Fancying a getaway from Paris? Nantes, France is a great choice. It may not be as well-known as other French towns due to its history as a fairly lackluster destination, but things have changed and Nantes is an absolute delight.
Pronounced “naunt,” this vibrant and historically rich city is located on the Loire River in western France about 240 miles southwest of Paris. Train is the best way to reach Nantes, taking around 2 to 2.5 hours on high-speed TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse). It’s a relaxing journey and much faster than getting caught in French road traffic.
Arriving in Nantes, my friend and I hailed a taxi and headed straight for our hotel: Maisons du Monde.
About Maisons du Monde
The elegant and stylish hotel offers five unique room types and 11 apartment-style suites for a total of 47 accommodations. Rooms feature espresso machines and apartments are fully equipped with microwave, induction hob, coffee machine, kettle and a small refrigerator. Small dogs and cats are welcome to stay with their owners at a supplemental charge of 10 euros a day.
Check in was a breeze at the reception area with the simple click of a tablet and warm, welcoming staff. Though Maisons du Monde doesn’t have a real lobby per se, we loved the chic gathering room with plush furniture and French touches, a lovely separate breakfast room, and lounge with a bar and work area.
My room was small, but cozy (just the kind I enjoy in Europe) and known as the Green Grey room for its natural colors and harmonization with the local flora and fauna. My bed was a double with a small private bath that sported a lovely rainfall shower.
I loved the view of the town buildings and restaurants below and the sounds of locals and visitors spending time together.
I particularly enjoyed the hallways, lined with various types of mirrors and artwork.
Dining at the Hotel
Though the hotel doesn’t have its own restaurant, a lovely continental breakfast buffet is set up with food choices and pastries provided from local businesses. And yes, you’ll find croissants and more than one type! Depending on the type of reservation, breakfast can be included. If not, it runs 18 euros and honestly, it’s worth it for the impressive selection.
Throughout the day and even into the evening, guests can relax in the lounge and enjoy local wine, small plates, charcuterie or cheese boards. Room service is also available.
Dining in Nantes
Maisons du Monde staff were so helpful in suggesting places to eat in town. On our first evening, we were delighted with the recommendation to dine at La Cigale, a French brassiere located just two blocks from the hotel in a charming square, and a restaurant you’d totally expect to see in Paris.
Magic is not only in the entrees, but in the colorful-tiled and opulent golden décor reminiscent of 18th-century France. Waiters are dressed in formal black pants, white shirts, black vests and ties and exude class and pride in carrying out their tasks.
The entrees are superb, both in quality and presentation. The menu changes daily, but there’s always a fish of the day, leading me to select a perfectly prepared sea bass.
We finished off our meal with a French coffee and a shared late of classic French Profiteroles.
Exploring the Town of Nantes
Getting a local guide was so important since I only had a day-and-a-half to explore Nantes. Rather than trying to figure it out on my own, I went to an expert who knows their hometown best.
Not-to-be-missed sites include Château des Ducs de Bretagne, an impressive 13thcentury fortress that once served as the residence of the Dukes of Brittany. One of the most iconic landmarks in Nantes, the Château is a magnificent mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Classic architectural styles.
Breathtaking Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul is a Gothic masterpiece known for its intricate stained-glass windows depicting biblical scenes and saints. Its magnificent organ is renowned as one of the best in France.
Jardin des Plantes, meaning “Garden of Plants,” is a botanical garden with several themed gardens on property. Walking paths meandering through Jardin feature beautiful flora, sculptures and landscapes.
Musée d’Arts de Nantes is an impressive art gallery with collections dating from the Middle Ages to the present. I found amazing works by Botticelli, Delacroix, Monet, Picasso and Kandinsky, among others.
For those who have the time, I highly recommend a boat cruise on the River Edre, known for its picturesque landscapes, lush greenery, charming riverside homes and elegant mansions dotting the shore.
Take a Boat Tour
I truly love French chateaus (no doubt due to my French family history), and by being on the water I was able to see yet another incredible castle. Château de la Gaudinière, a lesser-known palatial structure, was built in the 18th century and eventually purchased by the city of Nantes in 1992. Though it was completely restored to its original appearance, it remains unoccupied and quite impressive.
A visit to this classical antiquity was such a wonderful experience.
Surrounded by history, art, culture, stunning architecture, and divine cuisine, Nantes is a great destination for a weekend getaway. And if you do, a stay at Maisons du Monde will help round out your memorable experience.historic