Clisson, France is a small town located just a few hours outside of Paris and only about 20 minutes from Nantes. Easily accessible by car or train, this cute little city is a nice quiet getaway. A slow moving river cuts the town in half, like many French cities, that can be crossed via an old stone bridge with unequal arches. I found Clisson quite charming and enjoyed the quiet few hours that I spent wandering the older parts of the city. There are also a handful of restaurants lining the water and looking up at the castle which provide diners with a quiet peaceful view of the imposing 12th and 13th-century castle. There are a handful of reasons why I personally think Clisson should be on a traveler’s list.
1- Clisson in History
The name Clisson should catch your eye if you love history. Originally, the town of Clisson was part of the duchy of Brittany though today, the department Clisson sits in (Loire-Atlantique) is excluded from the region of Brittany. The de Clisson family is important in the history of Brittany, as well as of England and France as a whole. Olivier V de Clisson began service to the English crown at a young age but eventually reconciled with the King of France and served as the Constable of France after Bertrand du Guesclin. Olivier was also an important figure in the wars of Breton succession. The history surrounding the de Clisson family was part of the draw to visiting the town in the first place and the fact that the architecture gives off a distinct old town feel drew me in even more.
2- The Château de Clisson
The Château de Clisson enters history around the 11th century, though the present castle mostly dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. Most of the interior of the castle is currently in ruins but the power this castle used to hold is still quite apparent. From all angles, the castle is imposing though from the bridge or along the river, the power of this medieval château is felt even more. Entrance to the castle only costs €3 and for just €3 more you can have a guided tour of the grounds and buildings. The grounds are actually quite intricate and I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around trying to picture what the castle looked like in its glory. Unfortunately, I missed the dates of the historical reenactments and performances but most of the year there are different events that take place inside the castle. I quite enjoyed that I was the only person walking around this particular castle, it allowed me to take in the feelings it evoked a little more fully.
3- A Beautiful Mixture of Nature and Architecture
The city of Clisson is split right in half by la Sèvre nantaise. On one side, a hill rises steeply up topped by the castle, the église Notre-Dame, and much of the old town. On the other side, houses, shops, and restaurants. The number of buildings by water decreases quite drastically where the bridge joins the two sides of the town leaving a lot of greenery on either side of the river. This gives the river quite a rural feel despite being right smack in the middle of the town. During the day there are a number of kayakers from local rentals riding peacefully through the town (something I wish I had done, this area is beautiful for kayaking). I could see people picnicking along the riverside while looking up at the warm stone buildings with terracotta tile roofs. I loved this mixture of nature and architecture so much! There were almost no modern buildings in sight giving Clisson an old world charm that I adored.
4- The Peace and Quiet
Perhaps one of the qualities I loved the most about Clisson was the peacefulness one feels when exploring it. This is not a large tourist town. Despite the history and quaintness that Clisson exudes there are far fewer numbers of tourists than many of the other cities I visited. I sat down in the early afternoon to enjoy a glass of wine at the restaurant on the terrace behind the Best Western where you’re offered the perfect view of the river and bridge and behind it the hill with the castle and old town. I could have sat there for hours it was so quiet. Afterward, I wandered the streets of the lower town poking my head in the shops and trying some delicious gelato. The entire city gives off a vibe that says “slow down and relax.” By visiting Clisson, I managed to escape the flocks of tourists I knew were rushing around other large cities, even during high season.
Whether you love quiet towns, medieval architecture, outdoors activities, or just great views, Clisson is a lovely getaway from the buzz of the bigger cities. I spent a relaxing afternoon exploring and if you’re ever in the area, I suggest you do the same, you might love it as much as I did!