Ville de Nantua

The city of Nantua

An imposing and peaceful town, clustered at the tip of a deep lake and surrounded by limestone cliffs that make for spectacular walks on which you might see chamois, Nantua has in all eras displayed the assurance of a place that never disappoints visitors. History and gastronomy, nonchalance and adventure… Nantua leaves no-one cold.

A land of treasures and legends

A quiet place at first glance, the Catholard town is in fact steeped in history, nostalgia, unexpected surprises, fine culture and festive food and drink... Let's start with its location. On the shores of a glacial lake 40 m deep. 140 hectares of water set among towering and sometimes unstable limestone rocks (historic landslides like the 12,000 tonnes of the Colonne in August 1973 helped to raise Nantua's profile in their own way). Next comes its architectural heritage, with an abbey born of a legend (that of the Bishop St. Amandus being saved by a lightning bolt...). The Abbey Church of St. Michael still stands, a subtle blend of Romanesque and Clunisian styles that houses 2 treasures: a unique picture by the painter Eugène Delacroix ("The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian") and a listed organ of exceptional musicality.
  • Abbatiale Saint Michel
    Abbatiale Saint Michel

A few figures

  • Populaton: 3,685 (on 01.01.2018)
  • Surface area: 12.79 m²
  • Altitude: 478 m
  • Inhabitants: Nantuatiens (nickname: Catholards)
  • Department: Ain (sub-prefecture)

Catholard, a nickname with many explanations

  •  Some say this nickname was first used by the reformed Protestants of Bern or Geneva during the Wars of Religion.
  • Others think the name comes from the French word “cathèles”: these were ropes and pulleys on Rue de la Pierre and Rue Borgnat that were used to bring the wood up to the attics. During the persecution of the Protestants during the Wars of Religion, they were also used as gallows.
  • Some also claim that after a very good meal, the fictional giant Gargantua gifted the lake to the residents by using his bladder to “water the land”, after treating them to a “cathole” (lump of goat dung).


Before it was given the name we know today, Nantua was called “Nantuacos” (Extract from the “Nantua along the water” guided tour).

  • Viaduc de Nantuaa
    Viaduc de Nantuaa

Land of flavours

Nantua tantalises your taste buds with its pike quenelle, or more specifically with its Nantua sauce, which adds a distinctive charm to a universal recipe based on crayfish butter.

Its origins date back to a time when these crustaceans lived in the rivers where tanners soaked their hides. A refined dish that is sure to delight sophisticated gourmets’ palates!

  • Restauration, L'Embarcadère, Nantua, Ain
  • Restaurant Chez le Pere Durdu
    Restaurant Chez le Pere Durdu

Land of resistance

A land of asylum, Nantua was also a bastion of the Resistance during the Second World War. Its role at the heart of a region that was greatly shaped by the maquis and rebellion against the Nazi invader is discussed at the Departmental Museum of Resistance and Deportation History, in the town centre.

Self-guided tour of Nantua

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Explore Nantua on foot following the heritage discovery trail. To assist you during your visit, there are signs drawing your attention to the most remarkable sights, like the lake, the abbey church, the museum or even more secret places like the La Pierre Quarter, with its old medieval shops, the source of the Doye, Rue des Tanneries, where you will learn the origins of Nantua sauce, or the Lâte Tower, the last remnant of the town ramparts. And Michel, a Nantua boy who lived here in the 1960s, will tell you about his life through his collection of postcards.

Guided visit "Nantua along the water"

Guided tour Nantua’s history is closely linked to water: a natural lake formed in the Quaternary period, a spring in the middle of the town, a legendary pond and rivers filled with fish offer many opportunities to discover Nantua from a new angle. Book your guide with the Tourist Office!

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did you know ?

Nantua used to have 2 lakes… (extract from the “Nantua along the water” guided tour).


Office de Tourisme Haut-Bugey
Espace Trois Lacs 14 rue du docteur Mercier – 01130 NANTUA
Tél. +33 (0)4 74 12 11 57

Nantua in images

Nantua on video

To find a way

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