Are you looking for the best things to do in Nantes, France? This guide has you covered – keep reading!
If you’re planning a France trip and don’t want to miss out on the top Nantes attractions, this guide will detail the best of them.
We also include some of our favorite Nantes activities, from wine tastings and beyond.
Let us know what to do in Nantes in the comments… if you’ve been!
In this post...
Best Nantes Tours (to Maximize Your Time!)
If you’re looking for something more organized when in Nantes and the surrounding area, here are some awesome Nantes tours you should check out.
These tours will help you maximize your time, which is especially important if you only have a short amount of time in the city! We listed a variety so that you can pick which one is most suitable for you (and many include multiple places!):
- Nantes City Card Pass: Museums, transport, cruises (a must for all visitors!)
- Château d’Angers Fast Track Ticket (must-do!)
- Cellar Tour and Wine Tasting Class (our favorite wine tasting!)
- Nantes: Private Tour with a Local
Best Things to Do in Nantes
1. Check Out the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul
Nantes Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, is an excellent representation of Gothic architecture with a long history going back to the 15th century.
When you approach the cathedral, you will be amazed by the scale and grandeur of its two towers, which stand over 190 feet tall.
The three entrances and portals on the facade have intricate carvings on their frames with geometric patterns on its head.
There are also two more elaborately decorated entrances on the sides. When you enter the cathedral, you will find a large, airy space with high arching ceilings and embellished aisles.
The inside has a classic Gothic style, with the walls made of bright white stone and tall columns.
The interior of the building also displays the tomb of Francis II, the Duke of Brittany, and a cenotaph to the General de Lamoricière, a person from Nantes, who has a remembrance dedicated to him.
Address: 7 Imp. Saint-Laurent, 44000 Nantes
2. Stop by the Château des Ducs de Bretagne
The Château des Ducs de Bretagne, or the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, is located in the heart of the city’s medieval district and helps make Nantes one of the best weekend breaks in all of France.
It was built in the 15th century to function as both a military fortress and the principal residence of the ducal court.
The castle is surrounded by a moat and is protected by a curtain wall ranging half a mile in length with towers and gates.
The ramparts, moat, and spacious courtyard with lush gardens are accessible to visitors.
The Musée d’Histoire de Nantes is located within the chateau and houses a massive collection of historical artifacts and exhibits.
The History of Nantes’ permanent exhibition tells the story of the city from the Roman period to the present day, including the period of the Dukes of Brittany.
The Tales of Nantes is an interactive multimedia exhibition that tells the story of the city and its people through the use of special effects.
Address: 4 Pl. Marc Elder, 44000 Nantes
3. Take a Cellar Tour (and Wine Tasting) at Chateau du Bois-Huaut
Take a cellar and wine-tasting tour at the Château du Bois-Huaut in Nantes and explore the rich history and culture of the region.
The Chateau du Bois-Huaut is a beautiful 17th-century castle that has been converted into a winery only 30 kilometers south of Nantes.
Take a stroll through its vineyards and tour the cellars of the Chateau with a professional guide and learn in-depth about the history and generations’ worth of winemaking processes at the chateau.
Visitors can learn about the different grape varieties, the winemaking techniques, and the aging process of the wines. Afterward, engage in wine-tasting masterclasses with 8 different wines.
The tasty workshop led by the expert sommelier includes sweet, sweet wines, dry, semi-dry, vintage wines, and barrel-aged wines.
Learn about the most famous wines from the Loire Valley, like Muscadet, which is a white wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape.
Address: Le Bois Huaut, 44190 Gorges
4. See Local Art at Le Lieu Unique- Lu Tower
The Le Lieu Unique, also known as the LU Tower, is a center for contemporary culture right on the banks of the Erdre river.
The cultural center offers a wide range of concerts and events, with anything ranging from theater and dance to circus, debates, and festivals.
Its Art Nouveau Architecture is most notable for its flamboyant LU tower, with a sky blue foundation, classical red and white striped window, and balcony, with a sculpture of an angel playing a horn between the column and decorated fresco above.
Explore the several different exhibitions on display, including contemporary art, photography, and design. The exhibitions are curated by the LU Tower’s team and change regularly, making each visit unique.
End your tour of the art gallery and concert hall with a panoramic view of the city from its top floor with a delightful meal at its own restaurant and café.
Address: 2 Rue de la Biscuiterie, 44000 Nantes
5. Stop by the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is an exquisite neoclassical building that houses an expansive selection of displays that demonstrate the variety of life on our planet.
These displays incorporate fossils, live creatures, and interactive exhibits. The museum consists of a zoology gallery, an Earth and universe science gallery, the Vivarium, a scientific library and multimedia library, an Ethnology Collection, and Botanical Collections.
Visitors can also explore a permanent exhibition about the Loire-Atlantique region, which provides information on its geology, flora, and fauna.
Additionally, there is a special exhibit designed for kids, with interactive displays and hands-on activities that make learning about nature a fun and engaging experience.
The museum also has a collection of minerals, animal skeletons, and taxidermy, such as the very rare “Rat King,” as well as a Malacology collection that includes 5,000 shells of gastropods.
Address: 12 Rue Voltaire, 44000 Nantes
6. Peruse the Jardin des Plantes
Located in the city, the Jardin des Plantes is a must-see for anyone interested in plants, trees, and flowers from all over the globe.
You will find a range of exciting features, such as the Canary Island greenhouse, Palm Tree Island greenhouse, Rose Garden, Medicinal Plant Garden, and Alpine Garden, all with botanical specimens ranging from arboreal species to succulents.
During your visit, you might spot the grass cat, a goat sanctuary, and random chickens wandering around. There are intriguing art installations near the cafe and a children’s play area with an enormous plant pot.
The park also offers oversized benches and other unique seating areas. Plus, the small waterfall and ponds will be sure to draw in wildlife and make for a great picnic spot.
Taking a short tour through the greenhouses, glass houses, botanical collections, gardens, and the lake is a wonderful way to spend a break away from the city.
Address: Rue Stanislas Baudry, 44000 Nantes
7. Do a Tasting at Cheese & Friends Bar
Try a variety of cheeses at the Cheese & Friends bar on Rue Racine. They have four signature boards to choose from: La locale, La brute, La douce, and La voyageuse.
Each board has its own set of cheeses and can be purchased in small, medium, or large portions. You can also make your own custom board of your own desired size and portion at the window.
For side dishes for your cheese board, you can order hummus, Bresaola, Rostello Truffé, Trio de Fuet, and Filet Mignon Fumé.
If it’s difficult to choose one, you can choose three for €17. On Tuesdays, you can order their Swiss Fondue board at €19 per person.
They also have a sweet board for dessert! Their cheese boards are popular with locals as takeaway, where they take it by the many green spaces or scenic spots on or overlooking the Erdre and Loire rivers.
Address: 15 Rue Racine, 44000 Nantes
8. Go Shopping on Cours Cambronne
The Cours Cambronne is a large pedestrianized shopping street that runs through the heart of the city.
It is lined with a wide range of shops, restaurants, and cafes, and is known for hosting Nantes’ lively atmosphere.
It is essentially where locals mostly meet to socialize or get casual drinks or lounge around.
Its shops have everything from fashion and accessories to home decor and souvenirs; there are many boutiques that sell unique and handmade products, making it a great place to shop for gifts and souvenirs of local craftsmanship.
You can also experience local culture on the street with its several theaters and cultural centers.
The linear park is notable for its statue of war hero General Cambronne, hence the name, and is lined by trees and numerous neoclassical buildings.
9. See an Opera at Theatre Graslin
The Theatre Graslin is one of the oldest and most beautiful theaters in France. The theater is a neoclassical building built in the Italian style with a beautiful facade, adorned with sculptures and reliefs.
Inside the theater, you’ll find a spacious and elegant auditorium, with a capacity of a little bit over 800 blue velvet seats, golden engraved pillars, and wall embroidery, with a ceiling fresco of angels with lyres and horns in the clouds.
It is one of the most iconic landmarks of Nantes and is surrounded by cafes, bars, and restaurants in its square. It is most notable for its waterfall feature, cascading down from its rooftop.
At nightfall, the landmark illuminates and creates a stunning visual if you’re looking to dine, lounge, or take a promenade nearby.
The fountain in front of it also highlights the environment of the stunning opera.
Address: Pl. Graslin, 44000 Nantes
10. Learn More at the Les Machines de l’ile
Les Machines de l’île is a cultural and artistic project that is based in the old areas used for Nantes’ shipbuilding industry.
There are a variety of intricate mechanical sculptures and exhibits that can be seen here, the most impressive being a gigantic elephant and mechanical heron, both of which can be ridden by visitors.
The “Grand Elephant” is particularly noteworthy, standing 12 meters tall and walking every 90 minutes, allowing those on board to take in a remarkable view of the city.
The “Carrousel des Mondes Marines” is a massive mechanical carousel that features sea creatures from all parts of the world.
The park also contains interactive mechanical insects, birds, and sea creatures, as well as classes and workshops where visitors can learn more about the art and technology behind the exhibits.
Address: Parc des Chantiers, Bd Léon Bureau, 44200 Nantes
11. Take a Morning Trip to Trentemoult
Just five minutes away from Nantes is Trentemoult, a charming village located on the banks of the Loire River.
As you approach the village, you’ll be struck by the picturesque and colorful houses that line the streets. In fact, it’s notable for its brightly colored houses, many of which are built on stilts and have small gardens.
Explore Trentemoult’s steep, winding streets and narrow alleyways alongside the vibrant medley of houses.
Its bohemian atmosphere is accentuated by the palm trees and exotic plants that line the streets, brought back by sailors many years ago.
Stop for a drink, a snack, lunch, or dinner at one of the many restaurants, cafés, or street vendors and try out local specialties!
Enjoy fish and seafood caught in the river with a glass of wine at the row of bars and restaurants by the Loire. Additionally, there are regattas and flea markets to look forward to.
12. Explore the Jules Verne Museum
Jules Verne is one of the most famous French writers, playwrights, and poets and was a pioneer of science fiction.
One of his most famous works includes Around the World in Eighty Days.
The Jules Verne Museum overlooks the river Loire and offers a range of exhibits and displays that provide a fascinating glimpse into his life and work.
The museum is housed in a 19th-century building, with bold red and white colors highlighted by the lush green gardens surrounding it.
Inside, the museum is divided into eight rooms, all with their own themes, including a reading and games room and an audiovisual room.
Verne’s drawing room has his china on display, most of which he received as gifts from foreign journalists throughout his career.
The museum also has a library that holds a large collection of Jules Verne’s books, manuscripts, and illustrations, as well as letters and photographs.
Address: 3 Rue de l’Hermitage, 44100 Nantes
13. Visit the Place Royale
The Place Royale is located in the heart of the city and is home to several historical buildings and monuments, including the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, the City Hall, and the Basilique Saint-Nicolas de Nantes.
The Château des Ducs de Bretagne is a beautiful medieval castle that was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany and is now home to several museums and exhibitions that provide a fascinating glimpse into the history and cultural heritage of Nantes and the region.
The City Hall is a beautiful example of 18th-century architecture and is home to the tourist office of Nantes, a great stop before continuing your travels throughout the city.
The Basilique Saint-Nicolas de Nantes is a soaring church constructed in the Gothic style, with a grand bell tower in its center, and numerous spires, including one decorated with golden angels.
The square is surrounded by many restaurants, cafes, and shops.
Address: 5 Pl. Félix Fournier, 44000 Nantes
14. Walk Through the Île de Versailles
The Île de Versailles is a popular attraction for visitors and locals alike located along the Erdre River. Its history dates back to 1831 when it was artificially created and first utilized by shipwrights and tanners.
It was transformed into a Japanese garden only two years later, and since then the 1.7 hectares of land including waterfalls, rockeries, and a Zen garden built alongside the Erdre have become a tranquil and natural atmosphere to relax, take a walk, and have a picnic.
Various kinds of birds and wildlife can be seen along the river, while the island houses Japanese bridges, structures, plants, and trees, making the park a stunning area of greenery.
It is also an excellent spot to get in some exercise!
15. Discover the Passage Pommeraye
The Passage Pommeraye is a majestic three-story shopping mall located in the central area of the city. It is renowned for its exquisite architecture and unique vibe.
It portrays a beautiful example of 19th-century architecture and features a glass-domed roof and ornate decoration featuring a mixture of neoclassicism and the architect Louis Pommeraye’s eclecticism.
The passage is a great place to explore the city with its wide range of shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as art galleries and exhibition spaces.
The art galleries include the Galerie de la Fosse, Galerie Regnier, Rue Puits d’Argent, and Galerie Santeuil.
The passage also has a beautiful stairway, which has become an iconic place to take a photo, and it is also home to plenty of upscale fashion boutiques.
It’s a charming and elegant shopping experience for visitors and locals alike. It has several restaurants and cafes as well, such as La Passagère, a quaint tea house, and restaurant.
Address: 20 Pass. Pommeraye, 44000 Nantes
16. Take a Day Trip to Clisson
A day trip to Clisson is a great way to experience the charming countryside and rich history of the region.
Clisson is a picturesque medieval town only about 30 minutes from Nantes, and its charming and historical atmosphere is especially highlighted by the Château de Clisson, a beautiful medieval castle that sits atop a hill overlooking the town.
The castle is now a museum and offers visitors a glimpse into the history of the French town and the region.
Besides visiting the castle, you can take a stroll through the historic old town and cross the Pont de la Vallée over to one of the many bistros, restaurants, and cafes overlooking the river.
The Eglise Notre Dame is a beautiful example of the Renaissance Revival architectural style and is notable for its beautifully painted naves, its well-worked ceiling framework, and its fortified bell tower, which offers panoramic views of the town and the surrounding countryside.
17. Walk Through the Bouffay District
The Bouffay district is known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, and colorful buildings, and is home to several historical buildings and monuments, including the medieval Château des Ducs de Bretagne, which is now home to several museums and exhibitions, and the beautiful 13th-century Gothic Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul of Nantes.
The historic streets from Medieval Nantes wind through the city like a labyrinth and give glimpses of the past with its buildings with timber-framed façades.
The district is popular for its great selection of shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and bars. The Bouffay is also known for its lively nightlife, with many bars, pubs, and clubs open late into the night.
Tucked under the shade of the cathedral, is the garden and square of La Psalette, a 15th-century manor house and one of Nantes’ best-kept secrets.
Place Maréchal-Foch is a grand square with a large obelisk with a statue not too far away.
18. Educate Yourself at the Naval Museum Maillé Bréze
The Naval Museum Maillé Brézé is located on the banks of the Loire River inside the Maillé-Brézé T 47-class destroyer of the French Navy.
The museum features a wide range of exhibits and displays that showcase the history and technology of the French Navy.
Visitors can tour the ship and learn about the daily life of the sailors and the technology used on board the famous destroyer that served during World War II.
The passionate tour guides will tell you all the exciting secrets about the ship!
The Maillé-Brezé measures at a length of 132.65 meters and was served by 277 men, and was actually the first naval museum of its magnitude that went afloat in France.
It was named after Jean Armand de Maillé, the Marquis of Brézé and a French admiral, and serves as part of a series of 18 total destroyers built after the Second World War.
Address: Quai de la Fosse, 44000 Nantes
19. Stroll Along the Erdre Riverside Path
Experience the natural beauty and rich history of the region by walking along the Erdre Riverside Path. The trail follows the Erdre River and offers visitors a chance to explore the picturesque town.
The trail starts at the Square Maquis-de-Saffré located in the heart of Nantes, and goes on for 10 kilometers, looping around the Erdre River.
You’ll head north toward the N844 highway where you will loop around the river and head back toward the city center.
On the way, you’ll pass the medieval neighborhoods, elegant buildings, the Chateau, the university campus, and even the Japanese garden in Île de Versailles.
The east side of the riverbanks holds the boardwalk that extends onto the water for one entire kilometer.
20. Have Dinner at Sepia Restaurant
Experience the delicious local cuisine and enjoy a creative dining experience at Sepia.
The restaurant is located in the heart of the city in the Village Feydeau.
The menu is full of fresh, hand-selected local ingredients, especially highlighting the abundance of local fish and vegetables. They focus on seasonality and the menu changes regularly to reflect the availability of the freshest ingredients.
Chef Lucie Berthier Gambara, a Nantes native, explores her creative ideas through food as she infuses Mediterranean flavor into French dishes.
Enjoy a meal in their cozy interior or relax on the outside terrace as you sip a glass of wine that perfectly pairs with your meal.
Address:1 Quai Turenne, 44000 Nantes
21. Pay Respects at L’Île Feydeau
L’Île Feydeau is an island on the Loire River and home to untouched, charming buildings with 18th-century style architecture.
Well, it was an island until the early 20th century when the Loire’s arms were filled.
The island’s main avenue is Rue Kervégan and runs from east to west, starting from Rue Léon-Maître to Place de la Petite-Hollande.
Nearby is the Place de la Bourse, the Square de la Bourse – which is a green space and recreational area – and the Fontaine Wallace.
Unfortunately, the district’s wealth and prosperity stem mostly from the Atlantic Slave Trade as Nantes was France’s largest slave port in the 18th century.
The Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery is located on the Quai de la Fosse, and is the largest memorial of its kind in the world.
22. Explore the Foods of the Talensac Market
Nantes’ oldest and biggest market is the Talensac Market which is located in the vibrant and lively Talensac neighborhood.
The market is open every day, and it is a great place to find fresh produce, meats, cheeses, bread, and other local specialties.
It’s the largest indoor market in the area and is most notable for its vendors selling fresh seafood, from fish to oysters and mussels.
It is a perfect destination for foodies, bargain hunters, and anyone looking for a taste of the local culture.
There are numerous independent vendors selling a variety of products here, including Indian and Vietnamese vendors, paella vendors, as well as traditional crepe vendors.
Even Vincent Guerlais has a stall here selling his signature macarons and other pastries!
Additionally, you’ll find other things such as clothes, jewelry, and antiques at the market.
Address: Rue Talensac, 44000 Nantes
Where to Stay in Nantes
Are you looking for the best place to stay in Nantes? These are some of the top-rated options in the city!
- SOZO Hotel (best option!)
- Okko Hotels Nantes Chateau (modern design!)
- Citadines Confluent Nantes (has a pool!)
Did we miss any of the best things to do in Nantes?
Let us know your favorite Nantes landmarks and more in the comments!
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Aram is a travel blogger and writer from Armenia who spends his time between Spain and his home country. He is passionate about music and football (the European kind) and covers a lot of Western European destinations on the blog. Aram is a laidback traveler who enjoys meeting new people and finding the best food in each city that he visits (hence his frequent trips to France, Italy, and Greece!). He has been featured in (or written for) Forbes, BBC, The Guardian, Fodor’s Travel, and more.