Nantes is a beautiful cities in the western part of France, close to the Atlantic ocean. As the sixth largest town in France it tend not to be the first or second choice for travelers. As I have written in a previous post I would rather revisit Nantes instead of Paris. Nantes have a very nice combination of new and old. Where the old city center still have that old vibe and Château des ducs de Bretagne was the center of the historical province of Brittany. At the same time there are lots of construction projects with fascinating modern architecture with a focus Île the Nantes One should not forget the Loire and Erdre rivers that join in Nantes. Below I will describe a few of the beautiful and interesting places of Nantes.
I always do and always will argue for the aimless walking concept. But every rule has its exception, and the green line of Nantes are without a doubt that exception. This really is a green line painted on the street that you can follow all through the city for around 16 km and you will pass 55 different places of interest. The line is circular so you can start anywhere along the route and walk around it. It will give you a great overview of the city and you can note all the interesting things were you want to make a longer visit. You will also pass most of my other places below if you walk along the line.
When I visited Nantes last parts of the line was hard to follow due to constructions that either were in the way so you had to take a detour or the green line was missing for a few meters. It was still easy to find it again with some guesswork.
This is an interesting concept that I think more cities, especially cities that are more mid-sized, should adopt. But also both larger and smaller cities could use the concept to its advantage. When aimlessly walking around a city I love to discover all these small or large hidden artworks that are not so well known. A line like this could be a help for others that want to find these artworks in an easier way.
In the middle of the river Loire you will find the island Île de Nantes. At the moment parts of it are under heavy construction where old industrial buildings are pulled down and new are built with more modern interesting architecture. Just walking along the streets to observe all the buildings is a worthwhile endeavor. A large area in the northwest corner are used for recreational activities and here you can find Les Machines de L’île and lots of other interesting stuff. Les Machines are inspired by Jules Vernes writing. He was also born in Nantes and there is a museum dedicated to him. You can see the museum from here, but it is on the other side of the Loire.
It is an old wharf and lots of the old parts and two large cranes are still in place to give it a rugged appearance. What better place for steampunk animals like this elephant? There are lots of more to see to set of a few hours to walk around the are. It is free to visit, though rides costs money.
On the west most pier you can also find a long row of nightclubs and pubs if you want to stop for food, a drink or some all night dancing.
In Nantes you will find over 100 parks, a total area of 1095 hectars. That’s a lot for a city of this size. You can spend lots of time exploring these parks. There is 46 km of paths to walk, mostly along the rivers. Most of the length are accessible by disabled people. When I visited Nantes I dedicated one and half day just to visit six of the larger ones. Some are on the outskirts and will take some time to get to, but walking along the rivers is an experience in itself. Well worth the time. Nantes has put together an excellent page over all the parks add walks.
A few notable parks I visited and highly recommend are:
- Jardin des Plantes
This park is located rather centrally and are well worth a visit for its beauty. There are lots of different artworks around the park, both fascinating and beautiful. Look out for the birdhotel!
- Jardin Ile de Versaille
The Japanese garden located on an island in the river Erdre. This is a smaller park,m popular by the locals. On both sides of the island you can also rent boats for a few hours sailing along the river.
- Parc de La Beaujoire
The rose garden! I visited this garden when it was in full bloom in June, the perfect time. Lots of beautiful roses of all varieties. This park is further out from the the city center. But you can walk along the river Erdre to reach it, a beautiful walk in itself.
- Tasting stations
What I missed are the nine tasting stations. Places in Nantes with free access where yo can taste different berries, fruit and vegetables. I’d recommend you to try them out.
I would say that Château des ducs de Bretagne is the main attraction of Nantes. A castle located in the center of the city, 500 meters of curtain walls and several main buildings makes it an unmissable piece of Nantes history. The first castle was built in the 13th century and was demolished 200 years later when the current castle was built. Several of the other buildings was built in the following few hundred years. The castle yard and castle grounds are open to all at no cost. Just walking around the castle and on the walls are an experience. And why not rest for an hour or two and have a picnic on the grounds?
In the castle you also find a museum and several exhibits that are worth a visit. You can also rent an audioguide or visioguide and follow the markings around the castle to learn more of its history.
I wish I spent more time exploring the castle when visiting Nantes, but there was just so much to see!
Passage Pommeraye are a very beautiful and pretty old shopping mall in the center of Nantes. It was completed in 1843 and is constructed on an incline where one end is almost ten meter below the other end. In the middle of the mall there is a luxurious staircase between the different levels. It is now classified as a historical monument. Well worth a visit both for how beautiful it is and for the shopping. There are also several excellent shopping streets around the mall.