With its dramatic bridged moat, looming stone-brick watchtowers and gleaming white tufa, the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is a glorious amalgamation of a grand ducal palace and medieval military fortress, set at the crest of Nantes’ Old Town. This is Nantes’ most impressive historic site, originally built in the 15th-century by François II, the last Duke of Brittany, and it’s an impeccably restored Gothic-Renaissance residence, surrounded by 500-meter-long curtain walls and atmospherically illuminated at night.
Today, visitors can follow the sentry walkway around the castle’s 7 towers, affording impressive views over the city and the manicured lawns and moat below, then find a picnic spot below the walls or dine at the central courtyard restaurant. The extensively restored castle interiors now also house the Nantes History Museum, where a series of exhibitions explore the castle’s former importance, Nantes’ merchant history and colonial years, and the future of the modern city.
The Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne is located just west of the Old Town in central Nantes. The castle grounds and ramparts are open daily from 10am-7pm, and 9am-8pm in July-Aug, and entrance is free. The museum is open daily except Mon from 10am-6pm and adult admission is €8 at the time of writing.