish state and served as a defense against the Bretons. When the Carolingian Empire waned in the 9th century, Nantes was taken over by the Bretons and became their capital. It was the main city of the Duchy of Brittany until the 16th century.
The Cathedral of Nantes
From the 16th to the 18th century, Nantes prospered thanks to trade. During this period, many monumental structures and monuments were built here. At the end of the 18th century, the city became the center of the Vendée Mutiny, after which it lost its former importance, developing more as an industrial center and port.
The historic center of Nantes has mostly 17th-19th century architecture and is filled with many modern structures. The 122 buildings in the old city are monuments of history. However, Nantes has preserved structures from the Roman past and the early Middle Ages: the remains of a Roman city wall from the 3rd century AD, the Chapel of Saint-Etienne outside the historic center, located on the site of an ancient Roman necropolis. The Roman walls were rebuilt in the 13th to 15th centuries. In the district of Le Buffet, which is the medieval core of the city, you can see several half-timbered houses of the 15th – 16th centuries.
The Castle of the Dukes of Breton
The Château of the Dukes of Brittany is a grand medieval structure in the heart of Nantes. Built in the early 13th century, it was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany for three centuries. In the 17th century, the Edict of Nantes, which “reconciled” Catholics and Huguenots, was signed here. Today, the castle houses a museum of history, which contains more than 800 different exhibits.
St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral
The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul is a magnificent Gothic building of light stone, which was built on the site of an ancient Romanesque church. The construction of the cathedral lasted for 357 years. The church was begun in 1434 and only finished in 1891. The cathedral has a beautiful façade and superb stained glass windows. Inside are the tombs of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, and his wife Margaret, which are considered some of the most beautiful in France.
Les Machines de l’Ile
Les Machines de l’Ile (“the machines of the island of Nantes”) is a magnificent collection of machines and mechanisms inspired by the literature of Jules Verne and the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: a huge 12-metre wooden elephant, a “carousel of sea worlds” and a strange gallery of machines.
The Japanese Garden is a charming Japanese-style park with waterfalls, picturesque ponds and exotic plants (bamboo, rhododendrons, camellias and cypresses).
Jules Verne Museum
The Jules Verne Museum is dedicated to the famous native of Nantes, one of the founders of modern fiction. There are many fascinating books, manuscripts, documents, illustrations and objects related to the famous writer.
King’s Square is a grandiose town square built in the late 18th century during Nantes’ heyday.
Church of St. Anne
The Church of St. Anne is a neo-Gothic church that dates from the mid-19th century.
Church of St. Nicholas
Church of St. Nicholas – neo-Gothic basilica, built in 1869 on the site of a medieval chapel.
St. Donatien and Rogatien Basilica
The Basilica of St. Donatien and Rogatien is a beautiful neo-Romanesque basilica completed in the late 19th century. The church stands on the site of an old Gallo-Roman villa. The statue in front of the building is dedicated to Joan of Arc.
Church of St. Croix
The Church of St. Croix is a beautiful Baroque church that was begun in 1669 and completed in the late 19th century.
Church of St. Similien
The Church of St. Similien is a Catholic church founded in the 4th century. The current building was constructed in the 19th century.
Church of St. Felix
Church of St. Felix is a Gothic Revival style Catholic church built in 1843.
Interesting sights in the vicinity of Nantes
Château de Goulaine
Château de Goulaine is a pretty little château with a vineyard that is one of the oldest family-owned wineries in Europe.
St. Philibert Abbey in Grandlieu
St Philibert Abbey in Grandlieu is an ancient monastery founded in the 9th century by Charlemagne. It is located 30 km south of Nantes.
Guérande is a small medieval town famous for its salt industry, still surrounded by ancient walls.
From €105 for a guided tour
Grand tour of Montmartre
The Moulin Rouge, Dalida House, Villa Léandre, Chateau des Mists and other famous places of the Bohemian quarter
from €130 for a guided tour
The Louvre for children ages 6 and up
An educational but not boring adventure that will be remembered by young travelers