Nantes, The Best of This French Hidden Gem

Nantes left an impression on me despite its gloomy weather so much so that I’ve been here both during Christmas time, as well as summer. This college town offers so many attractions as well as good public transport. I’m a sucker for Belgian beer and Nantes’ Delirium Cafe was never as crowded as the original in Brussels. Surprisingly, Nantes is the sixth biggest city in France, yet it does not have many international tourists.

What to Eat in Nantes

The center is pretty walkable with plenty of restaurants where to try the famous Gallete Bretonne (salty crêpe), as well as the Kouign-amann (buttery cake) aka Bretonne Cake, pronounced “Queen Aman”. Don’t forget to pair your Gallete with the Bretonne cider. A small but great spot in the center is Crêperie Au Vieux Quimper.

L’Epicerie is a cozy and delicious tavern looking restaurant that is opened late and serves delicious and local food. A good option for a cute date night. I can’t even remember what I had, but I do remember it was cheesy and damn delicious. Sorry for the blurry pic, but I also remember being really hungry after the first spot we stopped by had no tables available on a Saturday night. Always a good idea to try to make reservations!

L'Epicerie
L’Epicerie

What to See in Nantes

 stunning and colorful images are projected to the beat of the music

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre et Saint-Louis is beautiful and has an amazing show during Christmas season. The front of the cathedral serves as a canvas where stunning and colorful images are projected to the beat of the music. Not that it was related to Christmas, but I saw exotic birds flying in a forest, among other landscapes. You can get a glimpse of this odd but beautiful show in my Instagram Highlights.

Catedral
Cathédrale with Christmas light show

Another beautiful landmark in the center of Nantes is the Castle of the Duques, shown as the Feature Image on this post. There’s an entrance fee but if you have the time, I truly recommend exploring this Château (castle). It is not far from the train station, so definitely worth a visit, if you have an hour to kill.

One of the most visited areas in Nantes apart from the castle is the Passage Pommeraye. This Renaissance-inspired mall is quite fancy. I personally do not care for high-end brands, but walking through this mall was free and offered many great selfie corners. It is beautifully decorated during Christmas as well.

Passage 2
Passage Pommeraye


Last but not least, my favorite place in Nantes, even more so than Cafe Delirium, is
Les Machines de l’Île, The Machines of the Island. This place is hard to describe, but it’s basically a steampunk paradise. There’s a gorgeous and sophisticated carousel with a variety of mechanical creatures. You can also ride through the center in a larger than life-size mechanical elephant. Or if you decide to pay the museum fee, you are also able to drive a mechanical spider and look at other mechanical animals such as hummingbirds. Even if you’re not into steampunk, this place is worth a visit when in Nantes. You don’t need to pay the entrance fee to appreciate most of the machines.

 

Where to Shop in Nantes

After living in a small town (Saint-Brevin-les-Pins) and riding horses every day for two weeks during my Workaway experience, I was in dire need of a new pair of jeans. Passage Pommeraye is not an option for my unemployed self, so I had to resort to the well-known chains such as H&M, Zara, Bershka, etc. You can find these stores, as well as some small locally own boutiques near the center on Rue de Calvaire. It leads to other small streets like Rue de Budapest. It’s all very walkable.

Where to party

I was drawn into the “Canadian pub” out of curiosity and because of

Bar Tabarnak
Bar Tabarnak

Being that Nantes is a college town, some bars are more affordable but crowded with college students, especially on weekends. I was drawn into the “Canadian pub” out of curiosity and because of their “vin chaud”, hot wine or mulled wine. One of my FAVORITE winter drinks!  Bar Tabarnak was quite spacious, with outdoor seating and friendly staff.

Le Chait Noir (The Black Cat) is a cool speakeasy type bar with live music and a good wine selection #France.

Delirium Café is always a good idea if you’re a beer fan. It’s a good spot to go as a group or start the night, maybe even a pre-dinner drink, or even after dinner, why not? I could have Belgian beers any time of the day (no judging please). If cocktails are your thing, La Ribouldingue, which is a way of saying “party” is a cool spot with a terrace and a DJ on some nights.

Whatever your reason may be for visiting this jolie ville of Nantes, you are guaranteed a memorable time. Enjoy your visit, bring an umbrella or raincoat and always BE PRESENT! Follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez for more pics and other travel ideas.

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