On the border of the Loire and Brittany in the city of Nantes, you'll find a magical place: Les Machines de l’île’. It's a unique and ever-growing world of mechanical animals. Engineering enthusiasts will be fascinated by this place, developed by artists François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice. It evokes both the imaginary, invented world of Jules Verne and the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and is a tribute to the industrial history of Nantes.

 

L'ile of Nantes, not Lille city in the North of France

It is located in the city’s former shipyards and is called ‘Les Machines de “l’Ile”’ (‘the machines of the island’) because the shipyards were on an island in the Loire River. Be sure not to confuse it with city of ‘Lille’ in northern France! This is a common mistake and those who arrive in Lille hoping to find the machines will be left disappointed!

 

Inspired by Jules Verne

Inspired by Jules Verne classics such as Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days, this mechanical menagerie was initially built to breathe new life into the old shipyards. Its attractions now include the Marine Worlds Carrousel, containing 27 interactive sea creatures across three levels; a giant spider; and its most famous piece, the Elephant. All these machines also function as rides for visitors to enjoy.

elephant

You can take a tour on the huge elephant: the machinery is impressive - it also blows water. 

 

You can also visit the gallery where the artists and engineers work on upcoming projects and new machines. From the initial sketches to the fully functioning machines, the entire creative process is on display, so you can see how the machinists bring these magnificent creations to life.

Some of the machines are part of the traveling exhibition, and are exhibited all over the world. The horse-dragon, named Long Ma, was built as a gift from France to China, marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Long Ma performed in a show at the Beijing Olympic stadium in 2014, and again this summer in Ottawa, Canada with his colleague, the giant spider Kumo, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation.

Sea lamprey

A sea lamprey at the Marine Worlds Carousel...not for children only...

 

The Gigantic Heron Tree

The next big project is the gigantic Heron Tree, a monumental structure 50m (164ft) in diameter and 35m (115ft) high.

The tree will consist of 22 branches with ants and spiders for visitors to ride up into the tree, and footbridges decorated with real plants. Two giant herons will fly above the tree, carrying about 15 visitors in each basket underneath them.

The tree’s branches will hang over the main square and will lead visitors toward the bar and gift shop at the end of their visit. This new attraction is scheduled to open in 2022.

Spider prototype

Spider prototype to carry visitors on the gigantic tree

 

Les Machines de l’Ile is a feat of art and engineering and has been at the heart of a regeneration project in what has been a deprived area of Nantes. The increase in tourism that the project is generating will continue to help develop the area and improve infrastructure. So if you are interested in innovation with a touch of eccentricity, or if you’re traveling with kids, a trip to see Les Machines de L’Ile is a great day out for all the family. 

If you're interested, we can include a day trip to Nantes in any of our Loire Valley or Normandy itineraries. 

France Just For You

Experts in self-drive tours in France

Travelers Reviews

5.0
Carol
We have just returned from a road trip around France and with Emilie's help, we had one of the best trips we've ever had. We travel extensively and I normally do my own research and bookings because we don't like using formal , organised tours and we were looking for advice on self driving holidays in France. Emilie's attention to detail is …
Clemmer & David
France Just for You - Emile and Laura - accomplished the task with skill and knowledge. Accommodations were excellent with lots of local color, suggestions for parking a large SUV were helpful, solving on the spot problems was handled with expertise and courtesy, sites were overwhelmingly beautiful. The guide book is the best. All the guides were …
Jennifer & Keith
Exceptional Trip to France We are posting this review with huge thanks to Laura and her colleagues. They planned a trip for us in June 2023 and created a perfect itinerary for our first time to France. We visited Paris, Burgundy, Provence and the Riviera. All accommodations were beautiful and their booking and recommendations for tours were …
Patricia
This was a perfect holiday put together so personally for us by Emilie of France Just For You. Every B&B was exceptional with charming hosts. Our personalised tour book was excellent and everywhere that was suggested we visit never disappointed. We travelled through Burgundy, Loire Valley and Normandy over 17 days. So many highlights,two in …
Bob from the US
The team created an amazing trip. We gave them the nick name “travel fairies” All was just magical.
Suzanne & Bill
Cannot speak highly enough of our experience with Emilie and France Just for You. They attended to every detail and request. The B&Bs were welcoming and attractive - quaint and with modern conveniences. The table-d'hotes were very special and a chance to taste authentic, regional cuisine and wines. We were very thankful to discover this wonderful …

What are you looking for?