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Espadon submarine

The extraordinary life of submariners

1964: mission under the ice! The Espadon was the first French submarine to dive under the ice field. Imagine yourself diving down into the depths of the sea… Go through the passageway, examine the listening post, be amazed by the impressive torpedo tubes… All the members of the crew were in position. Now it’s your turn to go down into this steel giant to experience all the sound effects of life underwater, just like a submariner. As an official exhibit for Saint-Nazaire Ecomusée, the Espadon is the only floating submarine in France that you can board and visit.


The Espadon is closed for several months for major restoration work. The submarine is due to be open again in July 2021, ready to offer visitors a whole new experience and an unforgettable journey under the waves!

Come aboard the

Espadon submarine

The first French submarine to dive under the ice field

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea… do you remember? Maybe the Nautilus, the submarine in French writer Jules Verne’s famous novel, was one of your childhood favourites. In Saint-Nazaire, you can visit a real submarine. During her 25-year-long military career, the Espadon (“Swordfish”) sailed under the seven seas. She was also the first French submarine to sail beyond the Arctic Circle. So, are you ready to shiver?

Imagine you dive down into the depths of the sea… Go through the passageway, examine the listening post, be amazed by the impressive torpedo tubes… The 65 crew members had to share cramped space and a single shower… A fascinating tour for young and old alike!

Listening Underwater

A submarine must be discreet and make as little noise as possible in order to avoid detection. Inside, crew members and machines share a cramped common space where the devices’ sound mingles with day-to-day conversations. The new interactive and multimedia devices perfectly complement the audio tour of the Espadon. Fifteen sound steps await you throughout your visit: hear ambient sounds (berths, kitchen…), experience sensations (noise of engines and steel sheets underwater…), examine the navigation instruments (sonar, telegraph…) and visualize the itinerary of the mission under sea ice.

17 times the Earth’s circumference

This 78-meter-long submarine was built in Le Havre and put into service in 1960. The Espadon was able to dive for up to 5 or 6 days. Her electric engines (we are talking about a period well before nuclear submarines) ensured a top speed of 16 knots on the surface and 18 knots under water (approximately 18 and 20mph)

During her 25-year-long career, the Espadon spent 2,561 days at sea and 33,796 hours diving. She covered 360,547 nautical miles, i.e. approximately 17 times the Earth’s circumference! The Espadon was active during The Cold War but has never been involved in a military conflict. Towards the end of the tour you will see the impressive torpedo tubes: they were used regularly, but only for exercise.

Three good reasons to visit the Espadon submarine:

  • Picture yourself going on a Far North expedition for several weeks
  • Find out how 65 crew members could live together in such cramped conditions
  • Hear how a colony of shrimps sounds under water, or the explosion of an iceberg breaking into two parts…
What our visitors think

“When visiting Saint-Nazaire it’s worth it to spend an hour and walk through a retired submarine. Kids loved it, parents were impressed”

“Visit of L’Espadon is very interesting for almost anyone, but for those interested in military history it is great, great, great. The audioguide is excellent.”

“How folk lived aboard these things is amazing. We stayed on an extra night just to go aboard. Well worth a visit.”

Practical Information

Visitor Info:

  • All health and safety measures have been taken to assure you the best possible conditions for your safety and wellbeing while you visit.
  • Face mask compulsory (face masks are available for purchase from the ticket office).
  • Self-guided audio tour, approx. 30 minutes. Booking essential.
  • The audioguides are available in 4 languages: French, English, German and Spanish.
  • Animals are not allowed, except guide dogs for the blind.
  • See booking terms and conditions for groups of 20 people or more.

Prices – Espadon submarine

Full Reduced Children aged 4-17
€10 €8 €5

The more you see, the more you save!

#’PassPort 4 sites’ combination ticket
Escal’Atlantic + Espadon submarine + Écomusée + EOL Centre éolien

Full Reduced Children aged 4-17
€25 €12.50
#Pass Ecluse
EOL Centre éolien + Espadon submarine
Full Reduced Children aged 4-17
€15 €7.50


  • Reduced price (on presentation of proof): students, job seekers, people with disabilities with one accompanying person
  • Free admission for children under the age of 4 and annual PASS holders
  • Where can I buy tickets?
    • On this website
    • On site, 3 ticket offices: submarine base, fortified lock and Écomusée
  • Means of payment: cash, credit card (VISA and Mastercard)

How to get here?

The Espadon submarine is located inside the fortified lock, Avenue de la Forme Ecluse, Saint-Nazaire.

There are several car parks close by.

Public transportation:

  • Saint-Nazaire is served by both the TGV and the regional trains.
  • From the railway station, the nearest bus stops to the submarine are:
    • ‘Rue de la Paix’ (Hélyce line, daily) + 17 minutes walk
    • ‘Ruban Bleu’ (U2 and U4 lines, from Monday to Saturday) + 14 minutes walk


  • Mobility impairment: the submarine is not wheelchair accessible
  • Deaf and hearing impaired visitors: no specific arrangement
  • Blind and visually impaired visitors: audio tour
  • Mentally impaired visitors: very confined space, presence of anxiety-inducing elements

For further clarification or information, please call +33 (0)2 28 540 640

Services & Shop in the fortified lock

  • Services

    We are committed to making sure our visitors have the most memorable experience possible. This also involves providing quality services to you at the Admissions desk of the fortified lock.

    Free services

    • Phone charging stations
    • Lockers
    • Water cooler
    • Bottle warmer
    • Baby changing facilities
    • Bicycle park
    • Bicycle repair kit (available on request at the Admissions Desk)
    • Wi-Fi
  • Gift Shop

    At the heart of the fortified lock, right next to the Admissions Desk, the newly-equipped shop is waiting for you! A wide selection of gifts, souvenirs, books and games on the theme of submarines, wind power and more broadly the sea, are available for purchase. As for foodies, the shop offers a large array of local and regional products.

    Find out more about our gift shops

Reach for the sky!

Viewing platform

Climb up to the viewing platform of the fortified lock and you’ll be rewarded with a staggering view over the port, the shipyard, the bridge and the Loire estuary.
Do not miss the artistic gem from Felice Varini, ‘La Suite de Triangles’.