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Nantes

An historic city

Nantes

Although it is now the administrative centre of the Pays-de-la-Loire, Nantes was the capital of Brittany for hundreds of years. Start at the impressive Château des Ducs de Bretagne before wandering through the medieval old town then take a ride on a mechanical elephant around the Île de Nantes.

Breton palace

Surrounded by a water-filled moat, the imposing Château des Ducs de Bretagne is a good place to start any visit of France’s sixth largest city. It was built in the 15th century by Francois II, one of the last rulers of Brittany, and later became the Breton residence of the French monarchy. After an extensive 15-year restoration programme, the castle now houses Nantes’ history museum, where visitors can learn about the city’s past as France’s largest port. Kids will enjoy a walk around the ramparts followed by a picnic on the grassy lawn.

Old town

Nantes’ old town can be found in the maze of streets to the west of the château in the Bouffay district. As well as half-timbered houses, you’ll also discover some of the city’s best shopping including speciality food boutiques and the Galeries Lafayette department store. The Passage Pommeraye, a spectacular 19th-century glass-roofed shopping mall, is not to be missed in the newer part of town.

Culture vultures

The city has several museums, including the newly refurbished natural history museum. Art lovers should head to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, whose works date from the 13th to the 19th century; it also has a contemporary art collection. Culture vultures are generally spoilt for choice as Nantes has a vibrant live music scene; it even has its own opera house. There is a full calendar of events including a carnival in April.

Elephants on the island

Connected to the mainland by bridges, the once-industrial Île de Nantes has undergone a makeover in recent years. The island now has some great restaurants and quirky bars as well as Les Machines de l’Île: a workshop where artists have created mechanical animals whose centrepiece is a 39ft (12m)-high elephant, which takes passengers on a tour of the surroundings.

Did you know?

Jules Verne, author of ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, was born in Nantes in 1828.

Main points of interest

  • The castle of the Dukes of Brittany (13th – 18th centuries)
  • The cathedral of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul (15th-19th centuries)
  • The former Bouffay fabric works
  • Feydeau island (18th century)
  • The Stock Exchange, the Place Royale, the Graslin district
  • The Passage Pommeraye shopping centre
  • The Prairie-au-Duc district (former shipyards)

Tourist office Nantes Métropole


Plan your holiday

Getting there

Getting to Nantes

Nantes Atlantique is the second largest international airport in western France after Bordeaux and has many regular, low-cost services. These include direct flights from London Gatwick and London Stansted airports, and in summer from Bristol and Liverpool. An airport shuttle service will get you to the centre of Nantes in 20 minutes.

With 26 trains per day, Nantes is less than 2 hours from Paris on the intercity TGV and TGV InOui services. Eurostar will get you to Paris from London in 2 hours 16 minutes. You could also opt for a low-cost journey to Nantes using the OuiGo trains or long-distance bus companies such as Isilines, Eurolines, Flixbus, Ouibus and Megabus, which run from many towns.

By car, Nantes is 177 km from the ferry port at Saint-Malo, 315 km from Roscoff, 349 km from Bordeaux or 385 km from Paris.

Travelling in and around Nante

If you’re driving to Nantes, why not leave your car at one of the many park and ride car parks on the outskirts of town? You can visit the various parts of town on foot, by bus or tram on the Tan network, by taxi bike with Happy Moov or even by navibus (boat bus) on the rivers Erdre or Loire. Cars are also available on a self-service basis using the Marguerite car-sharing service

To simplify your travel by public transport, use the Destineo route planners for the Pays de Loire and Mobibreizh to work out your journeys and transport services.

It takes about an hour by car to get to Rennes or Vannes using the toll-free dual carriageways.

Official website of tourism in Brittany