back at it again with a travel post! (I know it’s been a while shh)
As per usual, we’re gonna divide it up thematically so you can read/ignore sections as you please!
(for the record, nantes isn’t really a tourist hotspot so you’ll probably only find yourself here if you’re in france for an extended period of time and are needing random destinations for weekend getaways. with that being said, i still had a really fun time so here’s a lil guide anyways!)
museums (if you want history + culture)
first up, the muséum d’histoire naturelle! don’t be fooled, when you first walk in, all you’ll see is a room filled with rocks and other geological samples but if you continue meandering your way through, they have a vivarium!! it’s a reptile room!! with live snakes!! they were actually adorable napping amongst the foliage in their tanks. the museum also houses an enormous collection of taxidermied birds as well as a rat king??! (kinda gross but kinda cool)
next, we have the château des ducs de bretagne. if you’re looking for a whistlestop tour through the history of nantes, this is where you’ll find it! there are artefacts related to the castle, the ports, slavery, and of course, the biscuit industry, so by the time you leave, you’ll have gotten a real feel of the city.
the castle grounds are also worth looking around and i can imagine it’d be lovely to sit by the moat in the summer months.
now to the mémorial de l’abolition de l’esclavage. although not exactly a museum, i’d highly recommend a visit for the historical and cultural value. on the surface of the quay, there are plaques with the names of different slave ships which left the port of nantes (the sheer number of them will astound you). descending into the underground passage, you’ll be confronted with the impact of the atlantic slave trade from the 15th-19th century as well as information on human trafficking, an issue which still persists today. there’s also a timeline of abolitions from the 18th to the 20th century as well as a wall of glass panels which carry texts relating to slavery, whether they be testimonies, songs, or excerpts from famous speeches.
the most famous attraction in nantes is arguably les Machines de l’île. imagine the hypothetical brainchild of jules verne and leonardo da vinci and that’s the world in which you’ll find yourself. it’s a fantastical land filled with mechanical animals and insects and the machinists host demonstrations throughout the day. there are display boards dotted around which show early artistic sketches and explain the science behind what you see. you can also walk along the belvederes and peek at the technicians working on new creations! in addition to the gallery of machines, you can buy tickets to ride the giant mechanical elephant which roams the shipyard or for the multilevel carousel of marine creatures out on the docks.
their current project is building “the city in the sky” which will consist of a giant tree suspended 30 metres in the air. yep, you heard me. there will be 22 branches that the public can visit and there will be 2 giant herons which will soar up to 40 metres into the air. this floating island will house a multitude of mechanical animals as well as beautiful hanging gardens. (for those of you who have read “the edge chronicles”, doesn’t this remind you of “the edge”?) the projected unveiling date is 2022 and if they really manage to pull this off, you better believe i’ll be visiting nantes again!
If you’re into art, the Musée d’arts de nantes is an absolute treasure trove! it has a vast permanent collection which ranges from 13th century to contemporary art with standout pieces by Monet and Kandinsky but when we were there, the temporary exhibitions really stole the show. one was entitled “the waves” by thierry kuntzel and was a video projection of waves breaking along the seashore. whenever the spectator approached, the film would slow down and ultimately stop. likewise, if you moved away, the film would speed up again.
my favourite exhibition, however, was one called “why not hand over a “shelter” to hermit crabs?” by aki inomata in which she 3D-printed homes for the crabs. each shell is a representation of a different city in the world so every time a crab chooses a shelter, they get to move cities! how cute!!
outdoors (if you want sun + greenery)
try and catch the Cours Cambronne at golden hour, you won’t regret it!
we didn’t spend much time in the Jardin des plantes as there wasn’t much in bloom but i can imagine it would be beautiful in spring or summer.
Le Jardin Japonais de l’Île de Versailles is a beautiful little zen garden with stepping stones and cute rock features. there’s a museum as well but unfortunately it was closed when we went.
monuments + buildings (if you want a quick insta op)
la tour lu is one of the most iconic monuments in nantes as it’s the location of the old LU biscuit factory. nowadays, it houses the lieu unique, which is a contemporary arts and music venue. we didn’t have time to stop in but if your schedule’s a bit more relaxed, i’d definitely recommend a visit.
it’s impossible not to come across the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes and i’m sure we ended up passing it two or three times on our trip. it’s worth popping in if you have the time- i mean, who doesn’t love a good european church?
honestly, the passage pommeraye looks much the same as any other arcade shopping centre (including the one in norwich, my hometown) but it’s still gorgeous when the light hits just right. we didn’t check out any of the shops but they seemed like a mix of fairly standard high street stores and expensive independent boutiques. (i did spy a le creuset in there though!)
eat + drink (if you want crepes + non-french food)
the crepes at Crêperie Krampouezh Naoned were delicious and very reasonably priced but this very awkward interaction happened.
Sale et Pepe, although admittedly not very french, had delicious food and great service. i’d honestly recommend any of the food on their menu as well as their mystery cocktail. they sat us right next to the bar which made for banterous interactions all night lmao
Crêperie heb ken was listed on almost every travel guide as a top brunch/ lunch spot and deservedly so! we had galettes (which were incredible) and got chocolate brownies afterwards too. i’m pretty certain the crepes would have been just as good for those of you with a sweet tooth. be warned though, the wait time’s quite hefty at the weekend and there’s no waiting area so you get relegated to the doorway…
Brady’s was an irish pub that did exactly what it said on the tin. once again, not very french but the portions were humongous and the vibes were good! we actually wanted to go the night before but it was rammed because of a match.
fun side note: we met a bunch of guys from limerick who said and i quote: “men from limerick are strong like oxen and hung like horses” (that’s the kind of quality company you can expect there)
Roadside was a quick lunch stop halfway through our visit to the art museum. it was essentially greasy diner food with hot dogs and french fries so what’s not to love?
i’m cheating a bit with le nid because we didn’t actually have any drinks here but the views were incredible!! we saw the nightscape and even though it was absolutely freezing on the viewing deck, the city looked magical.
(p.s. if you’re wondering what the choses gênantes are…
day 1: 1 racist comment, 7 street heckles
day 2: 1 racist heckle
day 3: 1 creepy heckle, 1 racist heckle)
p.p.s. here’s an xtra photo dump
p.p.p.s click on this pic if you wanna see some fun outtakes