Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, Passage Pommeraye, Machines de l'Île, Jardin des Plantes, Museum of Arts… Nantes is not lacking in appeal for demanding tourists. But by stepping off the beaten track, the capital of the Pays de Loire, a city of nature and culture, can reveal other treasures. The opportunity to discover the Nantes of Nantes ... that the inhabitants of the city will be happy to help you discover.
The Butte Sainte-Anne: a Nantes village
Each year, more than 6 people come to live in Nantes. Many choose the Chantenay district, and, more specifically, the butte Sainte-Anne, west of the city. Located high on a vein of the Armorican Massif, this former “free commune” is made up of small houses surrounded by gardens. An ideal village atmosphere for strolling, but also for visiting. Because Sainte-Anne is not just a charming residential area for bobos in need of tranquility.
To visit in particular, the Jules Verne museum, which brings you into the world of the visionary writer born in Nantes. It also offers a nice view of the Loire, the island of Nantes and the charming fishing village of Trentemoult. Nearby, behind the statue of Jules Verne, the Planetarium remains the ideal place of learning and reverie for budding astronomers.
Lovers of old stones can take a look at Sainte-Anne church, built in the middle of the 19th century and remarkable for its 46 m bell tower. Those who prefer contemporary art will visit the associative gallery of the Green Ray. Everything is located less than 100 m away, around rue Sainte-Anne.
Right next door, the square Maurice Schwob, on the side of the hill - and therefore with an exceptional view -, then the closed park of the Oblates, with its sheep and its hilly topography, will give you your dose of nature and the delicious mirage of finding yourself already in the countryside.
Stroll in Trentemoult, at the gates of Nantes
To join Trentemoult from the Butte Sainte-Anne, nothing could be simpler: go down the pretty staircase of the “100 steps”, built in 1849, and go to the nearby ferry terminal. The final destination is only six minutes from river shuttle crossing which offers you an unprecedented point of view on the banks of the Loire and the two imposing Titan cranes located on the island of Nantes, vestige of the industrial and port past of the city ends, the people of Nantes gladly make the crossing to immerse themselves in this old-world atmosphere, its typical little alleys and flowers, its picturesque small fishing port and even its stray cats. There are many cafes and restaurants to welcome them, take the opportunity to eat; on foot or by bus, you can continue exploring Rezé.
After seeing the pendulum by Roman Signier, a contemporary work dating from 2009, the architecture lover can choose to go to the Radiant City, imagined and designed by Le Corbusier. Or if not, you may have the curiosity to go and discover the site of old slaughterhouses, become an experimental place of culture and creation which reflects on the city of tomorrow. A giant metal cobra's head stands at the entrance, just to tell us that Nantes is already preparing for its future moult.
Le Lieu Unique, the Saint-Félix Canal and the Olivettes / Madeleine district
Located in part of the former premises of the LU biscuit factory, the Lieu Unique is now one of the most famous cultural centers in France. Labeled "National scene", the place knows how to constantly renew itself, thus becoming an unmissable event in Nantes' cultural life. Expo, concert, theater take place there, but the place also houses a bookstore, a bar, a restaurant and even a Félix hammam, in which the Erdre flows into the Loire, offers you a point of view at the level of water over the city. Enjoy the tranquility of the marina, just before the Congress Center, before joining the Olivettes / Madeleine district. Once ill-famed, today it brings together trendy cafes and restaurants. At 6, rue Sanlecque, the contemporary art center Paradise allows artists in residence to exhibit their works, and the public to discover them.
The banks of the Erdre: a bucolic stroll at the gates of Nantes
François 1er considered it "the most beautiful river in France". The info is a bit dated, but Erdre certainly deserves that we take a walk on its edges.
Departure from Nantes and the island of Versailles for a guaranteed change of scenery in the land of the Rising Sun. A pretty Japanese garden, with rockery, waterfall and exotic vegetation awaits you. Surrounded by a zen garden, the Erdre House, inspired by a tea pavilion, offers exhibitions devoted to the river and the aquatic environment.
Possibility to rent a canoe, an electric boat or simply take a shuttle, and thus go up the river. Small charming marinas can become as many resting stops until that of Suce-sur-erdre. But you can also prefer the bike and go on an adventure on the equipped paths.
Quickly, the city gave way to the countryside with, on the left bank, the Beaujoire floral park and its beautiful collection of perennials, magnolias and its 20 roses. Further on, the Chantrerie park welcomes its visitors around a castle and a neo-Gothic chapel from the 19th century. The park is remarkable for its alleys of hundred-year-old larches.
But the walk on the Erdre is not only bucolic. Long before you, the aristocracy and the Nantes bourgeoisie succumbed to the charm of the place, building castles and manors; “The follies of Erdre” they are commonly called. The walk along the water thus turns into a true Heritage Day.
On the right bank, the Desnerie castle, with its twin tower at the end of the 15th century and its private chapel at the beginning of the 17th; the pottery castle, Louis XVI style; the impressive Gascherie castle, late 15th century; the Gandonnière castle, built in 1750, or the Port Hubert castle, Directoire style, former home of the shipowner and collector Thomas Dobrée. The left bank is not left out with the Eraudière castle and Couronnerie castle. Going up the Erdre is also going back in time.
Doulon: in the shadow of the Grand Blottereau
Formerly an autonomous municipality (and attached to Nantes in 1908), Doulon is a bit the equivalent of Chantenay / Sainte-Anne to the east of the city. Composed of small workers' houses, the current district retains its popular and commercial soul: a kind of village of diehards built around the imposing Notre-Dame-de-All-Aides church, built from 1878 to 1895 by a pupil of Viollet-le-Duc. The building incorporates the old chapel from the beginning of the 16th century. Nearby, in a neoclassical style, the old Town Hall, now annexed town hall of Nantes, still bears witness to Doulon's historic past.
But the best is yet to come, the largest of the city's parks is just around the corner: the Grand Blottereau, who has not usurped its qualifier, covers 37 ha. The park has an educational vocation with its tropical greenhouses, one dry, the other wet, with sometimes century-old plants and a unique collection of utility plants.
As a whole, the park brings together habitats, cultivated or natural fields, from the five continents: Mediterranean rockery, Korean garden, banana plantation, American bayou or French garden in front of the 18th century castle. The Grand Blottereau changes and changes with the seasons; enough to return there again and again.
Find all the tips, practical information and good addresses in the Routard Bretagne Sud and Pays de la Loire guides
Consult our Nantes online guide
How to get there ?
- From Paris : TGVs leave from Montparnasse station and, in the Paris region, from Charles-de-Gaulle airport, Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy and Massy-TGV stations. TGV Atlantique direct to Nantes (2 hours).
- Lille : Direct TGV with Le Mans, Angers and Nantes.
- Lyon : Direct TGV with Angers and Nantes, plus a night coral link.
- Marseille : Direct TGV via Aix-en-Provence (6 hrs journey) and a night coral train (15 hrs).
- Strasbourg : Direct TGV with Le Mans, Angers and Nantes.
- Bordeaux : direct interregional trains with Nantes. Allow about 4 hours.
Or sleep ?
- Hotel Saint-Yves: 154, rue du Général Buat. Double room at 63 € (and triple 73 €). Wireless. Located less than ten minutes from the island of Versailles, a real favorite! Each room is personalized, decorated with a sure taste, and even, dare we say it, a real talent. The small garden is the delight of regulars.
- Radisson Blu Hotel: 6, place Aristide Briand. Double room from € 142. Wireless. Not all hotels can claim to be housed in an old courthouse. At an exceptional hotel, exceptional price! But you may want to treat yourself to a moment of luxury and take advantage of attentive staff and a pretty room with a chic and contemporary decor.