From the Dukes’ Castle and gorgeous vineyards to life-size sci-fi and Europe’s highest dune, we pick must-see destinations along this coastal tour of western France. Note: This article is part of a mega feature called “West Coast Road Trip”.
Located a few meters from the shopping streets of Nantes, this charming castle It juxtaposes centuries of royal history with the modern city life that surrounds it. Take the entire tour of the museum from top to bottom or simply wander the grounds.
At Les Machines de l’Île, just over the bridge from downtown Nantes, you can enter the world of science fiction writer Jules Verne, encounter larger-than-life mechanical creatures and explore the workshop where they were brought to life.
Brasserie La Cigale
Located in a high-status location on Place Graslin, La Cigale is the foodie equivalent of The Ritz in Nantes. The interior is filled with gold and green enamels and potted palms reminiscent of an Agatha Christie setting. Once you visit it stays with you.
Port of Le Vieux
For a town that thrives thanks to its fishing and maritime industries, it’s no surprise that the Old Port is La Rochelle’s main hub. There are lights twinkling at night while basking in the sun during the day; whatever the time, enjoy the noise.
Walk the Walls
For the best view of La Rochelle’s rooftops and harbor, take the walkways of the ramparts. Note the red buoy marking the place where Cardinal Richelieu ordered the construction of a sea wall during the 1627-1628 Great Siege of La Rochelle.
Aquarium La Rochelle
This is one of the best aquariums in the country, showcasing over 600 different species and over 12,000 animals, including sharks! Conveniently located near the Old Port, the hotel is well worth a few hours of your time.
Île de Re
A 30-minute drive west of La Rochelle, Île de Ré is where stylish Parisians love to unwind, so the island is brimming with the city’s delicacies. You’ll never see designer espadrilles, sunglasses and linen beachwear in the same place!
All Saints’ Basilica
The vast underground cellar in this basilica is one of the largest in Europe. Look at the ornate carvings on the pillars: the weighing of spirits and Daniel in the lion’s den, as well as modern additions depicting Covid-19.
You’ll inevitably pass 276,000 acres of vineyards, so why not take one of the many tours on offer? The views are spectacular, the vigneron features are often spectacular and you will literally get a taste of the area.
While in Bordeaux, be sure to take time to visit the Place de la Bourse and its surreal, artistic water feature Miroir d’eau. It creates a mirror effect that reflects the buildings upside down and provides a complete 21st century focal point for the town.
Europe’s Highest Sand Dunes
Dune du Pilat is a real mountain of sand. Over 100 meters high and nearly 3 km long, surrounded by pine forests and the ocean, it is a breathtaking place to visit, especially at sunset or paragliding!
Gascony Regional Nature Park
Inland of Arcachon and south of Bordeaux, this vast conservation area is a peaceful haven of wetlands and woodland. Get away from the crowds, step into the dappled shade and enjoy cycling, paddleboarding or kayaking.
From France Today Magazine
Principal photo credit: Château des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes © Via Cil
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Best places to visit near Nantes, Best places to visit on the west coast of France, Ile de Re, La Rochelle
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