As many of you know, I live in Las Vegas but I was born and raised in France. I haven’t been able to visit in almost a year now and I have been homesick more times than I can count. But I love where I’m from and I really wanted to write a blog post on my hometown: Nantes.
Nantes is the biggest city in the West of France and the 6th largest in the country. It is mostly famous for its vineyard surroundings and for being in the Loire Valley, and obviously, for its wine. The region produces Muscadet, which is a dry white wine. It is located in the West part of France, close to the coast, and right under Brittany.
Nantes is a very dynamic city, there is so much to do and see there in terms of culture, art, architecture, and gastronomy.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
When to go to Nantes
Summer is without a doubt the best time to visit this part of France. It’s rarely too hot, and the late French nights sipping wine by the Loire or on a restaurant’s terrace will make you wanna move to France full-time – no joke -.
The rest of the year, the weather is really uncertain, gloomy, and rainy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE everything about where I’m from. I actually miss the rain? But for a tourist, it’s definitely not ideal.
How to get to Nantes
Nantes has an airport and a train station. You can come directly from Paris – about 45 minutes by plane and 2 hours by train -. I recommend the train as it’s cheaper, still really quick and will take you from the center of Paris to the center of Nantes. You also can come from any other city or country, but depending on where you are flying from, you will most likely have a layover in Paris.
How to get around in Nantes
There is no need to rent a car in Nantes. The city’s public transportation is amazing, and you can also pretty much walk anywhere or rent a Bicloo – city bike -. The trams and buses will take you anywhere for cheap. I recommend buying a 24h “Tan” ticket. If you want to get out of the city – which we will talk about later in this post -, then you can take a train.
Where to stay in Nantes
Because I’m from there, I obviously never stayed in a hotel in the city but I would recommend staying in the city center, avoiding the “Bouffay” neighborhood. Here are some hotels that are in good locations, that is to say, safe and dynamic.
• Radisson Blue
• Mercure Nantes Centre
• Maisons du Monde Hôtel & Suites
• Best Western
• Oceania Hotel de France
What to do in Nantes
We are getting to the most interesting part: what to do and see in the city! This list is definitely non-exhaustive but I think it’s a really good start.
• Château des Ducs de Bretagne: This is probably the most famous landmark in the city. The Castle used to be the home of Anne de Bretagne, former Duchess of Brittany. Historically, Nantes was part of the Brittany region. The Castle is now open for visits and also hosts an exhibit on slavery. Unfortunately, Nantes used to be one of the biggest French slave harbors back in the day.
• Slavery Memorial: on this note, it is important to mention the slavery memorial that is located on the Quai de la Fosse, on the way to the Machines of the Isle of Nantes, which we will talk about later in this guide.
• Musée des Beaux-Arts: I truly have my parents to thank for both my love for hiking and museums. They forced me SO much when I was a kid but it really grew into me and now I’m a big fan. The Nantes arts museum just got renovated and it’s really awesome.
• Jardin des Plantes: The Botanical Garden is located right in front of the train station and is the perfect escape from the dynamic city life. It is also right across the street from the Art Museum. You can have a picnic there or just a walk with your partner or dog.
• Nantes Cathedral: I have seen the Cathedral under renovation for most of my childhood and it got finished a few years ago. Unfortunately, a church volunteer set the inside on fire two years ago, so it is temporarily closed. But the outside is worth seeing!
• Passage Pommeraye: this indoor street in the city center is a true gem! It hosts dozens of cute boutiques and the architecture is so unique.
• Place Royale: this pedestrian square is located in the heart of the city and its huge fountain will remind you that you’re in France within seconds!
• Place Graslin: from “Place Royale”, walk up the Crébillon street and you will find yourself on another absolutely amazing square facing the Graslin Opera and Theater
• Muséum Histoire Naturelle: I don’t know why but natural history museums are some of my favs. This one is pretty small but worth it in my opinion.
• Île de Versailles: this might seem really random, but in the middle of the city, there is a very small Japanese-themed island. It’s perfect for a date or a morning coffee in nature.
• Les machines de l’île: “the machines of the Isle of Nantes” is a permanent art project that is located on the Isle of Nantes. It has a museum, art galleries, a marine life carousel – and trust me, you want to go on a ride, no matter how old you are -, a steel heron tree, and a giant mechanical wood elephant that can take dozens of passenger on an hour walk. I personally love seeing the elephant in action when I’m not on it. It’s so cute! It somehow looks alive.
• Trentemoult: I wanted to end this part on the most beautiful note. Trentemoult is a former fishing village located right across the Loire River from Nantes. It is full of colorful houses and narrow streets. The fun part? You get to take a ferry bus to go!
Where to shop in Nantes
• Rue du Calvaire: this is a street located right above Place Royale – mentioned earlier – that has a lot of clothing stores.
• Rue Crébillon: this is the street between Place Royale and Place Graslin – both mentioned above -. There, you will be able to find more expensive clothing stores.
• Rue de la Marne: the famous Galleries Lafayettes are located on this street, along with really cute local boutiques and stores.
• Beaulieu: you will have to hop on a bus to this mall located on the Isle of Nantes, but it has a lot of famous French and international clothing chains.
• Atlantis: this is the biggest mall in and around Nantes, but it’s located a little further away – a 25-minutes tram ride from the city center – but it has all the stores you need, from Apple Store to Foot Locker, Pull & Bear, Adidas, Five Guys, and even an Ikea!
Where to eat in Nantes
• Au Vieux Quimper: if you didn’t eat real galettes, have you even been to Nantes? Okay, I know Nantes isn’t in Brittany anymore, but we still have some of the best Crêperies. And if you don’t know what a galette is, then you are missing out. These salty crêpes are typical of this part of France and my favorite food in the world.
• Café Cult’: this French restaurant is located inside the oldest house in the city!
• L’entrecôte: I’m not a big meat eater but because this restaurant is so popular in Nantes, I had to mention it. They serve one dish only but it’s apparently really good meat!
• La Cigale: this one is more of a fancy date night type of restaurant, and you definitely need to make a reservation for it. I have heard that their Sunday brunches are also really good. The inside is very elegant and 19th-century inspired. It is located on the same square at the Graslin Theater mentioned earlier in the guide. The building has been classified as an official historical landmark.
• La Pasta: this one is, without a doubt, my favorite restaurant in the city. La Pasta, as you can imagine, is an Italian restaurant owned by Italians. As a huge pasta lover – and I’m not just saying this, I could literally eat pasta every single day -, these are some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s also really affordable. Make a reservation before you go, because it’s very small and almost always full.
• Sugar Blue Cafe: this is my favorite place to go for brunch in the city. The food is so good and the cafe has board games.
• Pita Pit: one of my personal favorites, this subway-styled greek pita fast food is SO good. Like, SO good. You can make it as healthy as you want as well.
• Youna: a Lebanese restaurant that, fun fact, we went to the first time when I was a kid because it’s my sister’s name – her name is Yuna but it’s pronounced the same -. Trust me, it is just TOO good not to go.
Where to drink in Nantes
• Le Sur-Mesure: this local brewery chain is really awesome for Friday nights or happy hours with friends. If you’re a beer-lover, you won’t be disappointed!
• La Bodega: looking for a quick but really good bite while having endless glasses of wine with friends or your partner? This Spanish tapas bar is the place to be!
• La Scierie: this one is for my student-readers who are looking to meet people their age and drink for cheap. Go on a Thursday night for the full experience.
• Le Hangar à bananes: meaning “banana warehouse”, this place is a really dynamic one! Located on the Isle of Nantes right next to the Machines mentioned earlier in the guide, you can enjoy drinks, local food, live shows, nightclubs, and even an art gallery overlooking the Loire river.
What to do around Nantes
Now that we’ve explored Nantes, let me take you outside of the city because you can’t say you have been to Nantes if you haven’t discovered its vineyard. I may be biased because I was actually born and raised in the vineyard – about 20 minutes away from the city -, but my American husband loves Nantes’s countryside more than the city, so if you won’t take my word for it, maybe you’ll take his!
You can take a train from Nantes’s train station to go pretty much anywhere: to the beach, to the vineyard, to the famous Châteaux de la Loire – the castles of the Loire Valley -.
• Nantes’ vineyard: you can go on a tour of the vineyards and try the famous Muscadet wine!
• Clisson: Clisson is the Little Italy of the region. This is the closest city to where I grew up, and its medieval castle, narrow paved streets, and peaceful river will make you fall in love with the place I call home. I recommend going during the summer even though it’s the most touristy season. Enjoy a picnic by the Sèvre river and walk through the famous Garenne Lemot Domain – fun but not-so-fun fact, this is where I learned how to drive and it was absolutely awful because of all the narrow streets and hills-.
• Hellfest: this is a random one, but if you’re a rock fan, the famous Hellfest music festival takes place every year in June in Clisson, and this is one of the biggest rock music festivals in the world. The installations are up all year long and the visit is free.
• Pont Caffino: also located in the Vineyard, the town of Château-Thébaud has a unique landmark called “Pont Caffino”, a leisure center around the river surrounded by cliffs where you can rock-climb, walk on trails, hike, enjoy a panoramic view from the overlook, and kayak.
• Pornic: this is the closest beach town to Nantes – about 40 minutes by car, but also accessible by bus and train –. You can enjoy dozens of small beaches, swim in the Atlantic Ocean, eat endless gelatos and crêpes while wandering around the streets and shop in local boutiques and stores.
• The Castles of the Loire Valley: I have personally only visited the Chenonceau and Chambord Castles but I really want to visit more next time I go back home.
I really hope you enjoyed this mini travel guide to Nantes and that it made you want to visit next time you’re in France. This part of the country is truly worth discovering along with Normandy and Brittany, which are both right up North of Nantes.
As you read, there are endless things to do and see in the region: from a dynamic and cultural city to a famous vineyard, all things outdoors and the oceanside, anyone can find what they enjoy!
As always, thank you so much for reading me and especially reading this post, which means a lot to me.
Follow my adventures on Instagram and let’s connect!
See you next week,
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