Nantes Rugby World Cup guide: 5 things to do before Ireland’s match with Tonga

Ireland play Tonga in their second Pool B game on Saturday night. Here are some of the city’s highlights…

So what can fans do before and after the game?

From Le Grand Elephant to petits beurre, local Muscadet wine to magnificent set pieces like its Gothic cathedral or 180-year-old Passage Pommeraye, this layover on the Loire makes a brilliant alternative to tried-and-trusted city breaks in France.

Here’s our guide to what can you see, do, eat and drink before the game.

1. The basics – when and where does Ireland v Tonga take place?

Stade de la Beaujoire, where Ireland take on Tonga at the Rugby World Cup on September 16

Stade de la Beaujoire is the home stadium for French Ligue 1 side FC Nantes. The 35,000-capacity stadium is 7km from the city centre and well served by public transport.

To get there by tram, take Line 1 (in the direction of Beaujoire or Ranzay). The Beaujoire stop is a two-minute walk to the stadium; Ranzay 11 minutes. There are also buses (Line C6, 75 or 95). The official Rugby World Cup travel guide to Nantes is here.

The match kicks off at 9pm; its fanzone from 6pm. That will include local food trucks and refreshment stands (also open for an hour after the game) as well as live jazz and rock music.

Whatever about having the craic before kick-off, it’s a good idea to get into the stadium a bit early, to allow time for security checks… those queues can get longer as stragglers arrive.

A travel pass (Pass Nantes, from €27) allows unlimited travel on buses and trams and access to dozens of tourist attractions, including the Museum of Art.

Nantes from above. Photo: Getty

2. What are some things to do in Nantes? Hit me with a must-see…

When a giant mechanical elephant was mooted as a tourist attraction over a decade ago, heads must have turned.

But today, Le Grand Elephant is a symbol of the city. Standing 12 metres high, this steampunk showpiece can carry 50 people for a 30-minute spin (€9.50 for adults, €7.50 for kids; Be sure to book online in advance though – this weekend will be hectic in Nantes.

The elephant is just the start of La Gallerie de Machines. You can take a ride on a carousel, and see loads of other magical, Jules Verne-style mechanical creatures.

Beyond that, the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany ( houses the Nantes History Museum, the Cathedral of St Pierre and St Paul offers a Gothic wow-moment and Passage Pommeraye is a good bet for lovers of retail… or rugby fans seeking last-minute gifts to bring home. It’s a 180-year-old shopping arcade.

3. Where’s the rugby fanzone in Nantes?

The Rugby Village in Nantes is at Parc des Chantiers on Boulevard Léon Bureau – it’s where you’ll find the food, drink and big screens on match weekends (Wales v Portugal is on in Nice at 5.45 on Saturday). There’s also karaoke, DJs, music, dance and more. That info is here.

4. What about bars and food in Nantes?

Gigg’s Irish pub ( is opposite the cathedral, and also does food. Expect as much craic as crowds at this one.

Bouffay is an area full of cobblestoned lanes – there are lots of bars and restaurants around its pedestrianised square, including beer bar Le Rabelais ( with its big screens.

Little Atlantique Brewery is a microbrewery set in a former oil mill with views of the river ( – as well as tours, brews and views, you can tuck into a tasty food menu.

For eats, along with a little glass of local Muscadet, try Magmaa Food Hall ( or the Talsenac covered market (, and don’t forget to bring a packet of petits beurres (literally, “little butter”), Nantes’ famous biscuits, with you to the stadium.

The local tourist office also has a handy gourmet guide to the city here. You can search by area or type – ranging from ‘brunch’ to ‘Lovely View’ to ‘I love Muscadet’. Bon appetit!

5. Where can I find more info?

Try and

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