3 Days in Nantes: Itinerary with Top 20 Things to Do

3 Days in Nantes with Top Things to Do

Labeled “city and country of art and history”, Nantes, in Loire Atlantique, has something to seduce you during a weekend getaway or a little more!

To visit Nantes in 1, 2 or 3 days is to discover its historical monuments, its beautiful panoramas, its many parks, as well as the famous Machines de l’île.

No time to get bored with all its places of interest! Another advantage of the city is that it is very easy to visit Nantes on foot, and this is very much appreciated.

In our guide, you will discover everything you need to see and do in Nantes, plus our advice on accommodationitineraries for visits and our tips for making the most of your stay.

So, what to do in Nantes? 

Nantes Itinerary: The essentials

1. The Voyage to Nantes and the Green Line

Before listing the must-see places to visit in Nantes, we’ll tell you about an original project that takes place every summer in Nantes (from July 1 to the end of August).

Entitled “Le Voyage à Nantes”, this cultural event allows you to discover the remarkable elements of the heritage, the historic buildings and squares and numerous installations of temporary works of art.

For that, nothing could be simpler, you just have to follow the green line drawn on the ground which runs through the city of Nantes. A good way to discover the majority of places of interest to see, which we have listed below.

Even if the artists’ installations are temporary, the green line is an excellent route to visit Nantes on foot or by bike all year round!

You will find the itinerary of the course as well as the works highlighted on the official website of Voyage à Nantes

Tips for your Nantes itinerary:

On foot, you may not have time to do everything in one day.

We therefore advise you to cycle the green line if you have little time or if you want to see everything in the day. The route is fully adapted to this mode of transport.

Nantes itinerary 3 Days

2. The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany

The castle of the Dukes of Brittany is the key monument to do in Nantes. Located in the historic heart of the city, this fortress has a 15th century rampart and several buildings built from the 14th to the 18th century.

Classified as a historical monument since 1862, the buildings have served in turn as a ducal residence, the seat of the governor or barracks and even a bunker during the German occupation, during the Second World War.

Became property of the city of Nantes in 1915, the castle, after fifteen years of restoration, is today a must in the city.

You can visit the castle and its various rooms.

It also houses the Nantes History Museum, which paints a portrait of the city from the origins of the city to our time, with nearly 1,150 collectibles. Every year, many temporary exhibitions are also presented there.

Do not miss the 500-meter circuit at the top of the ramparts which will allow you to admire the castle from every angle but also the city of Nantes. To be seen at night thanks to the magnificent nocturnal lighting.

All the information on the official website of the castle of the Dukes of Brittany.

Tips for your Nantes itinerary:

To visit the castle of the Dukes of Brittany and most of the other tourist sites and museums in Nantes, I advise you buy the Nantes City Pass.

This will save you some money and time. Free access to public transport is even included!

To give you an idea, here are some of the free visits included in this pass to visit Nantes:

  • The castle of the Dukes of Brittany
  • The machines of the island
  • The art museum
  • The Jules Verne Museum
  • The natural history museum
  • Clisson Castle
  • A visit by little train
  • A cruise on the Erdre.

To buy it, you just have to click here.

Also take advantage of your visit to the castle to get a map of the city from the Nantes tourist office located at 9 rue des Etats.

Nantes itinerary 3 Days
Visit the castle of the Dukes of Brittany – Stay in Nantes

3. Lu Tower

Just opposite the castle of the Dukes of Brittany is the Lu tower, another must-see in Nantes. As its name suggests, it was part of the old manufacturing factory of the famous Nantes cupcakes.

Originally, the factory consisted of 2 towers and a building, but they were badly damaged during the Second World War. Only one of them could be restored.

The tower is truly photogenic with its blue and gold colors and its dome pierced with windows.

Inside, on the ground floor, you will find a small room retracing the history of the Lu factory but the visit is especially worth it if you climb to the top of the tower to admire the view of the whole city. Nantes thanks to the Gyrorama, a strange machine worthy of an invention by Jules Verne. A must see during your stay in Nantes.

Attached to the Lu tower, in the former manufacturing plant, there is also an atypical art center which offers several exhibitions, a performance hall hosting dance and theater performances, a trendy bar, a restaurant and a bookstore..

All called Lieu Unique (LU for those who have not made the connection).

Nantes itinerary 2 Days
Visit Nantes and the LU tower

4. Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul Cathedral in Nantes

Another historic monument in Nantes: the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul.

The construction of the cathedral spanned 500 years. Roughly equivalent in size to that of Notre-Dame-de-Paris, its white stone facade is surrounded by 2 massive towers, at the top of which are terraces overlooking the city.

To see inside:

  • The tomb of François II, last Duke of Brittany
  • The crypts  : a Romanesque crypt housing the treasures of the cathedral and the other an exhibition tracing its history
  • The great organ.

It is also from Place Saint-Pierre that you can leave for a tour of Nantes by little train. The circuit passes through the historic center, by the town hall, the place Royale, the place Graslin and goes to the quai de la Loire, on the island of Nantes and ends with the castle of the Dukes of Brittany.

If you want to take the little train to visit Nantes, it’s also free with the Nantes City Pass.

Tips for your Nantes itinerary:

To discover the main attractions of Nantes, you can also opt for a guided Segway tour.

You will have the choice between a one-hour or two-hour tour that begins with the Place Royale and passes in particular in front of the castle and the cathedral.

Nantes itinerary 2 Days
Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul cathedral in Nantes

5. The Nantes Art Museum

Right on the promenade axis between the Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul cathedral and the Jardin des Plantes, you will pass in front of the Nantes art museum, sometimes also called the Nantes fine arts museum.

Closed for 6 years for renovation, the museum has just reopened its doors to the public, so why not take the opportunity to discover the brand new facilities during your visit to Nantes.

This museum houses a collection of works ranging from ancient to contemporary art presented in several forms , whether paintings , videos , photographs or artistic installations.

Visit included with the Nantes City Pass (on sale here!).

For information on timetables, you can find everything on the official website of the museum.

Nantes itinerary
The Nantes art museum

6. The Botanical Garden of Nantes

Located in the heart of Nantes, a few hundred meters from the castle of the Dukes of Brittany and the cathedral, you will find the Jardin des Plantes de Nantes.

On nearly 7 hectares of greenery, this huge botanical garden, which is one of the 4 largest in France, will allow you to enjoy a beautiful walk admiring the some 50,000 flowers planted each season or browsing the 800 square meters of tight.

Each year, on the occasion of the Voyage de Nantes, you can also admire some strange giant installations made of shrubs or wood.

The ideal place to walk in Nantes to stroll along the alleys, and enjoy a bit of freshness thanks to the fountains.

Nantes 2 Days itinerary
The botanical garden of Nantes, the perfect place to take a little sleep!

7. The Garden on the Island of Versailles

Since we are in the parks and gardens to see in Nantes, you can then go to the island of Versailles to continue the walk on the theme of greenery and nature.

Formerly occupied by tanners and carpenters, this artificial island of 1.7 hectares has been transformed into a Japanese garden.

The ring roads, waterfalls and vegetation recreate the Zen atmosphere typical of Japanese landscapes.

In the heart of the island, you will even discover a traditional tea house, the Erdre house, which serves as a venue for exhibitions on the fauna and flora that inhabit the river.

Nantes 3 Days itinerary
What to do in Nantes – The Japanese garden on the island of Versailles

8. The Banks of the Erdre

From the island of Versailles, you can also take the opportunity to take a walk, both on foot and by bike, all along the banks of the Erdre, which are very well laid out.

Thanks to the many parks, mansions and castles that border it, the Erdre was nicknamed by François 1er , the most beautiful river in France. Indeed, you will be able to see several vast residences having belonged to rich shipowners or traders with their large gardens which surround them.

See also :

  • Chantrerie Park
  • The Beaujoire floral park.

Continue the walk to the port of Sucé sur Erdre where the river forms a pretty body of water.

Tips for your Nantes itinerary:

To discover the Erdre on the water side, you can also rent canoes, small electric boats without a license or opt for a romantic cruise.

The Nantes City Pass allows you to benefit from a free cruise on the Erdre or the Loire, to choose between several different companies and circuits: the Bateaux Nantais, the Toue de Nantes or the Bateau Ouch. 

Nantes 3-Day itinerary
Take a walk in Nantes – Erdre and view of the Tour Bretagne

9. Bretagne Tower – Closed for works

UPDATE – The Bretagne tower has been closed for several years for works.

From the outside, this tower housing offices does not present anything extraordinary, but take its elevator to the 32nd floor and you will discover a magnificent 360 degree panorama over the whole city of Nantes.

And all this for a symbolic 1€, it’s rare enough to be underlined.

Don’t forget to discover “Le Nid” an atypical bar perched at the top of the Bretagne tower, with a giant stork and bean bags in the shape of eggs! The perfect opportunity to have a drink in an original atmosphere.

Tips for your Nantes itinerary:

Go up to the Bretagne tower for the sunset, the view is splendid and you can take the opportunity to have an aperitif at the Nid and taste good platters of charcuterie and cheese!

Nantes 3-Day itinerary
The nest, at the top of the Brittany tower

10. The Bouffay District

Speaking of good food, it is in the Bouffay district that you will find a multitude of bars and restaurants of all styles. This very lively district is a popular place for outings and shopping.

Former historic heart of the city, it is still considered the soul of Nantes. Mainly pedestrian, it is also in the Bouffay district that you can see half-timbered houses and the remains of buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Don’t miss: the Apothecary’s house, a 3-storey building with sculptures and statuettes on the facade. Inside is a restaurant.

In the neighborhood, take a walk through the Place du Bouffay. Formerly the place of public executions, it now houses a small covered market. All around, you can have a drink at one of the many café terraces.

The Bouffay district is one of the best places to go out at night in Nantes!

Nantes itinerary
The Bouffay district, the ideal place to eat, have a drink and go out at night in Nantes!

11. Kervegan Street

It is also during your visit to Nantes that you will be able to see one of the most beautiful European ensembles of 18th century architecture .

Rue Kervegan is considered one of the most characteristic streets of the city with its buildings classified as historical monuments.

Along with the Bouffay district, it is part of the gastronomic center of Nantes and you will therefore find everything you need to eat there.

12. Passage Pommeray

Passage Pommeray is an unmissable place in Nantes. Built to allow passage between Place Royale and Place Graslin, this shopping arcade was built according to the model of the great Parisian galleries.

The passage is simply magnificent with its huge glass roof and its monumental staircase which connects the 3 levels of the gallery. All around, on the balconies of the floors, are statues and sculptures representing the geniuses of the arts and sciences.

Do not hesitate to admire it, the place is very photogenic thanks to its luminosity. And if you have time, you can of course take the opportunity to do some shopping in the mall.

Nantes itinerary
Passage Pommeray

13. The Machines of the Isle of Nantes

During your stay, you can enjoy a unique and original activity in Nantes that will delight young and old alike. For this, go to the island of Nantes to discover its machines. This is the must-do attraction in Nantes!

Les Machines de l’île is an original project mixing the worlds of Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci. The 2 designers of the project invented articulated machines representing giant animals.

During your visit, you will be able to discover the manufacturing secrets of its machines and even ride on them or drive some of them.

The most famous is undoubtedly the giant elephant with its 12 meters high and weighing 48 tons. Seeing it in motion is downright impressive.

If you are lucky, you may even be one of the 50 passengers who can embark on board for a short 30-minute ride at a speed of 1 to 3 km per hour.

Another attraction: the gallery of machines which houses a whole bestiary of beautiful machines. You will be able to ride and direct several animals including a spider, an ant and even a giant heron which will take you around the gallery.

Machinists are there to explain the creation process and how these strange creatures work.

In the coming years, the gallery will host the Heron Tree, a giant tree with 22 branches and hanging gardens. Today only the experimental branch is accessible but there is no doubt that the result will be spectacular.

Finally, the island is home to a merry-go-round like no other: the carousel of the marine worlds. On 3 levels, discover the sea creatures that inhabit the seabed, the abyss and the surface of the sea. On the program, giant crabs, Manta rays and squid that you can ride.

On the island you can also take advantage of many themed bars and restaurants such as “La cantine du Voyage” which offers, every day in summer, a unique menu at 10€ using local products and vegetables from the garden.

And for dessert, opt for one of the best ice creams in Nantes at the “Fraiseraie”.

Access to the gallery of machines or the carousel is free with the Nantes City Pass.

Official site of the machines of the island.

The Machine gallery, in Nantes
The Machine gallery, in Nantes

14. Museums to Visit in Nantes

1) The Jules Verne Museum

The Jules Verne museum is located on the Butte Sainte-Anne in a beautiful bourgeois house. It was created to pay tribute to the writer, who was born and lived in Nantes. Be careful, however, he never lived in the house where the museum is located.

The museum retraces the life of the writer and presents objects that belonged to him. A collection of his original works is also on display.

Free access with the Nantes City Pass.

2) The Nantes Natural History Museum

Another museum to see in Nantes, the natural history museum retraces the origin of man and animal species through its various galleries.

The Earth sciences section has a part on minerals which allows children to discover rocks through workshops, in a very playful way.

But the most impressive part remains the zoology gallery, which has more than 1,000 vertebrate animals, including a whale skeleton over 18 m long!

Free access with the Nantes City Pass.

3) The Nantes printing museum where you can attend a guided tour and discover how the different machines work.

4) The Maillé Brézé naval museum which is located in a combat ship located in the port of Nantes. You can discover life on board, the engine room and the armaments during a guided tour. Take a good look at the schedules on the site because there are not many.

Nantes Natural History Museum
Nantes Natural History Museum

15. The Escape Hunt Experience Nantes

If, unfortunately, during your stay in Nantes, you find yourself in the rain, or quite simply if you like it, Nantes offers several spaces dedicated to the fashionable game at the moment, escape games .

We particularly recommend The Escape Hunt Experience which is the largest escape game in France.

It’s up to you to decode the puzzles before the 60 minutes of regulation time. Ideal for an activity with friends or family in Nantes (children must be 12 years old and over). Of course, it is only by reservation.

Escape Room in Nantes
Escape Room in Nantes

16. Other Activities to Do in Nantes

You can also take advantage of your stay in Nantes to try one or more very cool activities (just click on the links to access the details):

  • An oenology course with tasting of 6 wines
  • A “Sommelier’s Challenge” workshop where you will have to participate in several small games on the world of wine – Wine tasting also included.
  • A wine tasting at the Manoir de Procé
  • A Quiz Room: guaranteed atmosphere with this quiz that is played on a TV set and where you will face your friends or other teams on various themed questions
  • An Olympiad in Nantes: the perfect activity to do with friends. You will have to complete 5 team events in the streets of Rennes : for example, take 60 photos of specific places in 60 minutes or search for 30 objects in a given time.
  • A perfume creation workshop
  • Ax throwing in Nantes: several game modes to choose from
  • A quad excursion in the heart of nature, 30 minutes by car from Nantes.

What to Do around Nantes?

If you have planned to do some sightseeing in Nantes for a few days, here are some places to discover in the surroundings of Nantes.

17. Trentemoult

About ten minutes from Nantes by Navibus, you can go to Trentemoult, an old fishing village.

With its brightly colored facades, its maze of narrow streets and its many restaurants, everything is there to have a good time.

It is one of the most beautiful villages to visit around Nantes.

18. Clisson and its vineyards

20 minutes from Nantes, do not hesitate to visit Clisson, a very beautiful medieval city.

To see for its castle, its medieval halls, its Romanesque church. It is for me one of the most beautiful places to do around Nantes!

The city is also described as the capital of the Nantes vineyard, so take the opportunity to discover the know-how of the winegrowers or visit their cellars.

You will find the list of  areas to visit near Clisson and around Nantes by clicking here.

And what’s great is that  some tastings start from just €5 per person!

Tips for your Nantes itinerary:

Free guided tour of Clisson with the Nantes City Pass (on sale here!).

The church of Clisson, an architectural masterpiece.
The church of Clisson, an architectural masterpiece.

19. Grand Lieu Lake

Located about fifteen kilometers from Nantes is the largest natural plain lake in France, the Lac de Grand Lieu.

More than 500 species of plants (some of which are very rare) are listed there. It is also home to one of the largest colonies of gray herons in Europe.

If you want to visit Nantes and its surroundings, this is an opportunity for a nice family walk to discover the fauna and flora.

Grand Lieu Lake

20. The Nantes-Brest Canal

As its name suggests, the Nantes to Brest canal connects the 2 cities and extends over nearly 360 kilometres.

You can follow it on land on foot or by bike or opt for the river route and you will thus enjoy the magnificent landscapes it crosses.

Do not miss the town of Carhaix, Chateauneuf-du-Faou and the domain of Trévarez.

Nantes-Brest Canal

21. The Puy du Fou

Located just 1 hour from Nantes, the Puy du Fou, a famous leisure park on the theme of historical re-enactment is an excellent idea for a visit, with or without children!

And if you want to spend 2 days there, there are many hotels on site.

The park is also easily accessible from La Rochelle (1h30).

Tips for your Nantes itinerary:

To avoid the long line at the entrance to the park, I highly recommend purchasing your ticket in advanceWith just one click, you will save a lot of time!

1 Day Nantes Itinerary

1 Day Nantes Itinerary

If you only spend one day in Nantes, I advise you to follow the “green line” which I mentioned at the beginning of the article, which will allow you to visit Nantes on foot while passing by the following places of interest :

  • Start the day with a visit to the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
  • Then go up to the Lu tower and take a walk to the Lieu Unique
  • The cathedral of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul is also worth a visit
  • Take a good lunch break at the restaurant “La Cigale” which I tell you about in the section “Where to eat in Nantes”
  • Spend the afternoon at the Machines de l’ile, with the Marine Worlds carousel and the Great Elephant.
The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany – Things to do in Nantes!
The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany – Things to do in Nantes!

2 Days Nantes Itinerary

In 2 days in Nantes, in addition to the program of the previous day, you can visit:

  • Start your morning with the Passage Pommeraye and its superb architecture
  • Then take rue Kervegan to admire its buildings classified as historical monuments.
  • A visit to the Nantes art museum will complete your morning
  • Lunch break
  • For a bit of freshness in the afternoon, start by visiting the Jardin des Plantes in Nantes.
  • Continue your nature afternoon on the island of Versailles and take a short walk on the banks of the Erdre
  • End your day by going to the terrace of the Brittany tower to enjoy the sunset. Take the opportunity to have an aperitif at Le Nid, the bar located on the 32nd floor of the building. UPDATE – The Bretagne tower has been closed for several years for works.

3 Days Nantes Itinerary

If you have planned to spend a long weekend in Nantes and have 3 days to visit the city, you can add to your schedule:

  • In the morning, take the Navibus to reach the old fishing village of Trentemoult
  • Take the opportunity to have lunch there
  • For the afternoon, how about a getaway to Clisson, the medieval city, or to the Lac de Grand Lieu, ideal with children?
The giant mechanical elephant of Machine Island
The giant mechanical elephant of Machine Island

Accommodation in Nantes

If you want to spend the night in Nantes, you might as well do so in a hotel offering a good price/performance ratio.

Here is my selection of the best hotels to stay in Nantes:

  • Logis Hôtel Duquesne : Located 100 meters from the Bretagne Tower, in the city center of Nantes. Sleek and modern room from €58 per night, breakfast at €9. Pros: very good location, quiet hotel, good breakfast
  • Residhome Nantes Berges de la Loire : Located 10 minutes walk from the city center, in the Euronantes district. Bright and spacious studio with kitchenette from €76 per night, breakfast at €15. The pluses: quiet location, studio equipment and excellent breakfast. Our favorite for its performance / price ratio.
  • Best Western Hôtel Graslin : 2 minutes walk from the Graslin theater and 15 minutes from the castle of the Dukes of Brittany. Comfortable room from 80€, breakfast at 12€. Most: its location, very warm welcome, hearty breakfast with fresh products.
  • Okko Hotels Nantes Château : This modern 4-star hotel is quite simply the best hotel in the city center of Nantes. Night in a double room from 115 euros, breakfast included. The ideal choice for an upscale stay in Nantes!

Where to eat in Nantes

  • La Cigale : This brasserie is very famous in NantesWe come here for the very special atmosphere that emanates from its Art Nouveau decor but of course also for its excellent cuisine. We advise you to book in advance.
  • The Nantes children’s bistro: A real neighborhood bistro with generous, family cuisine at more than fair prices. Save room for dessert, we’ve heard they’re excellent. Booking is recommended.
  • Creperie Ker Breizh: Traditional creperie where everything is homemade. Large selection of copious and varied pancakes and pancakes, from the classic to the most original (with mussels for example). Unbeatable value for money.

FAQ: What to do in Nantes with the family?

If you are planning to visit Nantes with your children, I recommend the following activities:

  • Visit the castle of the Dukes of Brittany – A castle can only please your children!
  • Stroll through the Jardin des Plantes in Nantes – A great idea for a family outing in Nantes!
  • A bike ride on the banks of the Erdre
  • Take them to see the machines on the island of Nantes
  • Discover the Nantes Natural History Museum
  • For teenagers: the Escape Hunt Experience Nantes
  • A family day out at Puy du Fou
  • Visit the Nantes planetarium to learn more about the planets and the Universe

What to do in Nantes when it rains?

If unfortunately the rain prevents you from doing some sightseeing in Nantes, I still recommend some ideas here:

  • Discover the castle of the Dukes of Brittany and the Nantes history museum which is also there
  • Visit the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul in Nantes
  • Take a tour of the museums: the art museum, the Jules Verne museum, the natural history museum
  • Go admire the Passage Pommeray and do some shopping
  • Try to solve the puzzles of an escape game.

Which district to visit in Nantes?

Here is the list of neighborhoods to see during your visit to Nantes:

  • The Graslin district where the Passage Pommeraye is located is renowned for its many shops and restaurants
  • The Bouffay district (which I tell you about in point 10 of this Nantes guide), the historic district of Nantes
  • The island of Nantes for its extraordinary machines.

And you, what are you planning to visit in Nantes?

Are you looking for other ideas in France? Read also

Discover all our articles on France: All our tips on Mauritius are listed here.

Camille L.

Passionate about foreign languages, cooking and writing. I wish to share with you the places, the meetings and the gastronomic discoveries which gave relief to my travels.

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