France has so much to offer. Its culture, history, food and architecture will have a profound impact on any visitor. However, you’d be wrong if you thought that you can experience all of that just in Paris – there are many other wonderful cities to explore, and Nantes should definitely be at the top of your list. This place boasts an exceptional quality of life and combines the best of the modern world with its historical sites which tell a fascinating story. Because of that, one day in Nantes is going to be packed full of activities, no matter what you’re looking for from your vacation. Here’s what to expect!
What’s the best time to visit Nantes, France?
The best time to visit Nantes, when it comes to its weather, at least, is September. The peak tourist season lasts fromJune to August, and this is when you can expect the biggest crowds. Be warned, it can get really hot here during summer – the temperatures have been known to climb to 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 Fahrenheit), although the average high is much lower than that. September sees much fewer tourists but is still fairly warm.
But there are fantastic events to enjoy here, too. The city’s Christmas Market is simply amazing, and Nantes is also known for its La Folle Journee, a festival of classical music that is usually held in early February. Then there’s also Festival des 3 Continents, one of the oldest film festivals in the country, which takes place in November. And this is all just the tip of the iceberg, so make sure you check what’s on when you’re visiting.
A few facts about Nantes
Nantes is a moderately-sized city with approximately 300,000 people in Nantes proper and slightly less than a million people in the metropolitan area. However, it places a strong emphasis on sustainability and ecology, which earned the city the title of the European Green Capital in 2013.
A huge part of the city was built in the second half of the 20th century, and everything was very well thought out, so don’t be surprised by the vast amounts of greenery you see along the roads. Biodiversity is where Nantes truly shines.
The city was founded way back in the Bronze Age and even became the capital of the Namnetes, a Gallic tribe, before becoming a part of the Roman Empire.
Nantes is also the birthplace of the great Jules Verne, and a wonderful museum dedicated to him in the neighborhood in which this exceptional writer lived can be visited, too (more on that in just a moment). Additionally, the city is also considered to be the birthplace of surrealism as a movement.
The vineyards around Nantes are well known for Muscadet, an exceptional white wine that goes splendidly with seafood. You should definitely order a glass when you’re sitting down for lunch, but if you have time, do go ahead and visit the vineyards themselves. It can be quite an experience.
One day in Nantes Itinerary
There is a lot to see during your one day in Nantes, which is why you need a well-planned itinerary – simply, it makes it a lot easier to organize your visit to this wonderful city and see all the most important sights. Of course, there will also be opportunities to sit back and soak everything in as you’ll soon see. Let’s get going!
TIP: Get Nantes City Card Pass to get full access to the best sites and attractions.
Start with a nice breakfast
You don’t have to rush anywhere while you’re here, so start your day with a nice breakfast to prepare for the walks ahead. And, since you’re in France, a nice good croissant is the perfect thing to enjoy. La Petite Boulangerie is just the place for that, but you can also check out L’autre Boulangerie for a great baguette. In any case, there are many places to choose from if you want a delicious French breakfast.
Visit the botanical garden
Once you’re done with your breakfast, you can continue your day in Nantes in a leisurely tone. Jardin des Plantes is the city’s botanical garden, and it’s really worth visiting because you will be strolling through a huge green area with thousands of different types of plants.
Plus, there are many bushes that have been trimmed to form various interesting and entertaining shapes. There’s even a cafe on the premises if you want to sit down and enjoy.
Explore what Musée d’Arts has to offer
Musée d’Arts de Nantes or Nantes Art Museum is right next to the botanical garden and the logical next step in this one-day itinerary. Not only was this place founded by Napoleon himself in 1801, but it was also recently renovated, so you will be able to enjoy a first-class experience.
Almost 1000 pieces of art are kept here, with European paintings being the most prominent. You can enjoy some true masterpieces here, including works by Tintoret and Rubens, among others. In addition, there is a wonderful collection of contemporary art to explore here, too. In short, a must-visit.
Check out the cathedral
Right next to the museum is the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, a Gothic masterpiece that took more than 450 years to build! Unfortunately, this incredible edifice was seriously damaged in the fire that engulfed it in 2020, so what you see may be limited due to the restoration works that should last at least three years. Nevertheless, it is an architectural masterpiece and the place where the Edict of Nantes, one of the first documents guaranteeing religious freedoms, was signed by Henry IV.
Enter the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
Facing the cathedral is the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, one of Nantes’ symbols and something we simply must mention in this itinerary.
Seven imposing towers and a deep moat made this place pretty much impregnable, but as much as the castle is impressive from the outside, it is even more beautiful on the inside with many sculptures. The castle is home to Nantes’ Museum of History, and your one day in the city simply would not be complete without visiting this place.
Enjoy Quartier Bouffay
Quartier Bouffay, or the Bouffay district, is the very heart of Nantes and it encompasses the aforementioned castle and the cathedral, so you won’t have to travel anywhere far to enjoy it. This is the oldest part of the city, and you can enjoy numerous shops, cafes and restaurants as you walk the meandering cobbled streets and admire the beautiful houses around here.
Creperi Au Vieux Quimper serve incredible pancakes, Terazze di Bouffay is perfect for Italian food, and La Cabane is perfect for a nice French dinner should you find yourself here in the evening. But there are many other great choices around, so don’t be afraid to look around a bit on your own.
Visit the Jules Verne Museum
Once you’re done with everything in the Bouffay quarter, you should move on to the next attraction. The Jules Verne Museum is a wonderful place to visit, no matter if you’re a fan of the author or not. Verne actually grew up in this part of town, a fact that gives the museum so much depth.
In this 19th-century building, you will find several rooms, each dedicated to a particular aspect of the writer’s life, as well as numerous manuscripts, descriptions that were far ahead of his time, and objects that the author used on a regular basis. Another must-see during your one day in Nantes.
Prepare to be amazed by some spectacular machines
Machines on the Isle of Nante are one of the city’s most famous attractions, so they need to have a place in this itinerary, too. A huge steel elephant, a terrifying spider and a large mechanical ant are just some of the incredible things you can see here.
This place will delight both adults and children, and a few years ago, it was recognized as one of the most original amusement parks in the world. A fitting title for one of the most famous places in the birthplace of surrealism.
See what you can enjoy at night
Nantes is a great place if you want to enjoy a drink in the evening with your friends (or alone, that has its charm, too), and there are a few very interesting destinations you can visit for that. For example, you can climb the Tour Bretagne, a 32-floor office building with a bar on top from which you can enjoy an incredible view of the whole city. Le Graslin de Folie will introduce you to the best local beers, and Le Zygo is popular among students for its great music. Enjoy!
Where to stay in Nantes?
Okko Hotels Nantes Chateau
15 bis rue de Strasbourg, Centre Ville, 44000 Nantes
If you want to enjoy a modern, elegant and classy hotel in Nantes’ city center, Okko Hotels Nantes Chateau is a perfect choice. Not only will you be located right in the city’s heart, but you will also enjoy quite a luxurious interior and splendid rooms. The latter are also very quiet despite the busy location of the building, so you’ll always get a good night’s sleep here. The food is nothing short of amazing, plus you will be able to enjoy the club lounge area and pets are allowed. What more could you want?
Maisons du Monde Hotel & Suites
2 Bis Rue Santeuil, Centre Ville, 44000 Nantes
Maisons du Monde Hotel & Suites is another centrally located establishment that’s bound to offer an amazing stay. The rooms are quite beautiful and elegant, and they really make a person feel good while staying in them. It should also be mentioned that the hotel can be easily reached with public transport and that you will be quite close here to some of Nantes’ main attractions. Free international newspapers are also a nice touch, and pets are allowed, too. High class on so many levels.
Escale Oceania Nantes
Aéroport Nantes Atlantique, 44340 Bouguenais
Should you be on the lookout for a hotel that is near to (or in) Nantes’ airport, Escale Oceania Nantes is a place you simply must consider. Apart from having a beautiful modern interior, the place also boasts an outdoor pool and even a tennis court! Then there’s also a rooftop terrace, more than enough private parking and loads of great food for breakfast. Last but not least, the hotel is very quiet, so you can be sure no plane will disturb your sleep.
Hotel Saint Yves
154 Rue Du General Buat, 44000 Nantes
For an affordable but comfortable stay, check out Hotel Saint Yves. This adorable little place is fairly close to the city center and some of the most important sights in the city, plus it also offers comfortable rooms, delicious breakfast and even a quaint little garden where you can stop and have some time to yourself. You can see that a lot of care goes into this hotel, so if you’re looking for an affordable place, book a room here. This hotel really has a soul.
Day trips from Nantes
If you’re staying more than just one day in Nantes, you should know that the city’s geographical position offers plenty of incredible destinations for day trips. Oh yes, you can really explore France nicely from here, and the following few places are always a great destination for such a journey if you’re planning to travel away from Nantes for a day.
If there’s even the slightest chance to make the trip, visiting Paris while in France is pretty much obligatory. But don’t take a car for this day trip – it takes too long. Instead, sit on the TGV train and you’ll be there in less than two and a half hours, ready to spend one day in Paris, a city that really needs no introduction.
If you want to explore and enjoy France, a day trip from Nantes to Angers is just the thing. This is a university town that has a lot of historical sights you can explore and a very impressive Chateau, so there’s plenty to enjoy. But since this is a university town, you can also just chill and enjoy the easy-going vibe in one of the local cafes.
A day trip to Trentemoult will be like entering a completely different world. This exceptionally charming fishing village with its colorful houses and a fairly large artistic community will enchant you as soon as you step foot in it. Sit on a terrace by the river and just enjoy the fact that you’re here and soak everything in. You’ll come back home completely reinvigorated.
An exceptionally picturesque town less than an hour and a half from Nantes, Vannes boasts a lot of history and art, but its most amazing feature are the houses that date back to the 15th century and look absolutely amazing seeing how their fronts have a lot of wood encompassed in them. A wonderful place to visit, full of charm. You’ll love walking its street!
Extra tips for visiting Nantes
- While you’re walking the city streets, look for a green line on the pavement. This will take you to the most important sights in Nantes. You really can’t get lost around here.
- If you’re looking to make a day trip from Nantes, always check the schedule of TGV trains. These high-speed trains will help you reach your destination faster and allow you to choose between more places. Faster and easier than driving.
- The weather can change quickly around here. If you’re planning a whole day of sightseeing, make sure you’re well prepared for that (bringing an umbrella along is always a good idea).
- Pass Nantes is a visitor card that can save you quite a lot of money while you’re here. You can find it in the local tourist centers, so maybe pick one up, especially if you’re planning to visit museums, restaurants, etc. Perfect for one day in Nantes.
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.