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Insider Guide To Nantes. Discover a magnificent city reinvented.

03/05/2024 by .
Insider Guide To Nantes

In his Insider Guide to Nantes, Rupert Parker Is Impressed By The Regeneration Of This French Industrial Port.

Once the home of the Dukes of Brittany, Nantes stands as a beacon of culture and history in the western region of France. With its roots stretching back to the Roman era, the city has evolved from a bustling industrial port, with extensive shipyards, to one of the most attractive places to live in France.

It’s mastered the art of transformation, turning its industrial scars into sources of strength and beauty. This is a place where the past is honoured, the present is vibrant, and the future is eagerly anticipated. Whether you’re into history, art or food, Nantes makes an attractive destination, particularly for those long weekends.

Château des Ducs de Bretagne

Insider Guide To Nantes

As you wander through the streets of Nantes, the echoes of the past blend seamlessly with the pulse of contemporary life. The city’s historical centrepiece, the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, is a fortress that encapsulates the grandeur of Nantes’ heritage. Once the home of the Dukes of Brittany, it now houses a museum that narrates the region’s rich history through state-of-the-art interactive exhibits.

A short stroll away, the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul towers over the city with its Gothic architecture. Its serene ambiance invites contemplation, while the intricate stained glass and the tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, remind visitors of the city’s regal legacy. It’s presently under renovation, after a tragic fire in 2020, and an exhibition outside documents the process.

Jardin des Plantes

Insider Guide To Nantes

Nantes is known as the city of one hundred parks, all offering green spaces for relaxation and recreation. The Jardin des Plantes is a botanical wonder, with its beautifully landscaped gardens and exotic plant collections. For a leisurely afternoon, take a picnic to the banks of the Erdre River, where brightly coloured houseboats sit at their moorings.

Île de Nantes

The Île de Nantes, once the industrial heart, has been transformed into a cultural hub that celebrates the city’s innovative spirit. Some of the biggest international names in architecture have been involved in regenerating the former shipyards. This is an amazing turnaround similar to London’s docklands and it’s still an ongoing project.Insider Guide To Nantes

The big attraction here is the Machines de l’Île, a blend of the inventive worlds of Jules Verne, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and the industrial history of Nantes. The Galerie des Machines, houses a living exhibition of gigantic mechanical animals, lumbering around the huge interior space.

Perhaps the most impressive is the 12m tall Grand Elephant which escapes outside, carrying a coachload of passengers. Perching on its back, you can get wonderful views of the Loire the city’s historical centre as it trundles around the quays.  Get off and ride the Carrousel des Mondes Marins, an imaginative roundabout composed of 27 moving sea creatures.


Le Voyage à Nantes is a unique and innovative yearly art project that transforms the city of Nantes into a living gallery. The 2024 event will take place between July and September but the installations from 2023 are still there. Visitors can follow a signed route through the heart of the city, taking in over 100 artworks in public spaces.

Insider Guide To Nantes

The journey begins at the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, the city’s historic castle, and continues to the Musée d’Arts de Nantes, recently renovated. Here there’s a splendid collection of masterpieces from Tintoretto to Chagall. The trail continues through the city to the Machines de l’Île and impressive memorial to the abolition of slavery.

You can also explore further. The Estuaire Nantes art trail continues for 60km along the Loire to the sea at Saint-Nazaire. 33 unique artworks sit in the landscape, all specifically designed for their location. One notable piece is Le Pendule by Roman Signer, a minimalist structure featuring a 7m pendulum hanging from an unused concrete plant.

Talensac Market

Nantes’ culinary scene is a reflection of its diverse influences and proximity to the sea. The Marché de Talensac is the city’s gastronomic heart, dating from January 1937, and its seafood and fish stands are a particular delight.

Insider Guide To Nantes

The city centre is easily walkable, much of it pedestrianised, and seamlessly blends old and the new. The river runs through its heart and leads to beaches on Atlantic should you desire sand and surf. Better though to enjoy the many restaurants and bars which serve up the distinctive produce of the region.

Try regional specialties like the rum and lemon flavoured gâteau nantais or the pungent curé nantais cheese. Pair these with a glass of crisp Muscadet, the region’s signature white wine, for a true taste of Nantes.

Tell Me More About This Insider Guide To Nantes

Ryanair flies direct from London Stansted to Nantes.

The Stansted Express is the fastest way to the airport from central London.

Le Voyage à Nantes has more information about this Insider guide to Nantes and the rest of the city.

The Nantes city pass offers free access to museums, public transport, cruises, and guided tours.

Hotel La Pérouse is right in the city centre with distinctive décor and comfortable rooms.

Les Tables de Nantes has information about restaurants in Nantes.

Sain features local seasonal ingredients.

Le Coin des Crêpes serves up traditional Bretagne crepes.

Sépia offers a distinctive take on French cuisine.

Maison Bagarre is in the Michelin guide with its bistronomy menu.

Café du Musée in the museum has French favourites.

Song Saveurs et Sens mixes Asian flavours with local produce.


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