Because of the pandemic, I had to cancel some trips, including a trip to France to visit my brother Dominic studying abroad in Nantes. I’m hoping I can visit Nantes one day, especially after seeing all his photos! Dominic has already written guest posts for me about spending a weekend in Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion and a day trip to Pornic, and my family actually wrote about their week in France when they visited him! And today, Dominic has written a guest post on a tour of Nantes, France with all the incredible sights he got to see during his time there 🙂
Tour of Nantes
I had signed up for a tour of Nantes with some other exchange students through the school and we went downtown to explore the more touristic sights. We started at Audencia (my French college) and had to take a tram downtown, where we first went to a courtyard fountain called Place Royale. Place Royale was a downtown square that was originally built in 1790 and restored after WWII. It is a fantastic area to walk around and shop or eat.
Historic sights to see downtown
Théâtre Graslin was next on our tour of Nantes and is a theatre that is still used today! Built in the 18th century, it was destroyed by a fire in 1796, but reconstructed on the announcement of a visit from Emperor Napoleon in 1811. A very beautiful landmark that I passed dozens of times and never got tired of seeing was Château Des Ducs De Bretagne. Originally built in 1207, it was a castle for the Dukes of Brittany whenever they would visit the area. It is a popular tourist attraction and contains a museum within the castle walls.
The tallest building in the city, Tour Bretagne, offers beautiful sights from the roof and you are able to go for 1 euro and enjoy a relaxing bar as well. If you love photography, this building offers a wide range of selection and stretches of beautiful city scenery.
Historic cathedrals in Nantes
On the weekends, when I wasn’t leaving the city, my friends and I would randomly tour various sites and areas in Nantes. I am a huge fan of European cathedral architecture and stain glass windows and would visit everyone I saw.
One of the biggest and most popular churches is Nantes Cathedral, also called Foch Cathedral or the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul of Nantes. It is in the Gothic architectural tradition and construction began in 1434 and took 457 years (until 1891) to complete! Unfortunately, just recently the church was set on fire and is temporarily closed. The roof was not damaged, so hopefully the church will only need minor repairs.
Basilique Saint-Nicolas de Nantes was one of the many cathedrals I visited, but one of the few services I attended, and I only attended it by accident! My friend and I were exploring downtown and heard a choir singing so we thought we would stop in to hear for a little bit. It turned out to be an actual service and even though we didn’t understand what was happening, it was quite an experience and it is always enjoyable to hear an organ of that stature play.
This church is located in the very center city of Nantes and was erected from 1844-1869. Unfortunately, due to allied bombing in 1943, most of the original foundation was destroyed and was not restored until 1974.
St. Felix church is dedicated to the fifth century bishop of France, Felix of Nantes. Built in the 1840’s, it underwent two other periods of expansion and has had everything restored to how you will see it today. It never suffered any damages from war or fire, all the construction and restoration were due to expansion and keeping everything up to date and in prime condition.
Église Saite-Croix de Nantes church nicknamed the Holy Cross Church was built in the 17th century and during the French Revolution, served as a prison. The famous sci-fi author, Jules Verne, was baptized and received his birth certificate here. On top of the church, is a lovely clock and bell, which was melted in 1663 and weighs just over eight metric tons!
Just a few minutes away is Musée D’Arts! It was established in 1801 and contains paintings dating back to the 13th century. I got to see a lot of beautiful paintings and statues when I toured it.
Delicious food to eat in Nantes
I got to eat a lot of delicious food in Nantes, and Piazza d’Italia and La Petite Boulangerie were two of my favorite spots to grab a quick bite.
Nantes is a very easy and simple city to navigate and I quickly picked up on it despite not speaking or reading French! I relied on a GPS for my first week, but soon found myself knowing directions and landmarks. There were so many cafés for me to try and I based my knowledge of where I was on my most visited cafés.
I never had a bad pastry and boy did I try a lot! In my opinion, you cannot go wrong with some kind of chocolate pastry and that’s what I mostly ate.
One of the best restaurants I visited was a crêpe restaurant called Barapom! When I was younger, I had tasted a Canadian crêpe, but when in France, you do as the French do and I had no problem with trying them again. This place was so good that I, in fact, happened to go twice! I had three different kinds: chocolate, and ham, bacon, cheese, and spinach crêpes. As I’ve probably mentioned before, I did not eat a pastry that I didn’t enjoy, so I would recommend trying all of the foods.
Most of the time I walked three miles along the River Erdre to go to school. This was a beautiful walk in the mornings, as the sun was coming up right on the river and there was so much nature to see along this path. I chose to walk to as many places as I could, as to educate myself with the city and to walk off all the pastries that very quickly entered my diet.
Beautiful parks and gardens in Nantes
Take a stroll through Ile de Versailles to see the beautiful Japanese Garden on the Erdre River that was created in 1831. It was used for boat operations until 1983 when it was transformed into how you see it today. On the island there is a mansion which serves as a museum that has exhibits on the river.
The landscape is richly planted with exotic plants such as bamboo, bald cypress, rhododendrons, camellias and Japanese cherry trees. The whole island is under two acres in size and you can walk through in under an hour.
I lived a fifteen-minute walk from Parc de la Beaujoire, and it is a floral park built in 1971. It is most famous for its rose garden containing nearly 20,000 roses and remains of an old farm and local quarries. It has been awarded the French Conservatory of Specialized Plant Collections (CCVS). The park is two and a half acres and even in March, it was a lovely area to walk through and spend some time outside and see some beautiful flowers.
Other fun things to do in Nantes
I didn’t get to attend a soccer game when I was in Nantes, but FC Nantes does have games in the city! If you get the chance to go to a game, I would recommend it. Even though I didn’t get to see a game in action, after an evening class one night, I walked home and passed the stadium and grabbed dinner from vendors.
Every Monday night, all the business students were invited to hangout at a local bar called la Maison Café. It looks like a regular home and played very loud 80’s music. As a fan of oldies music, I enjoyed the atmosphere, so if you prefer 80s music over regular clubs, I recommend checking out la Maison Café.
I hope you enjoyed my tour of Nantes! There are lots of amazing sights to see and so much more I want to explore when I go back 🙂