Pays de la Loire

Les Machines de L’Ile (Machines of the Isle of Nantes)


Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Les Machines de L’ile (Machines of the Isle of Nantes) is an artistic, touristic, and cultural project based in the city of Nantes in Western France. The Nantes Machines are located on an island in the middle of the Loire River, in the city’s former shipyards, and they are one of the quirkiest attractions in France.

Les Machines de l’Ile is the must-see attraction in Nantes, and it’s a fun experience for adults and children alike. Don’t miss this new and quirky project featuring some remarkable machines, often voted as one of the best things to do in France!

Ile de Nantes

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Trains to Nantes

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The Originals Nantes Voltaire Opéra (top suggestion), Logis Hotel Duquesne (budget), Best Western Hotel Graslin (mid-range), Okko Hotels Nantes Chateau (mid-range).

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What are the Machines of the Isle of Nantes?

Machines Nantes

The Machines of the Isle of Nantes could be described as the result of Jules Verne’s imagination, the mechanical universe of Leonardo Da Vinci, and Nantes’ industrial past.

Developed by the theater company La Machine, Les Machines de l’Ile is a cultural and artistic project which tries to promote tourism in the region of Pays de la Loire and Nantes as a place of creativity and fantasy.

These giant, uncommon Nantes machines are designed and constructed by a group of artists and machinists in the former naval workshops of the Isle of Nantes. This place is known today as La Galerie des Machines, and you cannot miss it when you visit Nantes!

There are many remarkable machines spread on the Isle of Nantes. This article, however, will focus on the company’s most outstanding projects: the Nantes Elephant, the Giant Carousel, and the Heron Tree.

Grand Éléphant Nantes’ Elephant

Grand Elephant - Nantes

The Grand Eléphant (Nantes’ Elephant) was the first big project born in the Galerie des Machines. Le Grand Éléphant is a colossal living machine made of steel and wood that likes to wander around the Isle of Nantes. The giant elephant can carry up to 50 passengers on his back on a funny, original 30-minute ride. Be careful because this cheeky elephant likes to spray people with his trunk!

Unfortunately, during our visit to Nantes, the Grand Elephant was ‘out of order’ and never left his pole position. However, cheeky elephants are still cheeky while they are sick, and we got a second shower that day…

TIP: some Grand Elephant rides can be booked online for visits during weekend and holidays. Booking for these rides is possible up to 48 hours before the selected visit.

Le Carrousel des Mondes Marins

Sea World Carousel - Nantes

The Carousel of the Sea Worlds is a giant carousel (almost 25 m high) located not far from La Galerie des Machines. It is an incredible mechanical aquarium of disturbing marine creatures swimming or diving in three different levels: seabed, abyss, and sea surface.

Sea World Carousel - Nantes
(c) métropole.nantes – Patrick Garçon photographe

This carousel is great for kids and adults. People sitting on the creatures can move most of their parts as if they were puppeteers. Le Carrousel de Nantes was voted in 2014 as the most original attraction in the world (Thea Awards).

L’Arbre aux Hérons (The Heron Tree)

Heron Tree - Nantes

L’Arbre aux Hérons is the most ambitious and crazy project on the Isle of Nantes. When finished, the Heron Tree will be a giant tree made of steel and wood 50m wide and 35 m high, where people will be able to walk from branch to branch and enjoy amazing views of the Loire River and the city.

The Heron Tree will be populated with living machines like hummingbirds, spiders or caterpillars, and other creatures like carnivore plants. And, of course, there will be the herons! Two giant herons will be flying around the tree with the possibility of transporting up to 12 people from branch to branch.

Today visitors can see some machine prototypes at La Galerie des Machines. The staff introduces the project, and there are some live tests so people can enjoy short rides on these machines.

La Galerie des Machines, Nantes

(c) métropole.nantes – Stephan Menoret photographe

This is the place where Les Machines de L’ile were born. La Galerie des Machines is located in the old shelters of the former shipyards in Nantes. These buildings were originally used for ship construction and later used as business sites until the arrival of the quirky machinists.

Today visitors can see the ongoing construction of l’Arbre aux Hérons, walk on the prototype of a branch, and admire some of its future inhabitants. Currently, there is also a prototype of heron (scale 1/5) for testing, which can take up to 2 people.

During the visit, the machinists introduce the project of l’Arbre aux Hérons and its living machines. Also, they invite some of the visitors to test the machines with them or alone.

Testing the Spider! (c) Jose A. Abad

We found the concept of La Galerie des Machines as a ‘tourist attraction’ very interesting because, in this way, locals and visitors can follow the evolution of the Heron Tree while helping with the funding of the project.

The Galerie des Machines is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 7 pm. Entrance ticket costs 9,50€ for adults and 7,50€ for kids from 4 to 17. The adult ticket allows to visit the Carroussel des Mondes Marins at a discounted price (-1,80€, to be used within the next 48 hours).

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Cover picture: (c) métropole.nantes – Stephan Menoret photographe.