24 hours in Nantes
Monuments, boutiques, gourmet stops and unusual museums all await you. Stroll through the City of the Ducs de Bretagne and discover unmissable points of interest or hidden haunts!
9.45 am: Go back in time at the Château des Ducs de Bretagne
As the French saying goes, "à tout seigneur, tout honneur", or "pay honour to whom honour is due". Your Nantes tour begins with the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, the jewel in the city's architectural crown. Past the granite ramparts, the Gothic finery of the 15th-century ducal residence are revealed, magnified by the white tuffeau rock. Admission is free, so you can explore the main and smaller courtyards at your own pace. More curious visitors will also explore the on-site museum (admission €5-8), which explains the history of Nantes through 32 beautifully laid-out rooms. At the end of the visit, pop into the neighbouring Tourist Office to get a map of the city or other information!
Château des Ducs de Bretagne, 4, place Marc Elder - Office de Tourisme, 9, rue des États
11 am: Shopping in the Bouffay district
It really is full to bursting with boutiques, bars and restaurants of all kind here! With the atmosphere of a quiet medieval district, Bouffay is a bustling place, ideal for a little shopping trip among the cobblestones and the timber-framed houses. If you want to bring back something other than a snow globe, the Inspirations shop is full of little souvenirs such as these cushions, aprons or mugs with the image of Nantes create by République Vintage, or the jewellery that Nathalie, the shop's founder, makes with old beads.
Inspirations, 16, rue de la Paix
12 pm: Explore the Pommeraye passageway
Take rue de la Barillerie, cross the Cours des 50 Otages and keep going straight to discover one of the loveliest passageways in Europe. The large glass roofs sculpt the light that flickers across the statues, decorations, walkways and windows of the shops. Long restoration work has restore the splendour of forgotten decorations. Continue a little further to discover the majestic place Graslin, with its beige stone and theatre with Corinthian columns.
Passage Pommeraye, rue de la Fosse
12.35 pm: Taste a reworked Petit Beurre!
The den of deliciousness is just a little higher up. This is where Vincent Guerlais, often called the city's best pâtissier, creates true marvels. One of these is the famous Lu Nantais biscuit, which has been reworked with a creamy Piedmont hazelnut centre and Brittany shortbread chunks, coated in dark or white caramel chocolate. Perfect to whet your appetite before the delight that follows...
Vincent Guerlais, 11, rue Franklin
1.10 pm: Taste exceptional crêpes
Before taking over the helm at Ker Breizh, Jean-Baptiste worked in some of Brittany's best crêperies. The result is a place that you absolutely have to book in order to taste his galettes, made with flour from a small mill in Finistère which also supplies Pierre Hermé, the illustrious Parisian pâtissier. Alongside his wonderful "complètes" are a few unusual creations, such as this crêpe of the day that combines sausage with Châteaugiron five-pepper, 8-month-old Comté and mustard sauce. A special mention goes to the sweet section and its chocolate version, served with gently buttery sauce. And as the cherry on this buckwheat cake, one of the city's finest private mansions is just opposite! Galette, sweet crêpe and bowl of cider menu: €9 at lunch, from Tuesday to Saturday.
Ker Breizh, 11, rue de l’Héronnière
2 pm: Be amazed at the Musée de l'Imprimerie
This is certainly not one of the best known museums in Nantes, but it is not one of the least interesting either! Among the smell of ink and lead, it retraces the glorious history of printing before the digital took over. Amazingly, many of these antique machines still work, and there as demonstrations run by true devotees. Also discover the site's monumental nine-tonne press and the world's smallest book...
Musée de l’Imprimerie, 24, quai de la Fosse
3.15 pm: Meditate at the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery
Did you know that in the 18th century, Nantes was becoming the France's main port for slave trading? Because a city that moves forward is one that knows how to face up to its past, an artistic and urban project has returned to this dark period. 2,000 glass plates line the ground on the banks of the Loire, most of which represent the ships involved in the trade. At the passerelle Victor-Schoelcher, an underground passage wedged under the support pillars almost gives the impression of being inside the hull of a ship, and displays moving texts from continents affected by slave trafficking.
Mémorial de l’abolition de l’esclavage, quai de la Fosse et passerelle Victor-Schoelcher
4 pm: Tame the Machines de l'Île
A caterpillar, an ant, a giant spider... On the Île de Nantes, curious creatures created by the La Machine company frolic about. The leader of this animal tribe is a 12-metre-high elephant that moves around while spurting out water with amazing realism. The public can climb onto its back to reach the Carrousel des Mondes Marins (Sea World Carousel), a monumental fairground ride where you can sit astride a giant crab, a deep-sea angler fish or a giant squid with reverse thrust. Truly enchanting.
Les Machines de l’Ile, Parc des Chantiers, boulevard Léon Bureau
6 pm: Explore a little fishing village
Head to the Gare Maritime de Nantes to board the Navibus for a six-minute ride to the small village of Trentemoult. A change of scene is guaranteed in this little corner of paradise that was once populated by fishermen, who coated the walls of their housed with the remainders of the paint originally meant for the hulls of ships. The tradition endures and, with the palm trees that grow on the street corners, it sometimes feels like you're in La Havana. At the aperitif hour, head for the terrace of La Guinguette, a charming bar and restaurant tucked beside the water.
Gare Maritime, quai Ernest Renaud
8.10 pm: Treat yourself in an (almost) secret place
Back on terra firma, two tram stops are enough to reach the Tour Bretagne district. This is where By Sainbioz, one of the city's top gourmet addresses, is hiding. Besides its delicate little dishes, the place turns out super-luxe burgers made with artisan bread, organic local vegetables and cheese from the prestigious Beillevaire dairy. Taste the formidable Big Franchouillard, which combines juicy steak, herby potato rosti, Reblochon, caramelised onions and secret sauce... Burger and a choice of side dish: €10.50 to €17.50.
By Sainbioz, 34, rue Léon Jamin
10.15: Have a drink in a high-rise bar
One euro. That's what is costs to climb to the city's highest point, at 144 metres above the ground. Welcome to the 32nd floor of the Tour Bretagne (sort of Nantes' answer to the Montparnasse tower in Paris), home to Le Nid, a panoramic high-rise bar. The place boasts amazing décor, with egg-shaped chairs or this giant bird slouching on the floor, whose body serves as a bar, among other things. A perfect way to end this day in Nantes, enjoying the incredible view over the city!
Le Nid, Tour Bretagne, place de Bretagne
It's impossible to sum up Nantes in this carefully-chosen yet non-exhaustive selection! If you have a bit more time, don't hesitate to visit the Île de Versailles and its Japanese garden, the Musée Jules Verne dedicated to the Nantes-born writer, the Place Royale and its monumental fountain, the Île Feydeau and its titled buildings, the Chantenay district with its village atmosphere, the Jardin des Plantes and its exotic species, and more. Also discover the Miroir d'Eau and even La Cigale, a brasserie with breathtaking Art Nouveau décor classified a historical monument. Finally, don't miss the Collection Estuaire de l'Île de Nantes, a real open-air museum that scatters the banks of the Loire with works by artists, architects and designers.
And if you want to explore further still, discover 10 secret places in Nantes, some of which even the locals don't know about!