A green line guiding visitors through the thriving creative city of is just the start of the adventure enriched with culture, art and tantalising food.
Lovers of culture, art, green spaces and gastronomy are wise to spend several days exploring Nantes. The former capital of Brittany, Nantes is a mere 2.5 hours from Paris by train.
Navigating Nantes is child’s play, year-round, with a literal 18 kilometre green line taking visitors on an intriguing tour. The route’s highlights promise something for all ages and interests – from heritage and historical sites to artworks and lookouts. Once shipyards, The Machines de l’île, on an island in central Nantes, are now a cultural hub and home to the popular Grand Éléphant which takes up to 50 people on a magical island ‘ride’.
A history highlight on the Loire’s right bank is the Château des ducs de Bretagne, a castle that was the centrepiece of historic Brittany. A winding walkway spanning seven towers is intriguing – so too is the castle’s museum. Art and history lovers’ appetites are sated year-round, with 120+ artworks from international artists spread across public spaces.
Out of bounds
With over 100 parks and gardens, outdoor lovers have plenty to see, such as the old Miséry granite quarry, now a biodiversity showpiece and lush hub of century-old ivy, banana trees and a 25-metre waterfall. This project – Le Jardin Extraordinaire, won Nantes the Green Cities Europe prize in 2021, transforming the site into a magnificent 3.5 hectare public garden. Others include the Jardin des Plantes with its famous magnolia trees and the Cours Cambronne surrounded by elegant 18th century buildings.
Kick into high gear
Keen cyclists of all fitness levels – solo trippers and families alike, will find Nantes a dream city to travel on two wheels with its 586km of cycling routes. For long-distance aficionados, Nantes sits at the crossroads of popular EuroVelo 1 and EuroVelo 6, better known as Loire à Vélo and Vélodyssée.
Wine and dine
Food and wine lovers won’t want to miss Le Voyage dans le Vignoble, a 100km, 11-stage circular route through the Muscadet vineyards, wine cellars and along the banks of the Sèvre and Maine rivers. The Château de Goulaine (the last rampart of Breton territory) and Clisson (‘Little Tuscany’) are among its many highlights.
Stay a while
Staying a few days? Purchase a Nantes City Pass for complimentary entry to selected city attractions, unlimited public transport plus a range of tours and discounts. From the heart of Nantes out to the shores of the Atlantic, Estuaire is an open-air art collection unlike any other. These 33 works offer 33 occasions to stop and appreciate contemporary art stretching over 60 kilometres of estuary of the Loire. This permanent collection can be discovered on foot, by bike, by car, or even by boat, every summer.
Shopping arcade in Nantes town centre, Passage Pommeraye (photo © Philippe Piron)
From bistro to gastro
Freshly baked bread and butter pastries, or cheesemongers with a range of specialities are never far in Nantes. La Petite Boulangerie at the Talensac market or the Maison Arlot Cheng bakery on the île Nantes are fine examples. There are so many tantalising places to eat in Nantes: add one Michelin starred Roza to your must-visit list, L’Aménité (read about Richard Cornet and his creative, ‘bistronomic’ dishes sourced from boutique producers), or the art nouveau décor of La Cigale. Be surprised and delighted by the ever-creative Petit Boucot, and not forgetting the café-grocer-canteen par excellence of Sain.