• March 24, 2023

Top 6 things to visit Nantes

Despite being in a different region, Nantes will always as the capital of Brittany. The Dukes of Brittany ruled their lands from here until the Duchy with France in the 16th century, and their former seat of power is still one of Nantes’ most commanding buildings.

Nantes’ lifeblood is the Loire, which brings the world to its doorstep and allows trade and industry to thrive. Using the city’s Navibus shuttles, you can ride the fantastic machines on the Île de Nantes or relax by the river in Trentemoult, a bohemian village on the left bank.

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1 Château des Ducs de Bretagne

The last château on the Loire before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean is the old seat of the Dukes of Brittany. The fortified palace is in the eastern part of town, but the massive walls and towers that encircle the refined Grand Logis where the dukes lived are difficult to overlook. The courtyard and ramparts are free to visit, but the Nantes History Museum, which depicts the city’s evolution from slavery to its time as an industrial port, requires a fee. In the summer, the green space by the deep moat, the Douves du Château, is a spectacular spot for an afternoon break.

2 Cours Cambronne

Cours Cambronne, part of a new city district built in the 18th century, is a magnificent square between two 180-metre-long terraces of neoclassical mansions. The statue of Pierre Cambronne, a military general born in Nantes who in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, can be along the regal central avenue. Hôtel Scheult, near the top by Rue Piron, deserves special mention for its restored facade.

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3 Musée de l’Imprimerie

Nantes has a long history with printing, dating back to 1493, when the Breton poet Jean Meschinot published Les Lunettes des Princes. Intaglio plates, lithography plates, dyes, and historic typesetting moulds are also available. If all that sounds confusing, you can take the tour to learn more about the printing industry in Nantes and see how all this arcane equipment.

4 Jardin des Plantes

The Jardin des Plantes, one of France’s “remarkable gardens,” contains 10,000 species spread across seven hectares. The gardens in the heart of the city, only ten minutes’ walk from the Château des Ducs de Bretagne. You’ll see mature trees like the 220-year-old magnolia and two massive sequoias planted 150 years ago as you walk the paths.

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5 Île Feydeau

When exploring Île Feydeau, you might wonder why this district south of the city centre is an island, or why streets have names like Quai Turenne when there’s no sign of water. It was an island until the 1930s, when one of the Loire’s arms was off. Their flat-fronted houses are stunning, with iron balconies, mansard roofs, and stone grotesques.

6 Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle

Nantes’ Natural History Museum has galleries for every branch of natural science and is in the city’s old mint. There are zoological, paleontological, mineralogical, ethnographic, and a slew of other collections assembled since the 1700s. The fin whale skeleton in the zoology gallery, which is more than 18 metres long and suspended from the ceiling, is sure to draw attention. 

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