Sightseeing Shopping Theatres & Concerts Nature & Parks Attractions & Theme Parks museums shopping gardens chocolate France > Loire-Atlantique (department) > Nantes

Best Things To Do In Nantes, France: 7 Magnificent Excursions

things to do in nantes france

When the rest of the world thinks about idiosyncratic cool, minds inevitably turn to France. So, when the French people look for that offbeat vibe favored by individualists, where do they turn? Well, in huge numbers, their focus will land on Nantes. Where else in the world will you find a giant mechanical elephant that you can ride on while spraying water at passersby? And believe me, that’s merely the start of it, learn more about the best things to do below.

1. Take a pass at le Passage Pommeraye!

The central staircase at Nantes' Passage Pommeraye
Source: Wikipedia

Okay, so there isn’t much that’s revolutionary about shopping per se, but it does depend on where you shop. This delightful mall was built in 1843 and has stayed the same since (except for, admittedly, the identity of some of the stores inside). While the staircases and the cherubim that line the arcade are classics from a bygone age, the stores inside vary from the chic elegance of Hermes and Byblos to the magnificent kitsch of La Chaise Longue. If you want one location to provide you with an evening gown, a fridge in the shape of a Coca-Cola can and the most sumptuous petits-fours, then you’ve found your paradise.

Passage Pommeraye

Address: Rue de la Fosse, 44000 Nantes, France

Website: Passage Pommeraye (in French)

2. Step back into the past at Chateau des ducs de Bretagne

Nantes' Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne.
Source: Wikipedia

From a monument to style and shopping to a monument to history! Originally built in 1207 by Guy Thouars, then a Duke of Brittany (hence the name), the Chateau has undergone some renovation since but remains a jewel in the crown of its region. Its most recent restoration involved 32 rooms of the castle being turned into a museum to the history of Nantes.

The multimedia nature of this museum allows the visitor to put themselves back in the past, to appreciate the full splendor of 13th-century Nantes. Even better news is that the exhibitions here are free to view on the first Sunday of each month. At other times, it’s an affordable 8 EUR, just over 9 USD.

Château des ducs de Bretagne

Address: 4 Place Marc Elder, 44000 Nantes, France

Website: Château des ducs de Bretagne

3. Experience something different at Le Lieu Unique

Once upon a time the iconic French biscuit manufacturer, Lefevre-Utile (LU), owned a factory in Nantes. When they left it, in the 1990s, it was set for demolition until artistic director Jean Blaise stepped in to turn it into a center for contemporary arts and music. The initials, LU, stayed intact, as the building was christened Le Lieu Unique (the Unique Place).

Here you will find bars and restaurants sharing space with creative studios as well as live shows and concerts. If you’re visiting Nantes, do consult the itinerary to see which shows you could take in. Admission for a show is set at 23 EUR (just over 26 USD), although there are concessions available. It’s easy to reach, too, having its own stop on the C3 bus line.

Le Lieu Unique

Address: 2 Rue de la Biscuiterie, 44000 Nantes, France

Website: Le Lieu Unique

4. Unleash your inner gourmet with a trip to Gautier-Debotté!

Once you’ve indulged your mind, it’s time to give your sweet tooth a treat. The place that most Nantais head to for this purpose is the chocolatier Gautier-Debotté. Sumptuous hand-crafted macarons and more draw the eye and make the mouth water. There’s also a delightful range of teas for when you’ve overindulged and need something to wash the chocolate down. It’s the ideal location for gift shopping, but a word of advice: go on the last day of your visit, as the treats are too tempting to stay in your luggage for long.

Chocolatier Gautier Debotté

Address: 9 Rue de la Fosse, 44000 Nantes, France

Website: Chocolatier Gautier Debotté (in French)

5. Take a walk in Jardin des plantes de Nantes

A manmade lake at the Jardin des plantes in Nantes
Source: Wikipedia

While most of Nantes’ attractions are reasonably-priced, we all spend a little more on holiday. With that in mind, if you find the need to get your spending under control, you need something that’s both diverting and free. The open botanical gardens found on Rue Stanislas Baudry are a perfect option, providing quiet serenity and a beautiful backdrop as part of your trip. With more than 10,000 live plant species and a collection of small lakes, there is always something exotic to see. There is an admission fee to enter the greenhouses, but even without paying it you can see some stunning outdoor installations and enjoy a break in the Orangerie cafe.

Jardin des plantes de Nantes

Address: Rue Stanislas Baudry, 44000 Nantes, France

Website: Jardin des plantes de Nantes (in French)

6. Tread in famous footsteps at La Cigale

A view of the stunning Art Nouveau interior of Nantes' La Cigale
Source: Wikipedia

Visit any French city and you will find a collection of brasseries that cater to a nation’s love of the finer foods, wines, and coffee. However, it is the cultural significance of La Cigale, opened in 1895, that sets it apart from other spots in the area. Surrealist artists such as Andre Breton and Jacques Prevert were regulars here in their 1920s pomp.

Additionally, it has been used as a location in several films. Such is La Cigale’s importance to the city of Nantes that it was registered as a historic monument and when the owners turned it into a fast-food restaurant in the 1960s, it was done on the understanding that the original Belle Epoque decor was retained. That art nouveau style remains in place to this day.

La Cigale

Address: 4 Place Graslin, 44000 Nantes, France

Website: La Cigale (in French)

7. Take a few solemn moments to experience Memorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage

Amid a city of such color, modernity, and enthusiasm, this memorial to the abolition of slavery takes care not to shy away from the part Nantes played in the slave trade. As an important port, of course, Nantes was involved and while this museum does not begin to negate the wrongs that were done, it does recognize the debt that the city owes as a result. Documents, artwork and other exhibits depict the facts of the era as well as highlighting the work done to bring about abolition. While a visit to the memorial makes for a somber experience, it does bring into relief the progress made since that time. A short walk from the city center, there’s really no reason not to make the trip.

Memorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage

Address: Quai de la Fosse- Passerelle Victor-Schoelcher, 44000 Nantes

Website: Memorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage

A city with heart and soul: Nantes is waiting for you

Nantes may not have been first on your list of French holiday destinations, but you’re probably reconsidering that now!

Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our privacy policy for more information on how we use your data

800px nantes passage pommeraye
Still Need Travel Insurance?

You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101

*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.

Antonia Kelly is a freelance writer based in Leicester, UK and she enjoys European travel as well as road trips closer to home. Her favourite domestic destinations include Snowdonia and the Brecon...Read more

Have a question? Ask fellow travellers and travel experts here.
 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore Nantes
Good things are meant to be shared!