Things to do in Nantes on a weekend
Nantes is a city that will surprise you. It is a city that you have to visit if you are going to make a road trip through Brittany or if you want to make a weekend getaway to Nantes.
Today’s post I want to tell you what to see and do in Nantes. I’ve been living in this city for six months now and I haven’t written anything yet, but the truth is, I want to tell you a lot of things!!! I’m going to start with the essentials and then, in other posts, I’ll expand on information.
I’d say Nantes is not like other French cities. I don’t know if it’s because I’m living in another way to the cities I visit just for a day or because it’s like this. In Nantes you will find a combination of history, art, culture and modernity and all mixed at once.
Índice de contenidos
What to see in Nantes? Essential
We start with the essentials that you have to see in Nantes. Those places you have to know on your first visit to this wonderful French city.
The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
You’ll wonder because Castle of the Dukes of Brittany if Nantes is in the Countries of the Loire. Well, this is because after the second world war, Nantes stopped belong to Brittany and became part of the Loire Countries.
The castle built in the 15th century by Francois II. It is a palace fortress in the center of the city. It is surrounded by a moat, where you will see ducks and turtles and a nice landscaped area that is stunning with the colors of spring.
Inside the castle you will find the Museum of the History of Nantes. From its inception to the today. There are 32 rooms with hundreds of objects where you will learn the paper that had Nantes during the “Europe Slave Trade”, in the two world wars and in the local industry.
The first Sunday access is free of charge.
In front of the castle you will see some curious things, such as the fountain, that call the mirror of water, a very peculiar football court and if you go a little bit and go with children you have to visit the dragon.
The Machines of the island. Meet Nantes’ most famous elephant
Another must-sees you have to do in Nantes is to the Machine of the Island. The elephant is the most famous, but there’s so much more.
Here’s a team of builders with an imagination that goes above and beyond and take care of give life to a bestiary like no other.
Gallery of Machines
In the gallery of Machines you will find mechanical plants and canteen animals. You’ll also see a giant ant that runs through the gallery. But besides, you’ll see what it’s like creation and manufacturing process in the laboratory.
There are always things new to discover here.
The Great Elephant is the protagonist of the Island of Nantes. This giant elephant has a few meters of height and takes you for a walk around. On board you will discover the interior full of the gears that give him life. The Machinist will tell you about animal’s life and you’ll see how it goes dipping the curious who come close to admire.
The carrousely of The Sea Worlds
This carousel of 25 meters high and 22 meters diameter is very close to the machines on the edge of the Loire. It has 3 floors and an amazing design. Here you will learn more about the marine worlds and their unsettling creatures.
Note: Pay attention to scheduled because they change according to the season.
- April 6 to July 7, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 18 p.m.
- July 8 to August 25 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- August 26 to November 3 from 10 to 17 or 18 hours.
- Nantes Island Machine Hours
Pay attention when you walk through Nantes Island, as you’ll come up with some things curious like this tree to play basketball. Take a good look at the buildings and discover new architecture of Nantes, visit art galleries, cranes and on the way to the Bananas Hangar and Daniel Buren’s rings and Patrick Bouchain.
The Hangar Bananas (HAB Galerie)
The Hangar 21 plus known as Hangar bananes was built in the mid-20th century to store shipments coming from Africa with bananas and pineapples.
In 2007 it was rehabilitated as a place for exhibitions and in its surroundings grew a leisure area with bars and restaurants, which is full of life on weekends .
Throughout the year you’re going to find different exhibitions, in summer especially, you will find exhibitions by internationally renowned artists.
It’s definitely a ideal place to spend a Friday or Saturday afternoon and have a drink at some of the surrounding bars.
LU: Lieu Unique. The old biscuit factory
Here it is found the LU cookie factory, where the “Yayitas” were born, the princes, Pim’s and many more.
Since 2000 this space has been rehabilitated and transformed into a unique place. Here you will find the ideal place to blow up your creativity. There are spaces dedicated to different activities, a bar, a restaurant, a bookstore, a hammam and a nursery and of course a dedicated venue for shows.
Shows change during the year, you can find live music, theater, dj’s. The price of tickets varies depending on the show, sometimes it is free and sometimes not, our recommendation is that you look on its website. http://www.lelieuunique.com/
The Tower of Brittany
For me the ugliest building in Nantes city center, but it has great views of the City.
It was built in the 70s, has a height of 144 meters and on the 32nd floor there is a panoramic terrace with 360 degree views of the city and a bar called “Le Nid” that you definitely have to visit in Nantes.
Le Nid is the work of contemporary artist Jean Jullien and here you will find a curious nest.
Schedule for visit the Tower of Brittany:
- Wednesday to Friday from 14.15h to 2h
- Saturday from 10am to 2pm
- Sunday from 10am to 2pm
- In summer it is also open from Monday to Wednesday from 14.15 to 24h.
The Cathedral of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul and other churches
The history of the Nantes Cathedral is a bit convulsive. His first stone was laid in 1434, but it was not completed until 1891 more than four centuries took time! And as if four centuries were not enough to finish the cathedral, less than a century later suffered a great fire and was devastated by the flames. After this a major restoration work was carried out.
When you enter the cathedral you realize how tall it is and you start to discover its treasures. One of them is the tomb of Francis II and Margaret of Foix commissioned in 1506 by Anne of Brittany.
There’s a crypt 11th-century Romanesque is located under the choir and a second crypt of the nineteenth century, where there is an exhibition dedicated to the cathedral.
Bouffay Square Bouffay and the neighborhood of the same name
The Square of Bouffay is where in the 10th century was the first castle of the Nantes Countess . But surely what will catch your eye the most about this square is the sculpture of “éloge du pas de côté” (English: Ode of the step to the side or the step aside), which according to the author depicts a man in a suit with the look on the horizon. He has one foot on the pedestal and the other on the air. And it pays tribute to the daring of the city, its commitment and its close relationship with culture.
In the square you’re going to see many bars for a drink, I like L’Epicerie.
When you walk through the Bouffay neighborhood, you have to pay attention to the signs and posters of the shops, which are very curious. For example, the Boucherie and the facades of the buildings.
This neighborhood has a lot of life, let yourself be carried away by the ancient streets of the medieval city.
El Jardin Des Plantes
Jardin des Plantes or Garden of plants in English, is one of the most beautiful and crowded park in Nantes. It is a short walk from the train station and of the castle of the Dukes of Brittany.
Here you’re going to find hundreds of different plants, some of them are outdoors and others in greenhouses. In addition, you will find sculptures like that of the servants, and others cast into trees and shrubs. If you go with children you have to visit the playground with giant pots or the area where the goats are .
It’s a place where you will find nanteses and tourists, especially on sunny days.
The Passage Pommeraye
The Passage Pommeraye is the most elegant covered gallery in Nantes. It was built in 1843 in the Graslin neighborhood, they’ve been restored for two years and today we can enjoy its magnificent architecture, its sculptures, visit its shops and for those who go well on budget, make shopping.
Speaking of the Graslin District, be sure to visit Graslin Square. Here you will see one of the mythical restaurants of Nantes: “La Cigale”. With an art deco décor and more than 120 years of history is one of the must-see places in Nantes. You can go almost at any time, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch. That said, don’t miss its Boeuf tartare (beef) is impressively good.
Free Walking Tour in Nantes (English guide)
Follow the green line of Nantes
One of the the best ways to get to know Nantes is by following the green line. But what is this of the green line? It’s one of the ways to travel around Nantes and miss nothing.
Following the green line of Nantes, you will discover 45 attractions of the city: interesting places, monuments, works of art and more. It’s a long walk so get ready!
The tour of the green line starts at the Lieu Unique and ends at the Jardin des Plantes. On this tour you will know what to see in Nantes and you will pass through places such as the Machines of the Island, the Carousel of the Marine Worlds, the Hangar, the Memorial of the abolition of slavery, the castle, museums and much more.
Doing the tour is very easy, just follow the green line. But my recommendation is that you get a plan of Nantes from the Tourist Office or see it on its website. Mostly to know what you’re seeing, where to stop, or where you’re most interested in seeing.
What to see near Nantes
If you come several days to Nantes you can visit:
- Clisson in a day. It is reached by train or car very easily.
- The medieval town of Guerande and its salt marshes.
- Make a 4-day road trip through southern French Brittany.
In the next post I will talk about places to eat in Nantes, my favorite brewery, where to go Brunch or have a great breakfast, which museums see in Nantes and more.
Book Your Trip
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel, hotel or apartments on Booking.com.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s your protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using Mondo for years.
Best companies for activities
Check out Civitatis.com and find the best tours in English (French, Spanish and Italian)
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too! (Is in Spanish yet)
We are not native English speakers but we have decided to translate our post to English so we can share it with the whole world. If you see any spelling mistake or something, please let us know, it is so important to us. If you do so, we can improve our post and also our English knowledge! Thanks in advance!!!