Your Ultimate Nantes Travel Guide 2023
Welcome to Nantes, the mesmerizing city on the Loire River in western France. Known for its captivating castle, picturesque canals, and fascinating historical sites, Nantes is a must-visit destination. With its unique culture, charming locals, and endless attractions, it’s no wonder that Nantes continues to be a popular tourist attraction for people from all around the world. In this ultimate guide, you’ll find all of the best things to do and see while exploring the magical city of Nantes. You may also want to check out our Bordeaux travel guide!
Top 5 Things To See And Do In Nantes
- Visit The Château Des Ducs De Bretagne: This impressive castle located in the heart of Nantes offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and architecture. The castle has been restored to its former glory, with beautiful gardens, a museum, and exhibitions that provide a fascinating insight into Nantes’ past.
- Take A Stroll Along The River Erdre: One of the most picturesque spots in Nantes, the River Erdre offers visitors a chance to relax and take in the city’s beautiful scenery. You can walk along the banks of the river, take a boat trip or visit the Jardin des Plantes, a beautiful botanical garden located nearby.
- Explore The Machines De l’île: This one-of-a-kind attraction combines art, engineering and innovation to create a unique experience that is sure to impress. Visitors can see a giant mechanical elephant, a carousel with moving sea creatures, and a tree that moves and sprays water. It’s an unforgettable experience for both adults and children.
- Discover The Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-Et-Saint-Paul De Nantes: This beautiful gothic-style cathedral is a must-see for anyone visiting Nantes. With stunning stained glass windows and intricate stonework, the cathedral is a true masterpiece of architecture and art.
- Sample The Local Cuisine: No trip to Nantes would be complete without trying some of the city’s delicious food and drink. Be sure to sample the famous Breton crepes, fresh seafood, and Muscadet wine, which is produced in the nearby vineyards. You can also visit the famous La Cigale brasserie, a historic restaurant that has been serving customers for over a century.
Where To Stay In Nantes
- The Historic Center: Nantes’ historic center is packed with charming medieval architecture and narrow streets that wind their way around the city’s main attractions. If you want to be close to the castle, the cathedral, and the Jardin des Plantes, this is the neighborhood for you. The streets are lively during the day, but things quiet down at night, so it’s a great spot for families or anyone who prefers a peaceful atmosphere.
- Saint-Félix: Located just south of the historic center, Saint-Félix is a vibrant neighborhood with plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants. It’s particularly popular with younger travelers, thanks to its lively nightlife scene and easy access to the city’s main train station. The streets are narrow and winding, but there are plenty of public transportation options available if you prefer not to walk.
- Île De Nantes: This up-and-coming neighborhood is located on an island in the middle of the Loire River. It’s home to a number of attractions, including the famous Machines de l’Île and the Nantes Atlantique Exhibition Center. The area has a trendy, artsy vibe, and there are plenty of cafes, galleries, and boutique shops to explore.
- Beaulieu: Beaulieu is a residential neighborhood located to the east of the city center. It’s a peaceful area with plenty of green spaces, including the Parc des Provinces and the Parc du Grand Blottereau. This is a great neighborhood for families or anyone who wants to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center.
- Chantenay: Chantenay is located to the west of the city center, on the other side of the Loire River. This is a more working-class neighborhood, but it’s become increasingly popular with travelers in recent years. It’s a great spot if you’re looking for a more authentic Nantes experience, as it’s not as touristy as some of the other neighborhoods. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the area, and it’s well-connected to the rest of the city by public transportation.
Top Nantes Hotels
- Radisson Blu Hotel Nantes: Located in the heart of the city, this hotel boasts modern rooms with exceptional amenities. Guests can enjoy stunning views of the city from the rooftop bar or relax in the on-site spa.
- Hotel La Perouse: This charming hotel is located in a historic building in the heart of Nantes. Guests can enjoy spacious rooms with unique decor, as well as a delicious breakfast buffet in the morning.
- Okko Hotels Nantes Chateau: This eco-friendly hotel offers stylish rooms with a modern twist. Guests can enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks in the evening, as well as access to a fitness center and sauna.
- Mercure Nantes Centre Grand Hotel: Situated in a beautiful 19th-century building, this hotel offers spacious and elegant rooms with modern amenities. Guests can enjoy a drink in the on-site bar or relax in the sauna.
- Oceania Hotel De France Nantes: Located near the castle and the cathedral, this hotel offers comfortable rooms with modern amenities. Guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast each morning and relax in the on-site sauna and steam room.
Where To Eat In Nantes
Nantes is a city that offers a wide range of dining options to suit all tastes and budgets. From Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy cafes and street food stalls, you’ll find plenty of culinary delights to explore. Here are the top 5 places to eat in Nantes that you won’t want to miss:
- La Cigale: This iconic brasserie in the heart of Nantes has been a popular spot for locals and visitors alike since it opened in 1895. The ornate Art Nouveau decor is just as impressive as the menu, which features traditional French cuisine with a modern twist.
- Le Lieu Unique: This former biscuit factory has been transformed into a cultural center and creative hub, complete with a restaurant that serves delicious and inventive dishes. The menu changes regularly and features local and seasonal ingredients.
- Les Fils à Maman: This quirky restaurant serves up nostalgic dishes that will take you back to your childhood. From burgers and fries to mac and cheese, the menu is filled with comfort food favorites with a French twist.
- L’Atelier d’Alain: For a truly special dining experience, head to this Michelin-starred restaurant located in a charming courtyard in the heart of the city. Chef Alain Charbonneau creates innovative and refined dishes that showcase the best of French cuisine.
- La Braise: If you’re a fan of meat, this steakhouse is a must-visit. The menu features a wide range of cuts and cooking styles, from a classic sirloin to a flavorful wagyu beef.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner for two or a casual lunch with friends, these top 5 places to eat in Nantes are sure to satisfy your cravings and leave you feeling fully satisfied.
How To Get Around Nantes
Getting around Nantes is relatively easy thanks to its well-developed transportation network. Here are some of the various methods of transportation around Nantes:
- Tramway: Nantes has an extensive tram network that covers the entire city and its suburbs. The trams run from early morning until midnight, with some lines operating until 1 a.m. on weekends.
- Bus: If you prefer to travel by bus, Nantes has an extensive network of buses that complement the tram network. Buses run from early morning until midnight and are particularly useful for reaching destinations that are not served by the tram.
- Bike: Cycling is a popular mode of transportation in Nantes. The city has a well-established bike-sharing system called Bicloo, which allows you to rent a bike for a short period of time. The city also has several bike lanes that make cycling safe and convenient.
- Walk: Walking is a great way to explore the city and discover its many hidden gems. Nantes is a pedestrian-friendly city, with many areas that are closed to cars.
- Taxi: Taxis are readily available in Nantes and can be hailed on the street or ordered through a taxi company. They can be a bit expensive, but they are a convenient way to get around the city.
- Car: If you prefer to drive, Nantes has a well-developed road network and several parking facilities throughout the city.
However, keep in mind that parking in the city can be expensive and difficult to find, especially in the city center. Overall, the best way to get around Nantes is to use a combination of these methods depending on your needs and preferences. With so many transportation options available, you’ll be able to explore the city with ease and convenience.
Nantes experiences a moderate oceanic climate with mild temperatures throughout the year. The weather is often influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, which can bring cool and moist air, especially during winter.
- Spring (March to May): Spring is a pleasant time to visit Nantes as the temperature starts to warm up, and the city begins to bloom with flowers. The average temperature ranges from 8°C to 16°C (46°F to 60°F), making it comfortable to explore the city on foot.
- Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Nantes, with warm and sunny weather. The temperature can range from 14°C to 25°C (57°F to 77°F), making it an excellent time for outdoor activities and sightseeing. However, it can also get quite crowded during this time.
- Fall (September to November): Fall brings cooler weather to Nantes, with the leaves changing colors, creating a beautiful scenic backdrop. The temperature ranges from 7°C to 17°C (45°F to 63°F), making it a good time to visit the museums and other indoor attractions.
- Winter (December to February): Winter can be cold and damp in Nantes, with an average temperature of 4°C to 9°C (39°F to 48°F). However, the city still has a lot to offer during this time, with several winter festivals and Christmas markets taking place.
Overall, Nantes has a comfortable climate throughout the year, and visitors can plan their trip according to their preferences and interests. It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before your visit and pack accordingly.
Best Time To Visit Nantes
When planning your trip to Nantes, it’s important to consider the best time to visit in terms of weather, crowds, and events. The good news is that Nantes is a year-round destination with something to offer no matter when you go.
Summer is peak season in Nantes, with warm weather and long daylight hours. It’s the perfect time to enjoy the city’s parks and gardens, go on a river cruise, or attend one of the many outdoor festivals and events. However, keep in mind that the streets can get crowded with tourists, and accommodation prices may be higher than other times of the year.
If you prefer to avoid the crowds, consider visiting Nantes in the shoulder season, from March to May or September to November. The weather is still pleasant, and you’ll have fewer people to compete with when visiting the top attractions. Spring is particularly lovely in Nantes, as the city’s cherry blossoms and tulips bloom in abundance.
Winter in Nantes can be cold and damp, but it’s a magical time to visit if you don’t mind the weather. The city’s Christmas market and light displays are among the best in France, and the festive atmosphere is sure to warm your spirits. Just be prepared for shorter daylight hours and bring warm layers to stay comfortable.
Overall, the best time to visit Nantes depends on your personal preferences and interests. Keep in mind that major events like the Nantes Wine Festival and Les Rendez-vous de l’Erdre jazz festival happen in September, and Nantes Digital Week takes place in late September. Regardless of when you go, Nantes promises to enchant you with its history, culture, and artistic spirit.
How To Stay Safe In Nantes
Like any other city, Nantes has its own share of safety concerns that visitors must be aware of. However, with a little bit of caution and some common sense, you can avoid most problems and enjoy a safe and memorable trip. Here are some tips to help you stay safe in Nantes:
- Avoid Carrying Too Much Cash Or Expensive Belongings: While Nantes is a relatively safe city, pickpocketing can happen, especially in crowded tourist areas. Be discreet with your cash and don’t carry expensive gadgets or jewellery with you. If you are carrying expensive items, make sure to use a money belt.
- Be Vigilant In Crowded Places: Be mindful of your surroundings, especially in busy tourist spots like the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany or the Machines de l’ile. Keep an eye out for anyone acting suspiciously, and if you feel uncomfortable, move away.
- Use Reputable Taxi Services: Always use licensed taxis and avoid getting into unmarked cars. Taxis are available in most parts of Nantes, and you can find them easily at the airport or train station.
- Know The Emergency Numbers: In case of any emergency, dial 112 or 17 for the police, or 15 for medical assistance. It’s a good idea to save these numbers on your phone before you start exploring the city.
- Avoid Traveling Alone At Night: As with any city, it’s best to avoid traveling alone at night, especially in less populated areas. Always use well-lit and busy streets and public transportation whenever possible.
By following these simple safety tips, you can ensure that your trip to Nantes is enjoyable, safe, and stress-free. Remember, being aware and prepared is always better than being caught off guard.
Nantes Customs and Etiquette
When traveling to Nantes, it’s important to be aware of the local customs and etiquette to show respect and avoid any misunderstandings. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Greetings: The French generally greet with a handshake or a kiss on both cheeks, depending on the region. In Nantes, two kisses on the cheek are the norm.
- Language: French is the official language, but English is also widely spoken in tourist areas. It’s always polite to learn a few basic French phrases, such as “bonjour” (hello) and “merci” (thank you).
- Dress Code: French style is sophisticated and chic, so dress smartly, especially if you’re planning to dine at a high-end restaurant or attend a cultural event.
- Table Manners: In France, table manners are very important. Wait to be seated, keep your hands visible on the table, and always say “bon appétit” before eating. Don’t eat with your hands, keep your elbows off the table, and never put your bread on the plate.
- Tipping: A service charge is usually included in the bill, but it’s customary to leave a small tip if the service was excellent. A 10% tip is a good rule of thumb.
- Public Behavior: French people value politeness and courtesy, so avoid being loud or disruptive in public places. Smoking is banned in most indoor public spaces, including bars and restaurants.
Overall, just be respectful of local customs and enjoy your time in Nantes!
Other Things To Know About Nantes
Before you embark on your Nantes adventure, there are a few more things you should know about the city. Here are some helpful details to keep in mind:
- Country: Nantes is located in western France, near the Atlantic Ocean. It is the sixth-largest city in France and the largest city in the Pays de la Loire region. It is located south of Paris and west of Lyon.
- Currency: Like the rest of France, Nantes uses the euro as its currency. It’s a good idea to exchange some currency before you arrive, or withdraw cash from an ATM once you’re in the city.
- Language: The official language of Nantes is French, but many locals also speak English. It’s always polite to learn a few key phrases in French, like “bonjour” (hello) and “merci” (thank you).
- Time Zone: Nantes is in the Central European Time (CET) zone, which is one hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+1). During daylight saving time, the city observes Central European Summer Time (CEST), which is two hours ahead of UTC.
By keeping these details in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to enjoy all the charms of Nantes with ease.
Nantes Travel Costs
As with any travel destination, it’s important to budget and plan accordingly. Nantes is no exception, but fortunately, the city offers a variety of options for travelers on all types of budgets. Here are some estimates on what you can expect to spend on your trip to Nantes:
- Accommodation: Accommodation costs in Nantes vary depending on your preferences and budget. For budget travelers, a hostel dorm room can be as little as €15-€25 per night. Mid-range hotel rooms can cost €60-€100 per night, while luxury hotels can run upwards of €150-€200 per night.
- Food And Drinks: Food and drinks can also range in price in Nantes. A simple café lunch can be around €10-€15, while a more formal restaurant meal can range from €20-€50 per person. Of course, street food and markets can be an affordable option for budget travelers. As for drinks, a beer or wine in a bar or restaurant can cost around €5-€7, while a bottle of wine from a shop can be as little as €6-€8.
- Transportation: Public transportation in Nantes is relatively affordable, with a single bus or tram ticket costing €1.70. Day passes and weekly passes are also available for those planning to use public transportation frequently. Taxis are also an option, with rates starting at €2.50 and increasing per kilometer.
- Activities: Nantes offers a variety of activities, ranging from free sights like the Jardin des Plantes and the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany to paid attractions like the Machines de l’Ile and the Nantes Natural History Museum. Entrance fees to paid attractions typically range from €5-€15 per person.
Overall, budget travelers can expect to spend around €50-€70 per day in Nantes, while mid-range travelers can expect to spend €100-€150 per day. Luxury travelers can easily spend €200 or more per day. Remember to factor in the cost of flights and transportation to and from the airport as well. With careful planning, Nantes can be an affordable and enjoyable travel destination for all types of travelers.
Finding Affordable Flights To Nantes
When planning your trip to Nantes, finding affordable flights can be a great way to save money on your travels. Here are some tips to help you find the best deals on flights to Nantes.
- Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates: Being flexible with your travel dates can help you find the best deals on flights to Nantes. Flights on weekdays are often cheaper than on weekends, and flights during off-peak seasons are also usually more affordable.
- Use Flight Comparison Websites: Websites such as Skyscanner and Kayak can help you compare flights from different airlines and find the best deals. You can set alerts to be notified when prices drop and take advantage of sales.
- Book In Advance: Booking your flight to Nantes in advance can also save you money. Flights booked a few months in advance are often cheaper than last-minute bookings.
- Fly From Major Hubs: Flying from major airports in big cities such as Paris, London or Amsterdam may be cheaper than flying directly to Nantes. You can take a domestic or low-cost flight to Nantes from there.
- Check For Discounts: Check for student, senior, or military discounts that may be available when booking your flight to Nantes. Airlines sometimes offer promotions to different groups, so it’s worth checking if you’re eligible.
By following these tips, you can find affordable flights to Nantes and make the most of your budget while experiencing the magic of this beautiful French city.
Backpacking Nantes Suggested Budgets
If you’re on a tight budget, backpacking Nantes can be a great option. With plenty of affordable accommodations and free activities, you can explore this charming city without breaking the bank. Here are some suggested budgets to help you plan your trip:
Low Budget: €25-35 per day
This budget is for travelers who are looking to save money on accommodations and meals. You can stay in a hostel dorm for around €15-20 per night, and eat cheap meals from local markets and bakeries. You can also enjoy some free activities like visiting the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, exploring the Jardin des Plantes, or walking along the banks of the Loire River.
Mid-Range Budget: €50-75 per day
This budget is for travelers who want to stay in private rooms in budget hotels or guesthouses and eat in mid-range restaurants. You can also enjoy some paid activities like visiting the Nantes Cathedral or taking a boat tour on the Erdre River.
Luxury Budget: €100+ per day
This budget is for travelers who want to splurge on luxury accommodations, fine dining, and paid activities. You can stay in a boutique hotel or apartment, eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and take private tours of the city’s top attractions.
No matter what your budget is, backpacking Nantes is a great way to experience this magical city. With a little planning and budgeting, you can make the most of your trip without overspending.
Nantes Money Saving Tips
If you’re traveling on a budget, Nantes can be an affordable destination if you know where to look. Here are some money-saving tips to help you stretch your euros further:
- Use Public Transportation: Nantes has an excellent public transportation system, which includes buses, trams, and a bike-share program. Use a pass or buy a pack of tickets to save money on individual rides.
- Visit Museums And Attractions On Certain Days: Many museums and attractions offer free admission on certain days or at certain times. Check their websites or tourist information centers for details.
- Dine Out At Lunchtime: Many restaurants offer lunch menus that are less expensive than their dinner menus. Plus, you can enjoy the city during the day and avoid the crowds in the evening.
- Shop At Local Markets: Nantes has several open-air markets that sell fresh produce, seafood, and other goods at reasonable prices. You can also find artisanal products and souvenirs.
- Pack A Picnic: Take advantage of the city’s green spaces and scenic locations by packing a picnic lunch or dinner. You can find fresh bread, cheese, and wine at local shops and markets.
- Look For Free Events And Entertainment: Nantes has a vibrant cultural scene, with many free events, concerts, and festivals throughout the year. Check local listings and websites for details.
- Use A Travel Rewards Credit Card: If you have a travel rewards credit card, you can earn points or miles on your purchases and redeem them for flights, hotels, or other travel-related expenses. Just make sure to pay off your balance in full to avoid interest charges.
With these money-saving tips, you can experience all that Nantes has to offer without breaking the bank.
What To Pack For Nantes
When packing for Nantes, it’s important to keep in mind the weather and activities you’ll be participating in. Here are some essential items to pack:
- Comfortable Shoes: With so much to see and do in Nantes, you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking. Make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes.
- Layers: The weather in Nantes can be unpredictable, so bring layers to accommodate for different temperatures. Even in the summer months, it can get chilly in the evenings.
- Umbrella: Rain is common in Nantes, especially during the fall and winter months. Don’t forget to pack an umbrella to stay dry.
- Adapter: If you’re coming from outside of Europe, make sure to bring an adapter for your electronics.
- Daypack: You’ll want to have a small bag to carry essentials with you as you explore the city. A lightweight daypack is perfect for this.
- Swimsuit: If you’re visiting in the summer months, consider bringing a swimsuit to take advantage of the city’s beaches and nearby water parks.
- Camera: With so much beautiful architecture and scenery, you won’t want to miss capturing your memories on camera.
- Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, the sun can still be strong. Make sure to bring sunscreen to protect your skin.
- French Phrasebook: While many people in Nantes speak English, it’s always helpful to know some basic French phrases to communicate with locals.
By packing these essentials, you’ll be prepared for whatever Nantes throws your way!
Can You Drink Tap Water In Nantes?
One of the questions that might come to mind when visiting a new city is whether the tap water is safe to drink. Fortunately, in Nantes, you can drink the tap water without worry as it is perfectly safe and tastes great too. The city’s water supply comes from the Erdre River and the Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu aquifer, which are known for their purity. The water is regularly tested to ensure that it meets the European Union standards for drinking water quality.
Not only is drinking tap water in Nantes safe, but it is also environmentally friendly. By filling up your reusable water bottle with tap water, you are helping to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced in the city. So, when you visit Nantes, bring along your reusable water bottle and fill it up with delicious tap water that is safe to drink. Your wallet and the planet will thank you for it.
Other Things To See And Do In Nantes
Apart from the top 5 things to see and do in Nantes, there are several other activities that can make your trip unforgettable.
- Jardin Des Plantes: Explore the lush greenery of this botanical garden that dates back to 1807. Admire the exotic plants and the vibrant colors of the flower beds. It is the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Les Machines De l’Île: Experience the unique world of mechanical creatures that were inspired by the novels of Jules Verne. Hop on the giant elephant that can carry up to 49 passengers and take a ride around the city. You can also admire the giant tree and the spider that move around in the park.
- Château Des Ducs De Bretagne: Step back in time by visiting this impressive castle that was once the residence of the Dukes of Brittany. Explore the historical exhibitions and admire the stunning architecture of the building.
- Musée d’arts De Nantes: Discover a collection of over 12,000 works of art that span from the medieval period to contemporary art. Marvel at the paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts that are displayed in the museum.
- Le Lieu Unique: Immerse yourself in the creative arts scene by visiting this cultural center that hosts exhibitions, concerts, and performances. Check out the bookstore and café and spend a leisurely afternoon browsing the collections.
Nantes is a city that has something for everyone. Whether you are interested in history, art, or nature, you will find plenty of things to see and do during your visit. Make sure to add these other attractions to your itinerary to make the most of your trip.
The Bottom Line
Nantes is a charming French city that boasts a rich cultural and historical heritage, along with modern amenities and attractions. From visiting the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne to strolling along the banks of the Loire River, there is something for everyone in Nantes. When planning your trip, it’s important to consider the best time to visit, where to stay, and how to get around the city. With plenty of affordable accommodation options and efficient public transportation, you can make the most of your time in Nantes without breaking the bank.
Additionally, it’s crucial to keep safety in mind while traveling. While Nantes is generally a safe city, it’s always wise to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions, especially when exploring new areas. Ultimately, Nantes offers a unique and unforgettable travel experience for those seeking a taste of French culture, history, and hospitality. So pack your bags, book your flight, and get ready to discover the magic of Nantes for yourself!