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Nantes Holidays

A city that thrives on reinvention

Nantes holidays reveal a city that’s characterised by change. Formerly considered a part of Brittany, the stylish French town has, since World War II, been rebranded as capital of the Loire Valley. Once an industrial and ship-building centre, Nantes now revels in its young student population and its considerable artistic and cultural muscle. Writer Jules Verne was born here, and he absorbed the old sailors’ yarns he heard down the docks into his bestselling works of fiction.

Reinvention is in the water here. Le Lieu Unique – a hub of cultural activity comprising bars, a music venue and even an industrial-chic hammam spa in the basement – is housed in an upcycled former biscuit factory. Even the city’s best food market – Marché de Talensac – trades from the site of a former slaughterhouse. The crown jewel of all that reinvention is the nigh-on magical Les Machines de l’île park – a vast steampunk theme-park-slash bestiary, with mechanical spiders the size of cars and colossal ants, plus a unique opportunity to hitch a 30-minute ride on a four-storey steel elephant – all on the site of an abandoned shipyard. Thanks to its uncanny instinct for metamorphosis, we’re sure that holidays to Nantes will result in you going home a very different person.

All resorts in Nantes

Three tips for a top trip

Take the tram

The world's first public transport system opened in Nantes in 1826. These days, three modern tramlines criss-cross town, covering all the main sights between them.

Shop like a local

Mooching aimlessly along the main upscale boutique street of Rue Crébillon is such a local institution that locals have invented a verb for it – ‘crébilloner’ – meaning ‘to window shop’.

Get in line

A handy 12-kilometre green line snakes along the pavements, guiding you to the major artworks and landmarks. Top tip – walk it in the opposite direction to dodge the crowds.

Best attractions to see in Nantes

View from Le Nid

Drink in 360-degree views of the city from this plush café-cum-bonkers-art-space on the 32nd floor of Nantes’ most stylish skyscraper, the Tour Bretagne.

Ile de Nantes’ menagerie

This brilliant world of mechanical creatures is spellbinding. The vast elephant blasts water from its trunk, delighting kids, and there are rides for the family to enjoy.

The lights at the chateau

Tackle the 500-metre path to the ramparts of the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne for fairytale views – even better when illuminated after the sun sets.

Your Nantes questions, answered

July averages a balmy 18.5°C. Winters aren’t especially cold by European standards – it almost never freezes – but pack a brolly because there’s a good chance of rain.
There are outstanding bars and restaurants in Bouffay in the pedestrianised ancient heart of Nantes. Look upwards to see the area’s striking 15th-century half-timbered buildings.
The best time to visit Nantes is during the summer. The weather is warm, with average temperatures reaching 24℃ in the day, before dropping to an average of 14℃ at night. However, rainfall during the summer isn't uncommon, so remember to pack suitably. If you don’t mind slightly cooler weather to avoid the crowds, the late spring and early autumn months are also a good time to go.
For a solid, all-weather option, indoor Passage Pommeraye is a charming old wedding cake of a shopping arcade, all quaint boutiques bristling with elegant, Instagrammable details.
If you want to take in the city’s rich culture, you'll enjoy the many museums and galleries. Food lovers are spoilt for choice with the number of Michelin-starred restaurants. If you fancy a night out, you are in luck as the city has plenty of lively bars and nightclubs. Outside the city, there are family-friendly beaches to enjoy, many of which offer watersports. The region also has several hiking trails, ideal if you prefer to get away from it all.
Nantes is well known for its amusement park, The Machines of the Isle, and its large mechanical animals, based on the Island of Nantes in the middle of the Loire River. Hangar a Bananes, a former banana warehouse, is a lively hub of creativity and culture that draws in crowds from across the country. Biscuits are very popular in Nantes too, with rigolettes and petit beurre both created in the city. Nantes is also famous for its white wines, which originate from the Muscadet area of the Loire Valley region.
The city of Nantes offers a lively nightlife scene. The historic area of Quartier Bouffay comes alive in the evening with crowds filling its many bars and restaurants. Hangar a Bananes has several trendy bars, cafes and galleries, many of which stay open late into the night. Famous with Nantes's young university crowd, Le Lieu Unique is the city’s cultural hotspot, which hosts regular exhibitions alongside its busy bar and restaurant.
Nantes is a great holiday destination for families. The Machines of the Isle makes a great day out that kids will love. Perfect for exploring, Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne is a 15th-century castle with a variety of fun exhibitions and activities. The majority of restaurants also cater to families during the day and early evening, with many offering children’s menus and high-chairs. Nantes also has some family-friendly beaches, including Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, which is ideal for watersports. The resort of Pornic is the perfect spot for you to enjoy an ice cream beside the sea.
Car hire in Nantes often isn’t necessary as there is a good public transport network with buses and trams running across the city. There are also bike hire options if you want to explore at your own pace. Shuttle boats also offer you a unique way to travel the Loire River. The city is also well connected to the Navette Aeroport, with regular buses and trams and a taxi rank. However, if you're planning to explore the region's many vineyards and beaches, hiring a car is recommended.