Our trip to Nantes was an unplanned one. We simply looked at Skyscanner and found flights for 4p. How could we pass up the opportunity? We might be showing our age here, but back in the day, Ryanair used to offer ridiculously low fares with no taxes. Therefore we visited at least a dozen cities across Europe for about £20. We did very little research into our destinations. We jumped on planes with our toothbrushes and passports and made the most of wherever we landed. Nantes was defiantly one of those places. We had no idea what to expect. But luckily when we arrived we found some great places to explore in Nantes.
Nantes is the capital of the Pays de la Loire region in the northwestern part of France. The city is well connected to the adjoining area, especially Brittany. The city served as the capital of the territory that was under the control of Napoleon. It is also the city where we met Christian Bale. Random but true.
If you choose to visit, here are some of the places to explore in Nantes.
Cathedrale de Saint Pierre et Saint Paul (Nantes Cathedral)
Construction started on the Cathedrale de Saint Pierre et Saint Paul (Nantes Cathedral) in the 15th Century. The cathedral was finally completed in the late 19th Century taking 447 years to finish. It is a Roman Catholic Gothic Cathedral located in central Nantes. It has two large towers and a white stone interior. Unfortunately, the Cathedral and its crypts are inaccessible following a fire (arson) in July 2020. However, once the Cathedral has been restored (due to be completed in 2023) a visit is a must.
Château des Ducs de Bretange
Located in the middle of the Medieval Quarter you will find the Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany). It was built in 1207 by Guy of Thouars, Duke of Brittany. It originally served as the centre of the historical province of Brittany and subsequently the residences of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th Centrrues and then the French monarchy. The Château is now home to the Nantes History Museum which displays collections and exhibits showcasing six centuries of history.
Jardin des Plantes
The Jardin des plantes de Nantes is a municipal botanical garden. If you fancy escaping the hustle and bustle of Nantes and getting back to nature, this is the place to head. The garden is located on Rue Stanislas Baudry and is free to visit. The Jardin des Plantes was first established in 1806, became the municipal garden in 1820 and subsequently opened to the public in 1829. It is home to ponds, waterways, a “mountain”, statues, pavilions, fountains and approximately 11,000 species of plants.
Musée Jules Verne
The Musée Jules Verne (Jules Verne Museum) is dedicated to as the name suggests, the French writer Jules Verne. Located at 3, rue de l’Hermitage, a little way out of the centre of the city, the museum first opened in 1978 to mark the 150th anniversary of Verne’s birth. Overlooking the Loire River, housed in a beautiful building, the museum is home to artefacts and replicas of inventions designed by Verne. We recommend taking a tour in your language as all the exhibit cards are in French.
Les Machines de L’ile
Les Machines de l’île (The Machines of the Isle of Nantes) is located in the Park Building, Boulevard Léon Bureau in Nantes’ former shipyards. It is an artistic, touristic and cultural project which opened to the public in 2007. Here you will find several exhibits including The Marine Worlds Carousel, The Heron Tree and The Great Elephant which stands 12 metres (39 ft) tall and 8 metres (26 ft) meters wide. The mechanical elephant can carry visitors for a 45-minute ride, which you can pay extra to do.
Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle
The Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum Nantes) is a great place to visit if you have an interest in animals. The fields of natural history you will find here are zoology, botany, earth science, prehistory and ethnology. With over 1,600 mammal specimens and 25,000 bird specimens, there is a lot to see and experience in this museum. Entrance to the museum is free if you have a Nantes City Pass, €4 for adults, free for under 18s and free the first Sunday of each month, except July and August.
Named after the property developer, Louis Pommeraye, Passage Pommeraye is a wonderful example of Neoclassical architecture with renaissance style sculptures. This charming shopping arcade was built between 1840 and 1843. The passage between two streets, the rue Santeuil and rue de la Fosse, one of which is 9.40m higher than the other, has been classified as a historic monument in France since 1976. Passage Pommeraye is home to several boutiques and independent shops together with a couple of cafes.