Nantes is France’s second-most bike-friendly city, with 600km of cycle paths and 7,000 places to lock your bike. You can’t pass up this two-wheeled trip to discover the city, and above all, its amazing locations.
I’ve come up with an itinerary for you, inspired by the innovative green line created by “A Journey to Nantes”. On this itinerary, you’ll find a gentle mix of greenery, landmarks, and views, with bites to eat along the way…
GETTING READY FOR YOUR BIKE TRIP
Before saddling up, you need to think about renting a bike, gearing up, and getting your bearings before you can go exploring the city.
- The Bicloo rental service is well-suited for Nantes, but there are plenty of other rental agencies with some very high-quality bikes, such as Bike’n Tour or Détours de Loire. The choice between a normal or electric bike is up to you, but Nantes isn’t too hilly and your run-of-the-mill bike tends to get the job done!
- You should even think about being somewhat prepared on the day itself. At the very least, opt for comfortable clothes and shoes, along with a helmet. Make sure you bring a small rucksack with you, to put a flask and your personal belongings in.
- We don’t all have the same sense of direction, so make sure to take a look at the map of the city first, which I’m sure you were careful to pick up from the tourism office in front of the Château des Grands Ducs.
1. Saddle up for a bit of history
We’ll start our trip in a natural setting at the picturesque Jardin des plantes, an English country garden in the heart of the city. It’s one of France’s four great botanical gardens: Louis XIV had it created for his apothecaries, and then Louis XV began asking ships from Nantes to bring back grains and plants from their trips. Nowadays, the garden comprises over 11,000 living species, 800m2 of greenhouses, and produces 70,000 flowers each season… It’s a real treat for the senses!
Then, we’ll dive into the history of the Quai de la Fosse with the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery. Once the point of departure for boats engaging in this triangular trade, it now stands as a memorial to the city’s past. Here, you can read passages and stories dating up to the abolition of slavery, as you listen to the flow of the Loire.
Then we’re off to Trentemoult, an ancient fishing village located in Rezé. To get there, head towards the ferry port, where you’ll take the water shuttle (and don’t forget to load your bike on, too). Once you’re on the left bank of the Loire, you’ll no doubt be charmed by the ancient fishing village of Trentemoult, and the crooked, narrow alleyways, colours, flowery houses, and unique atmosphere found here.
2. Head to Haute Ile for a local bite to eat
After a meander around the colourful houses, get back on the saddle and follow the Loire along the small path facing the Virgin Mary. You’ll come across an amazing view of a grey crane… Continue along, passing under the Trois-Continents bridge, until you get to Haute-Ile.
Haute Ile is another ancient fishing village, just like its neighbour, Trentemoult. This district resembles what Trentemoult would have looked like 20 years ago, but it’s less well-known and so it’s a bit calmer. On the bank of the Loire you’ll have a wonderful view overlooking the fishing boats, and the iconic Béghin Say factory in the distance.
In this village The Les Isles Restaurant is hidden. It’s a real local’s pub where Virginie will make you feel right at home. The furniture, along with the floor, which is made of small, multicolour tiles, is very much of its time. The food is authentic, tasty, and ideal for small budgets, but I’d recommend booking at least an hour in advance, because this location is very popular with the locals!
3. Art space on Ile de Nantes
This time, head towards Ile de Nantes by retracing your steps before taking the Trois-Continents bridge. Here, you can admire the graphic installation produced by The Feebles, who’ve added a splash of colour to this cycle path!
Head towards Quai des Antilles, where The Rings by Daniel Buren will be watching you. These eighteen rings, said to symbolise the shackles of slaves of the African slave trade, are an aesthetic and photogenic success found on the Quai des Antilles. And even more so in the evening, when they show off their bright colours!
Modern art fans won’t be able to resist the Hab Gallery. The Mémoire d’un Touriste (memoir of a tourist) exhibition by Bertrand Dezoteux will allow you to experience real, imaginary, and hybrid travel experiences from all over the world.
4. Steep yourself in the spirit of Nantes
At the end of the quay, where you’ll find the yellow Titan crane, is also the location of The Machines of Ile, which aren’t in use any more. This attraction never ceases to amaze us, because of its sea life merry-go-round, the machine gallery, and the gigantic elephant which walks around and sprays kids with water! In short, it’s a magical and unique location!
After all this hard work, it’s time for a break at Bras de Fer, a location created by four brothers united over a shared passion: the world of wine. They have one foot in the vineyard and one foot in the city, since every step of the wine-making process takes place in the Île de Nantes wine cellar. You can sample their wares here, as well as those by wine makers they share their values and philosophy with.
Then, I suggest a walk around Wattignies, a social, fair trade, and urban market. This former car garage is an unusual location: here you’ll find a flea market trading second-hand goods, vinyls, and second-hand clothes, and there’s even a restaurant bar. It’s a site of cultural and social experimentation as well as a fair trade shopping arcade, and it’s worth the detour!
5. End the night in style!
To round off this wonderful journey, pedal over to Lieu Unique for the evening. It’s a modern cultural centre set up in the former units of the famous biscuit manufacturer with the same name as its founder, Lefèvre Utile. Before you go inside, consider admiring the architectural details of the LU tower. This location combines art, culture, and relaxation, and it’s got it all: there’s a bar, a restaurant, a bookshop, a steam room, a nursery, some shops… And if you’re lucky, you might get the chance to take part in some collaborative art, too!
If you enjoyed this journey and you fancy coming back with a cheap Volotea flight to Nantes, here are some things you should know: the city is strategically located where two major cycling tourism routes meet, the Vélodyssée and the Loire à Vélo. It’s the perfect chance to head off on a multi-day adventure! You should also know that it’s very easy to travel with your bike by train, on TER and InterLoire trains. That way, you’ll be able to catch up with their routes and come back to Nantes without hassle!