Perched atop of the tallest building in Nantes, Le Nid Nantes is a quirky bar complete with a viewing platform which offers glittering panoramic views over the rest of the city. So-called thanks to the designer’s envisionment of the space as a ‘nest’ of sorts (the literal translation of Le Nid to English is ‘nest’), here’s everything you need to know about Le Nid bar, as well as a quick history and how to visit.
Tour de Bretagne, the tallest building in Nantes
Tour de Bretagne is to Nantes what Tour Montparnasse is to Paris. That is to say, it’s largely controversial and the towering glass structure is openly loathed by many Nantes residents. In the words of my city tour guide; “it’s well worth going to the top floor of the building because it’s the only place in the city where you don’t have to see the Brittany tower!”
And that’s not the only controversial aspect of the tower! During my Nantaise city tour, we were each asked to describe the city in one word. The guy to my right immediately responded with: “Brittany, or not?” You see, Nantes was once the capital of the Kingdom of Brittany, a largely self-governing state during the middle ages. The entire area was ruled from the Grand Ducal Palace, which can still be visited in the heart of Nantes today.
Nantes remained a part of Brittany right up until 1955 when it was administratively added to what is now the Pays de la Loire region of France. Though culturally the city may still feel part of Bretagne as it is so-called in French, the political reasons for the change were probably two-fold; firstly, Rennes and Nantes are historical rivals and secondly, the Loire Valley is pretty rural and so Nantes more than boosts the economy of the region.
Back to the Tour de Bretagne and the glistening structure itself was opened to the public on November the 18th, 1976 at 17:00. Standing at a dizzying height of 32 floors, the space is largely used for offices, and every part of the building (with the exception of the top floor) is private and closed to the public. Other fast facts about the tower include that it stands at 144 metres high and weighs 80 000 tonnes.
History of Le Nid Bar
The quirky and whimsical bar is the brainchild of Nantes born graphic artist Jean Julien and there’s no other way to explain the space than to say that the bar and the art installation are one and the same! After all, as soon as you step out of the elevator, you’ll be greeted by a larger than life sleeping part-heron/ half-stork.
The neck of the bird wraps its way around the bar space, culminating in the body of the bird which doubles up as the bar. Dotted around the restaurant are egg-shaped tables and tiny chairs where you cat sit back and relax with friends, or enjoy sipping on a drink from the bar.
How to visit Le Nid Nantes and the best time to go
Hands down, if you want to glean the best view of the city of Nantes, then you should head to the bar and its panoramic terrace at golden hour, i.e. during sunset. This way, the light will be at its best and the sun won’t be too harsh for any photos you wish to take. Incidentally, here’s a complete guide to my camera gear.
Arrive a little before to guarantee that you’ll make it up to the top floor on time and you’ll be richly rewarded with a 360-degree view of the city lying below you. During particularly busy periods, it’s not uncommon to have to wait for the lift, as space to go up is limited to under a dozen people!
You should know before you go that the terrace is often closed in case of bad weather (i.e. rain or fog), and though the bar will still be open, the best views are to be found from the panoramic terrace that wraps its way around the top floor’s exterior.
The entrance fee is €1, which is more than reasonable for such a wonderful view! With that being said, as you might imagine from such an establishment, drinks are a little pricier than you would find elsewhere in town. I personally ordered a tasty sangria that was on offer for €6,50, though most cocktail drinks were priced at €8 to €10. The bar also serves a selection of soft drinks and warm beverages.
Finally, though the fee is pretty nominal, holders of the Nantes pass can ascend to the top floor for free. During the winter months, there are often special offers such as ‘pass holders can get a free soft drink upon presentation of the pass’.
Though you clearly shouldn’t purchase the pass merely to visit Le Nid, the card is actually pretty good value for money if you’re thinking about seeing many of the city’s main attractions. After all, over 30 discounts and offers are included in the pass, including a guided walking tour, entrance into the Nantes history museum and entry to the Carrousel des Mondes Marins. Find more details here.