Travel Tips

Why the Isle of Nantes is NOT for Everyone

Throughout the city of Nantes you will experience playful art intermingled with everyday culture.  On the l’île de Nantes you will find that it goes a step further… it moves!
Why the Isle of Nantes3

Which is why I feel the need to warn those who would be miserable from visiting this wonderful horrible place with a quick checklist:

A. If you have lost your childlike sense of wonder…


B. If watching ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ left you paranoid of larger than life insects…

Please avoid this place at any cost!

Luckily for everyone else the Isle of Nantes is perfectly suitable.

Les Machines de l’île

The tourist booklet described this as the invention of Jules Verne’s and Leonardo de Vinci’s inventions brought to life.

It sounds amazing because it is amazing!  Off we went to see what we could find…  What we discovered was a public space that turned an old shipping yard into a cultural and artist affair.

  • In the Galerie des Machines is an exhibit that demonstrates the designs of the past, current, and planned creatures.  From here you can wait in line to catch a ride on one of several delightful assortment of mechanical animals.  Otherwise you can catch them in the act as they stroll around the shipping yard.  

One of our favorite creations to watch was an automaton that pushed a shopping basket.  He would ask for charity and if someone came up to give him money, he would hold out his hand and take it!  It was really neat to see what machines can do!


  • The Carrousel des Mondes Marins is an assortment of sea creatures sculpted and then placed in the carousel at the “sea level” you would naturally find them in.  Not only a work of art but it’s rideable aquarium!

The times and dates vary by weather and season.  My advice is to check their Practical Information page for days they plan to be open get there early.  The sun can be brutal in the afternoon for the passing observer, but imagine the operators sitting in the metal contraptions?

See the Heron on the left? It’s part of a new project to hit the scene in 2019!
Maison des Hommes et des techniques

This is the long white building between the Galerie des Machines and the Carrousel des Mondes Marins.  If you want to know more about the history of the shipbuilders or possibly the archaeological contributions then this is one you don’t want to miss!

Hangar 32

The island has undergone several stages of evolution.  See what influenced them to make the changes they did and what they are planning for the future!

La Fabrique

Described as an artistic laboratory that features and hosts a creative assortment of amplified… music.  It sounds fascinating enough to plan a second trip simply to experience their experimental art!


Places to eat and Shop

There were very few place that I saw where you can plan a little picnic and a day’s excursion on the isle will at some point require refreshments!

  • At the far end of Galerie des Machines hall are a few restaurants and in front a bar next to the gift shop.
  • The HAB Galerie is a mini mall that hosts a cafe, a bar, a restaurant, a bookstore and a modern art exhibit.  There seems to be no theme but it’s encouraging to see art displayed in an everyday kind of setting.  Typically exhibits are open Wednesday through Sunday, but the rest of the bar/cafe/restaurant/bookstore is available everyday after noon.  You find the building by walking past the carousel along the riverside
  • Hangar a Bananes? Yes, on the other side of the HAB Galerie is an exhibit on the history of how it was once used for storing and ripening bananas!  Sit down and relax with something to eat or drink…
  • Or head to La Cantine du Voyage.  The canteen offers an open space eating venue suitable for families and those wanting to relax with a great view of the river.
Enjoying the cultural icons

You really need more time than we had to explore the little things that make this location great!  We were fortunate to wander across the following urban art and cultural mashup…

  • The Arbre a Basket (The Basketball Tree) is a neat structure you will find being used as you cross over on to the island on your way to the Galerie des Machines.
  • Over past the carousel is the On Va Marcher Sur la Lune where you can let your kids bounce around a lunar crater.  See how this art was made!
  • Pass the lunar playground you will find the iconic Lunar Tree and The Rings, near La Cantine du Voyage.  Two pieces of art that challenges you to see the river with a new perspective.

The Isle of the Machines is a siren call to many and it’s easy to lose a day here without realizing it!

If it doesn’t speak to you consider a few other alternatives in Nantes.

2 thoughts on “Why the Isle of Nantes is NOT for Everyone

  1. […] While Nantes is now a vital part of the Loire-Atlantic, any excursion to see Brittany as a whole must begin at the Dutchy of Bretagne.  Otherwise see the other main attraction in Nantes, the Isle of Machines. […]

  2. […] the Isle of Nantes is Not for […]

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