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7 Fascinating Things to Do in Nantes: A Family Adventure

Traveling with family and young kids is an adventure filled with moments of wonder, discovery, and sometimes, the challenge of keeping everyone entertained. Our journey to Nantes, a vibrant city in western France, was a delightful blend of historical exploration, modern wonders, and natural beauty, making it an unforgettable destination for families. Here’s how our adventure unfolded, with an added highlight that should not be missed as we take you on the Top Things to Do in Nantes: A Family Adventure.

Getting to Nantes

Nantes is located about 4 hrs southeast of Paris, passing through the famous Le Mans on highway A11. Nantes was one of the first stops on our Epic 2000 mile Tour de France.

Brief History of Nantes

Nantes, a city rich in history and culture, is located in the western part of France, near the Atlantic coast. Its story begins over 2,000 years ago when it was established by the Namnetes, a Celtic tribe. The Romans then conquered the area, leaving behind a legacy of roads, bridges, and architecture.

In the Middle Ages, Nantes flourished as a major port and commercial hub, benefiting from its strategic position along the Loire River. It became the capital of the Duchy of Brittany in the 15th century, marking a golden era of development and prosperity. This period saw the construction of the Château des Ducs de Bretagne and the expansion of the city’s famous port.

Modern Nantes

The city’s significance continued into the modern era, playing a crucial role in the maritime trade, including the triangular trade, which unfortunately included the slave trade. This dark chapter is remembered and addressed through various memorials and educational efforts in the city today. The 19th and 20th centuries brought industrialization, with Nantes becoming a center for shipbuilding and food processing. However, the city also faced hardships, including extensive damage during World War II.

In recent decades, Nantes has undergone a transformation, reinventing itself as a vibrant cultural and artistic hub. The city has embraced sustainability, innovation, and creativity, leading to its recognition as the European Green Capital in 2013. Today, Nantes is celebrated for its rich history, architectural heritage, and dynamic cultural scene, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

7 Things to Do in Nantes

Embark on a captivating journey through Nantes, a city where history intertwines with whimsical modernity, offering a treasure trove of experiences for every traveler. From the mechanical marvels at Les Machines de l’île, highlighted by the grandiose Grand Elephant, to the historical grandeur of the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany and the serene beauty of the Jardin des Plantes.

Nantes invites you to explore its diverse attractions. Wander through the elegant Passage Pommeraye, take a scenic detour to the picturesque Trentemoult Village, dive into the wonders of the natural world at the Natural History Museum, and be moved by the solemn grandeur of Nantes Cathedral. Each site tells a part of Nantes’ rich story, offering a blend of educational, aesthetic, and sensory delights that promise to make your visit unforgettable. Here are the 7 things to do in Nantes.

1. The Mechanical Elephant and Les Machines de l’île

Our first stop in Nantes was the whimsical Les Machines de l’île, an attraction that feels like stepping into a steampunk-inspired dream. The star attraction, the Grand Elephant, took us on a magical journey along the Loire River, much to the kids’ delight. The park’s carousel, with its intricate sea creatures, was another highlight, showcasing the imaginative spirit of Nantes. It’s a place where fantasy meets reality, captivating both the young and the young at heart making it the top things to do in Nantes.

Nantes: Les Machines de l’île

2. The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany

Stepping back in time, we explored the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany (Château des ducs de Bretagne), a fortress that dominates Nantes’ historical landscape. This is one of the top 3 things to do in Nantes. The children were thrilled to roam its ramparts, while the Nantes History Museum inside offered interactive exhibits that made local history accessible and engaging for all ages. The castle’s blend of architectural beauty and educational content made it a perfect stop for our family.

The Castle if the Dukes in Nantes is the top thing to do

3. Jardin des Plantes

Seeking a moment of tranquility, we ventured to the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden that provided a peaceful escape with its diverse flora and artistic installations. The garden’s playgrounds were a hit with the kids, and the themed areas sparked their curiosity about nature. It was an ideal setting for a family picnic and a leisurely afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Explore Jarin des Plantes in Nantes

4. Passage Pommeraye

Our wanderlust led us through the Passage Pommeraye, a 19th-century shopping arcade whose elegance and charm captivated us as much as the toy stores and chocolatiers did the kids. Strolling through this architectural marvel felt like a journey through time, offering a blend of shopping and sightseeing that was enjoyable for the entire family.

Things to Do in Nantes

5. Trentemoult Village

A delightful detour took us to Trentemoult Village, a picturesque former fishing village with brightly colored houses and narrow streets, just a short ferry ride from Nantes. The kids loved the boat trip and the freedom to explore the village, while we savored the laid-back atmosphere and scenic views over waterfront cafes.

Mechanical Elephant in Nantes

6. The Natural History Museum of Nantes

Our quest for knowledge continued at the Natural History Museum of Nantes, where the extensive collections, from geology to zoology, fascinated the kids. The museum’s interactive displays were particularly effective in keeping their attention and fostering a sense of wonder about the natural world. This is a great place for the family and its a top things to do in Nantes with kids.

7. Nantes Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul)

An addition to our itinerary was the majestic Nantes Cathedral, a Gothic architectural masterpiece that took our breath away. Its towering façade and serene interior provided a moment of awe and calm. The cathedral, with its intricate details and historical significance, was a place where even the kids sensed the grandeur and tranquility, making it a memorable part of our visit.

Nantes Cathedral

The Resting Place of François II and Marguerite de Foix

Located in the right-hand transept, the sanctuary’s crowning jewel is the tomb of François II and Marguerite de Foix, the progenitors of Anne of Brittany. Commissioned by Anne of Brittany herself, this exquisite piece of Renaissance art was crafted by Michel Colombe in 1507.

The Resting Place of François II and Marguerite de Foix

Wrapping Up

Our family adventure in Nantes was a beautiful blend of historical exploration, imaginative experiences, and natural beauty, offering something for everyone. Nantes proved to be a destination where the challenges of traveling with young kids were met with endless opportunities for enjoyment and discovery. From mechanical elephants to the solemn beauty of the cathedral, each stop added to a tapestry of memories that we’ll cherish forever. Nantes is not just a city to visit; it’s a city to experience with all the curiosity, excitement, and wonder that comes with family travel. Contact me if you have any questions.

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