Why you should visit Nantes on your next trip to France

At the west coast of France, in the Brittany region and right at the river mouth of the Loire river, there is a city that is often passed on by tourists. While many people spend their time in the northern regions of Normandy or further down south around the world-famous vineyards of Bordeaux, Nantes is the essential stop in-between.

Why you should visit Nantes on your next trip to France

Any visitor promptly realizes that Nantes is a truly exceptional city. Characterized by its rich history, its all-around creativity and its many green spots, Nantes has an enjoyable and unique atmosphere.

We were instantly charmed by this modern city so it didn’t take long to find a few reasons why you should visit Nantes on your next trip to France!

View over NantesNantes Chateau Streets of Nantes

No excuses for not getting there

Nantes is a city that is well connected, and not only due to its port! With its airport just outside the city centre and operated by several major European airlines, you can get yourself a flight from almost anywhere in Europe.

Or what about combining a trip to Paris with a visit to Nantes? A high-speed train takes you from Paris to Nantes in only 2 hours!

Picture-perfect locations

You won’t mind walking around Nantes! Its many green spots rewarded the city with the “European Green Capital” price a few years ago and provide excellent opportunities to unwind, enjoy the sun and let life roll off your back.

Apart from all the parks and trees, the city’s beautiful architecture and various art installations make up a setting where you easily lose track of time!

Square in Nantes with art installationSquare with art installationNantes art on the street

If that doesn’t cut it, take the free escalator to the top of the city’s only skyscraper! The 37-storey Bretagne Tower, which gives 360° panoramic views over Nantes and its surroundings.

A story that makes you think

You don’t become France’s sixth-largest city just like that. Its location next to the Loire river and close to the Atlantic made it an important strategic outpost. As a result, it comes to no surprise that many battles have been fought over Nantes. The impressive Chateau des Ducs that overlooks Nantes is still a living proof of the city’s turbulent past.

But the origins of Nantes’ prominence and wealth also has a less glorious face. The city’s port served many economical purposes during France’s colonial times, but the slave trading is what made it grown to France’s largest port.

Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery

During 18th and 19th century, more than 500.000 slaves were shipped from Africa to the New World. The Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery pays tribute to this delicate part of history. Along with other exhibitions, its quays with over 2000 glass plaques in the walkways are most memorable.

Seeing all these plaques, each mentioning the name of the ship and the date of its expedition, does not leave you untouched.

A fantasy world coming alive

On an old dockyard of Nantes former port, there is a magical world based on the stories of sci-fi writer and former Nantes-resident, Jules Verne. Among other creatures, a giant mechanical elephant is the star of the town. Built with wood and metal and about 3 times the size of an actual elephant, it takes tourists on its back while walking around the area.

It’s nothing like we have ever seen before. Things as simple as a carousel are suddenly all about mechanical creatures that only live in one’s fantasy. The level of engineering involved is impressive, but there is something more…

Nantes Les Machines Nantes Les MachinesNantes Les Machines Nantes Les Machines

Les Machines is not just about well-designed devices. The project is Nantes’ unique approach to rebuilding its industrial and now unused terrain to something that serves a new value.

We’ve seen similar ideas on rebuilding a seaport’s abandoned shipyards in Hamburg and Manchester, but the way Nantes takes it is impressive. It’s a place with so much going on that we could sit here for days!

Explore Brittany’s beautiful coast

Tired of the city life? In less than an hour from Nantes, on the edge of the Brittany and Loire regions, is a beautiful coastline with villages that each have their unique touch.

What about visiting Guérande, a small medieval village that is still completely enclosed by large walls and defensive towers. Cobbled streets and old townhouses bring you back in time, but that’s not all Guérande has to offer. Its many salt flats are widely known and can also be visited! You can’t leave without buying some “fleur de sel” to bring back home!

Stone wall of Guerande Guarande Salt of Guerande

For a place to truly relax, head over to the refined beach resort of La Baule. Life is easy here, and sipping cocktails while covering your feet in the sand is an everyday activity. Considered as the most beautiful beach of Brittany, this visit might take a little bit longer than expected!

Did you visit Nantes yet? Anything that we missed?

Comment below, visit our Facebook page or tweet @48stops and let us know!