Nantes boasts around a hundred parks, including the pretty Jardin des Plantes, an English-style garden in the city centre, across from the train station. It ranks among the top four botanical gardens in France, and has been awarded the “Outstanding Garden” label.
Plants of all kinds, towering trees, fountains and water features, works of art and magnificent greenhouses all come together in harmony, in the informal, rural and poetic spirit of an English garden. It’s the ideal place for botany enthusiasts and experts alike. A lovely place to spend half a day!
Origins of the garden
In the early 19th century, Louis XIV commissioned the construction of magnificent greenhouses for his apothecaries, and Louis XV instructed the captains of ships sailing from Nantes to bring back seeds and plants from their travels. Local species, some over a hundred years old, grow alongside varieties introduced centuries ago from all corners of the globe. Open to the public since 1860, the garden now welcomes visitors along 4 km of lush green paths and is home to more than 11,000 living species, 800 m2 of greenhouses and 70,000 flowers every season – a real treat for the senses!
A typical example of last century’s landscaped gardens, it features a number of waterfalls and ponds, as well as an abundance of floral décor that maintains the tradition of mosaiculture (flowerbed arrangements that create patterns, texts or sculptures).
The greenhouses, a true botanical journey
The greenhouses at the Jardin des Plantes are one of Nantes’ finest attractions. They add to the park’s appeal with their glass, steel and brick silhouettes. You’ll be transported from an arid desert with its cacti and native plants to a tropical jungle where orchids and tree ferns live in the tree trunks – a true botanical journey!
A haven of greenery for artists
The Jardin des Plantes’ special touch of folly comes in the form of certain works of art, notably those by Claude Ponti. Along your walk, you’ll come across strange creatures like sleeping chicks and cubs, oversized benches, grimacing faces and a play area where flowerpots become huts with a network of underground galleries for children to enjoy. Other artistic installations are temporary additions to the garden’s natural setting, including graphic poems and aquatic flowers by the artist Johann Le Guillerm, human figures by Jean Jullien and monumental animals by Johan Creten, all of which are renewed each year as part of the Voyage à Nantes – a real feast for the eyes!
A place full of life and perfect for relaxing
The Jardin des Plantes in Nantes is also a place bursting with life. As well as the traditional benches, the Café de I’Orangerie overlooks a large shaded games area. Here, you can sip a drink while keeping an eye on the kids, or enjoy a leisurely lunch on the delightful terrace on sunny days.
Events are organised in the grounds throughout the year, including the “Nuit Verte” (Green Night), which sheds light on the plant world from diverse angles, and the “Palmarium Song”, an immersive soundscape designed to showcase the greenhouse’s vegetation.
If you fancy experiencing this spectacular garden, you can easily do so with a cheap Volotea flight to Nantes, a green city thanks to its myriad parks and gardens. Besides the Jardin des Plantes, there are other idyllic spots to enjoy an afternoon or day out, like the Parc du Grand Blottereau or the Parc de Gaudinière. Discover the city’s main gardens and some useful information compiled by Le Voyage à Nantes.
- Allow 3 hours for a leisurely tour of the Jardin des Plantes in Nantes (not including the greenhouses)
- Entrance from Boulevard Stalingrad, Nantes (opposite the north station entrance)
- Free of charge all year round
- Open every day: summer times 8:30am to 8pm; winter times from 8am to 5:30pm (29 October to 29 February 2024).
- Pets permitted: dogs and cats are allowed in the grounds ONLY if they are kept on a lead.
- Guided tours from 3pm to 3:30pm
- Open access from 1pm to 5pm
More information: Jardin des Plantes
© 2023 Carina Huynh Texte & photos