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Visit Nantes, France
Those who venture into Nantes are rarely disappointed: it is a young and dynamic city that has managed to combine modernity while preserving and enhancing its historical heritage. Nantes is also one of the greenest cities in France, voted Europe’s green capital in 2013.
Nantes is the capital of the region Pays de la Loire. Located by the Loire River, 380 km southwest of Paris, it is possible to travel from Paris to Nantes in only two hours by TGV train.
Whether you prioritize sightseeing and ticking landmarks off of your bucket list, or simply soaking in the atmosphere of a city, this 2 days in Nantes itinerary has you covered to get for a fantastic weekend in Nantes. We recommend arriving at Nantes on Friday night so you have 2 full days to spend in the city.
OUR TIP: If you are in Nantes for a weekend, we recommend the Nantes 24 hour pass: in addition to free transportation, there are many interesting discounts. With a cost of 25 euros for 24 hours, or 35 euros for 48 hours) is quickly compensated by doing 3 to 4 visits. Be careful however, there are no guided tours every day and you must often book them, so ask ahead.
Things to Do in Nantes Map
Two Days in Nantes, Day 1
Château de Nantes and History Museum
After a good breakfast, head to the Château de Nantes and History Museum to learn about the city’s history.
Located in the city center, the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany is an elegant Gothic fortress dating from the 15th century. The visit to the Castle is a must, especially the free tour of the ramparts. From the top of the ramparts you can take advantage of different points of view, in particular over the famous LU tower (Lu is a local biscuits brand).
Outside, there’s a sculpture of Anne de Bretagne, the most famous Duchess of Brittany who became Queen of France by marriage. Don’t hesitate to go and say hi!
Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul Cathedral
Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul Cathedral, is an imposing building in the Gothic style worth a short visit. Inside, don’t miss the tomb of François II, the last Duke of Brittany.
If you need a short break to rest, there’s a little park just behind Nantes cathedral perfect for this.
For a quick lunch in the area, the Café Cult’ (French cuisine) in 2 Rue des Carmes always has good reviews.
Around Place Royale
After lunch let’s head to Graslin, an elegant neighborhood shaped thanks to the industrial and financial success of the city in the 18th and 19th centuries. The semi pedestrian area offers beautiful architecture, good shopping, and pleasant terraces for a coffee or a glass of wine.
The best way to explore this district is to wander with no particular direction. Sooner or later, however, you will end up at Place Royale and your visit should also include the Graslin Square and Theater as well as the Passage Pommeraye, with an architecture very similar to the covered passages of Paris.
To get away from the urban atmosphere, don’t miss Cours Cambronne, a beautiful promenade-garden.
Aperó Time and Dinner
Before sunset, head to Café Le Nid, located at place de Bretagne and more specifically on the 32nd floor of the Tour Bretagne, Nantes’ skyscraper. Enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the whole city at sunset and sip a couple of cocktails until the city lights up.
At Place Graslin there are numerous restaurants proposing all kinds of cuisines. Alternatively, enjoy one of the many Breton crêperies in the center of Nantes. We tested the Heb Ken crêperie at 5 rue de Guérande. The crêperie proposes yummy crêpes and desserts, inexpensive, and it is very well located in a pedestrian lane in the Graslin district.
Two Days in Nantes, Day 2
NANTES BY THE LOIRE
Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery
In the 18th century, Nantes became the first French slave port, one of the main sources of its economic success. On Quai de la Fosse, a planted esplanade with 2,000 plaques noting names of ships leaving Nantes on slave trade expeditions and the main African and American trading posts reveals the enormity of the abhorrent slave-trafficking in Nantes and the world.
Under the quayside there’s a memorial that pays homage to all those who have fought and are still fighting against slavery in all its forms throughout the world.
Jules Verne Museum
The famous French author was born and raised in Nantes so if you are a fan of Jules Verne’s novels you cannot miss this place. The museum explores Jules Verne’s life and main works through some personal objects and objects and videos related to the most famous novels.
The museum is located on the top of a hill with good views over the Loire River and Ile de Nantes. In the small garden just in front of the museum, you can find Capitan Nemo enjoying the views, go and say hi! The lonely boy sitting on the bench is supposed to be Jules Verne when he was a kid. The Jules Verne Museum has a reduced schedule, click here to be sure they are open when you want to visit.
ILE DE NANTES
Located in the industrial wasteland of the city’s former shipyards, this artistic project brings together a set of crazy machines that seem straight out of a Jules Verne’s imagination. Les Machines de l’Ile is the latest and a must attraction of the city.
Wander around the Isle on the back of a crazy elephant or visit the Galerie des Machines, where a team of mad builders are building and testing the new machines for the craziest project: a giant heron tree. Then, dive into the sea to explore the strangest marine creatures in the Sea World Carousel.
We had lunch at Café de la Branche, just in front of Galerie des Machines. It was a sunny day and eating on the terrace, close to the attractions seemed a great option for us. The menu has only a few options (it is a cafe) but I was more than happy with my pâtes au saumon and a glass of rosé!
Aperó Timme and Dinner
In the afternoon head to Quai des Antilles for a lively atmosphere at aperó time and in the evening. You will find restaurants proposing all styles of cuisine, with something for all budgets.
Alternatively, you can go to O’Deck Restaurant, also on the Isle, for a fancy dinner and breathtaking views from the terrace.