Built in 1958 and launched in 1960, Submarine Espadon was France's first submarine to travel under ice. When in operation, it had a crew of 65 living in its cramped quarters and traveled 360,547 nautical miles, the equivalent of 17 times around the circumference of the earth. Visit to get a feel for what life was like under the sea.
The Espadon was demilitarized in the 1980s and moored in Saint-Nazaire, where it has remained. Visit the vessel, now a museum, to learn about life in a submarine, complete with sound effect-enhanced audio-guides. Consider visiting in conjunction with three other nearby sites (Escal'Atlantic, Ecomusée, and EOL); you can book individual submarine tickets or get combo tickets for all four attractions in advance.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Espadon is a must-visit for families or those interested in engineering or military history.
Audio guides are available, free of charge, in French, English, German, and Spanish.
The submarine is not wheelchair accessible, but there are facilities for the hard of hearing.
How to Get There
The submarine is docked in Saint-Nazaire, a coastal city due west of Nantes. From Nantes Airport it's about 40 miles (65 kilometers) for a 45-minute drive. It's possible to travel via public transport from Nantes (40 minutes away) and Paris (about three hours away). The Saint-Nazaire railway station is about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) for a 25-minute walk or 5-minute car ride to the submarine.
When to Get There
Submarine l'Espadon is open from mid-February through early January. Opening days and hours vary, and it's sometimes closed on Monday, so it's best to check the website for details. The museum is generally open from 10am to 6pm, with a break for lunch from 1-2pm, except in the busy months of July and August, when it's open from 10am to 8pm, without interruption.
Other Port Attractions
There are three additional Saint-Nazaire attractions near the submarine, and you can visit all four on the same day. Escal’Atlantic recreates the experience of being on board an ocean liner, while Ecomusée focuses on the maritime history of Saint-Nazaire. Opened in 2019, EOL wind power center is the newest; the interactive visitor center focused entirely on offshore wind energy.
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