Campervan hire Nantes
A city of surprises and the unexpected, where enormous mechanic animals roam the streets, Nantes sets out to defy expectations — but also show you a really good time.
The city of Nantes is located where the Loire River meets the River Erdr, a waterside hub of culture, home to castles, opera houses, medieval townhouses, biscuit factories, art galleries, hammams — you name it, Nantes has it. With a campervan hire in Nantes, you’ll discover a city made for exploring, learning, wandering, indulging, and lounging. Not as touristy as Paris, it’s a city that feels real and authentic. Full of open green spaces and cafes serving up hard-to-resist delights: buttery cakes, local cheeses, and crêpes to name but a few. Adventure seekers and literary lovers alike will be delighted to know this is the birthplace of Jules Verne, considered the father of science fiction. Perhaps it’s to be expected that the creator of such original and whimsical tales was born in a city that embraces the novel and unexpected with open arms. A city whose people are inventive and imaginative, continually transforming their surroundings, making surprise a constant feature of life in Nantes. A city once home to grand dukes, now home to animatronic beasts. A city that can definitely be said to do things a little differently.
Depot + Transfer
We’re right there for the start and finish of your motorhome or campervan hire experience in Nantes. We’ll meet you at Nantes Atlantique Airport (NTE), where you can pick up and drop off your Indie campervan – free of charge in regular hours, of course!
Parking in the city
With a campervan hire in Nantes, you’ll need somewhere to park it and on-street parking in the city-centre is pricey and limited. For longer stays, better to leave your campervan in a carpark where rates are around €2.00/hour with a daily maximum of €13.50. Free parking is available on the outskirts of the city.
Camping grounds nearby
Choose a campervan hire in Nantes and you’ll have several good options for places to camp. These include Nantes Camping, located 300 m from the river and only a 13-minute drive or short cycle ride from the city centre. Or the campsite Belle Rivière, also only around a 20-minute campervan drive from central Nantes.
The city of Nantes has changed hands many times over the course of its history but has always been an influential maritime power. Founded by Celts around 70 BC, in AD 937, it joined the Duchy of Brittany. During the 17th century, as the French colonial empire grew, Nantes became the largest port in France, and, although its power declined after the French Revolution, it boomed again after 1850, becoming a centre for shipbuilding.
Today, it’s a buzzing and youthful hive of activity. On the north bank is the old town; to the south, the former industrial area now brimming with fashionable bars and restaurants. Begin with a visit to the majestic Cathédrale St-Pierre and St-Paul. Stroll through the city’s ancient heart where medieval architecture mixes with more modern 19th-century buildings. Lounge by the waterfront in the bohemian Trentemoult, a former fishing village now home to the young and trendy. Explore brightly painted cottages, vintage shops, restaurants, and crêperies with riverside terraces. Take a trip to the Jardin des Plantes, 7 hectares of extraordinary flora where you’ll find 10,000 different plant species and a 220-year-old magnolia. Visit Cours Cambronne, a stately square positioned between two 180 metre-long terraces of neoclassical mansions. Or another square, Place du Bouffay, located in the oldest district in Nantes, surrounded by picturesque half-timbered houses from the 1400s — and where night-owls flock to enjoy the city’s lively bar scene. For evidence of Nantes’ enthusiasm for the imaginative and novel, head over to see the mechanical animals, or Machines de l’Île, or artistic creations such as Daniel Buren's Les Anneaux: 18 steel hula hoops that, at night, glow in haloes of green, red, and blue. Or there’s the Passage Pommeraye, a shopping arcade from 1843 which, with its Neo-Renaissance sculptures, iron and glass roof, wrought metal lamps, and handrails, is prime for an Instagram shot. Head over to the glorious Marché de Talensac where stalls sell flowers, clothes, and furniture. And, when hunger hits, enjoy oysters accompanied by a local Muscadet — or the fromage du cure nantais — followed by a Gâteau Nantais, a soft pound cake doused with rum. Fish, from the sea or the Loire, is also a local speciality here, often served swimming in beurre blanc. Do you need any more convincing to hire a campervan in Nantes and start your French road trip right away?
What to discover
In and around the city
The 144-metre, 70s skyscraper that is the Tour Bretagne is one of France’s tallest buildings outside the capital. Admittedly not particularly beautiful, the views from the top, the 37th storey, are nevertheless some of the most spectacular in the area. And the bar, Le Nid, which means ‘The Nest’, is a fun and quirky rest stop, home to an immense sculpture, half heron, half swan, which has the best viewpoint of any bird in the city.
Château des Ducs de Bretagne
Home to the Dukes of Brittany when they ruled here, this mighty castle was built in the 13th century and occupied for 300 years by the Dukes until becoming a French royal residence in the 1500s. Today, it houses the Nantes History Museum and is one of the most famous castles in the Loire Valley. Here you can learn all about the history of Nantes — as well as enjoy a meal in the Vieux Donjon (the old dungeon). Make sure to toast to the tower’s less fortunate inhabitants.
Les Machines de l'Île
Fancy a ride on an elephant? Head to the west side of the Île de Nantes to visit the fantastical and eccentric animatronic creatures inspired by a combination of Jules Verne’s stories and Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions, brought to life by artist François Delaroziere. There’s the Grand Éléphant, 12 metres tall and which can carry 52 passengers on its back, a huge slow-worm that slides along a branch, and a grotesquely large flea that whirrs overhead. And there’s also the gigantic Carrousel des Mondes Marins, with its moving marine creatures, where you can ride your very own manta ray.
Want to hire a motorhome in Rennes? With a campervan hire in Nantes, you can drive an hour and a half north to visit Rennes, capital of Brittany. This historic city, together with Nantes, was one of the major powers of the ancient Duchy of Brittany. More recently, in 2018, L'Express newspaper named it "the most liveable city in France". It has a huge student population lending the city a youthful vibe and an exceptionally photogenic medieval old town with its chaotic assembly of half-timbered houses. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Place des Lices, originally used for jousting but today home to a magnificent Saturday-morning market — one of France’s largest. Experience intriguing historical sites such as the 15th-century Porte Mordelaise, once the main gate into the city, and the parliament building. Relax in the charming Thabor gardens. And appreciate Rennes’ uncanny ability to remind us all how simple and easy life can be.
For centuries, Angers was the seat of the Plantagenet dynasty before becoming a major intellectual European hub during the reign of René of Anjou. Today, with its museums, universities, and medieval old town, it’s an easy place to while away a couple of days. Instead of hiring a campervan in Angers, drive 90 km to Angers from Nantes on the wheel of your Indie van to visit a stately Gothic cathedral, art galleries, and the enormous château of the Plantagenêts. The château is home to the Apocalypse Tapestry — the biggest medieval tapestry ensemble in the world. 100 metres long, its beautiful colours stand in stark contrast to the gory and grotesque tales told by the weavings: prophetic visions of the return of Christ, his fight against evil, and the end of the world. Cheery stuff, so best finish your day with a Cointreau-based cocktail, a spirit that originated in Angers.
Le Mans is best known for being home to the globally famous 24-hour endurance car race. Don’t get any ideas though. The city is not just a destination for motorsport enthusiasts. Hire a campervan in Nantes and drive the 200 km or so to Le Mans, a city that’s home to the beautiful cathedral Saint-Julien, Gallo-Roman city walls, and the little-known but spectacular Cité Plantagenêt — an entire district of medieval houses, unravaged by time. This was the setting for the 1990 film Cyrano de Bergerac and it’s hard not to feel that you are an extra in the charming French classic. Also worth a visit is the Abbaye de l'Epau, home to the tomb of Queen Berengaria, wife of Richard the Lionheart, and also the venue for classical concerts and much of the Europa Jazz festival.