How to Spend a Weekend in Nantes, Brittany’s Artsy City on the Loire

A large building

The city of Nantes, situated on the Loire River in the region of Brittany, can be described as nothing other than creative. The main sites can be seen in a day or two, but with its historical and cultural richness, you could easily extend your stay. Here are the best sights, activities, restaurants and bars Nantes has to offer.

Things to do and see:

Jardin des plantes de Nantes

If you’re traveling to Nantes via train, the centrally located Gare de Nantes will let you out right in front of the Jardin des plantes de Nantes. The whimsical, Willy Wonka-esque garden stretches for 17 acres and acts as a museum, a botanical and zoological garden, a research center and a university. With eleven gardens hosting over 8,500 species of plants, you can easily spend hours here. — Rue Stanislas Baudry

Machines d’ile

A mechanical, rideable elephant — need we say more? The Machines d’ile is a unique artistic project that takes place on the site of the city’s former shipyards. Here, machines of all shapes, sizes, and even species are showcased. Take a moment to marvel at the unprecedented mechanical animals, and be sure to take a ride on the Grand Elephant and the Carrousel des Mondes Marins. — Parc des Chantiers, Boulevard Léon Bureau

Le Lieu Unique

A biscuit factory-cum-center for contemporary arts and music, Le Lieu Unique, like the name suggests, is probably unlike anywhere you’ve ever been. Presented as “a factory producing the imaginary,” the L.U. aims to mix various artistic forms by hosting dance, theater, circus, and music performances as well as workshops. Drop by to explore the space, grab a drink at the bar, and shop at its quirky bookstore. — 2 Rue de la Biscuiterie

Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne

Even if you tried, you couldn’t miss the Chateau de Ducs de Bretagne, a large castle situated in the heart of the city and one of the most important historical buildings in Nantes. The castle was built under Francis II, the last Duke of an independent Brittany, and acted as both a military fortress and the principal residence of the ducal court. In 1924, the castle became a municipal museum. To marvel at the castle’s exterior, entry to the courtyard is free, but we recommend buying a ticket to enter the castle to visit the Urban History Museum. — 4 Place Marc Elder

Nantes Cathedral

Considered a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture, the beautiful Cathedral of St Pierre and St. Paul towers over the city of Nantes. Constructed over 457 years, from 1434 to 1891, the cathedral remains impressively unchanged from the original Gothic style in which it was constructed. Inside, you can find paintings, sculptures, and many tombs, including that of François II, the Duke of Brittany. Entry is free and guided tours are offered. — 7 Impasse Saint-Laurent

Passage Pommeraye

Another monument historique, the Passage Pommeraye serves as as small shopping center, but it’s the building itself that makes the visit worth it. Constructed in the mid 19th century, the three-story arcade is an architectural splendor featuring Renaissance-style sculptures, restaurants, and quaint shops. — 20 Passage Pommeraye

Where to eat and drink:

Given the cities unique location, Nantes benefits from the best wine from the wine-making regions of the Loire and the gastronomic richness of Brittany. The result? A booming restaurant and bar scene. Here are some of our favorites.

Le Nid

Come for the view, stay for a drink. Pay 1 euro to get to the top of the tower to enjoy an incredible panorama of the city. After you’ve soaked in the view, enjoy the bar’s bird-themed artwork by Jean Jullien, an artist known for his quirky style. Giant bird sculpture and egg-shaped chairs included. — Tour de Bretagne, Place de Bretagne, Floor 32

La Provence

This cozy wine bar and cave serves a selection of 300 wines, the majority coming from the Loire region as well as the Burgundy region, all of which are selected by the owner Jean-Luc Guéné. You can check out their impressively curated wine list here.  — 3 Rue de l’Échelle

Chez Maman

This restaurant serves up traditional French cuisine in an atmosphere that is anything but. The eccentrically decorated restaurant offers French dishes you know and love, as well as traditionally Nantes dishes. — 2 Rue de la Juiverie

La Cigale

Considered one of the most beautiful brassieres in the world, La Cigale certainly lives up to its reputation. Seven days a week, La Cigale serves up fresh seafood and cocktails in an ornately decorated interior. — 4 Place Graslin

Featured image: Stock Photos from Manjik / Shutterstock

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