On the River Loire, in North West France, Nantes has reinvented itself.

Once the home of the Dukes of Brittany, Nantes stands as a beacon of culture and history in the western region of France. With its roots stretching back to the Roman era, the city has evolved from a bustling industrial port, with important shipyards, to one of the most attractive places to live in France.

It’s mastered the art of transformation, turning its industrial scars into sources of strength and beauty. This is a place where the past is honoured, the present is vibrant, and the future is eagerly anticipated. Whether you’re into history, art or food, Nantes makes an attractive destination, particularly for those long weekends.

Château des Ducs de Bretagne

As you wander through the streets of Nantes, the echoes of the past blend seamlessly with the pulse of contemporary life. The city’s historical centrepiece, the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, is a fortress that encapsulates the grandeur of Nantes’ heritage. Once the home of the Dukes of Brittany, it now houses a museum that narrates the region’s rich history through state-of-the-art interactive exhibits.

A short stroll away, the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul towers over the city with its Gothic architecture. Its serene ambiance invites contemplation, while the intricate stained glass and the tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, remind visitors of the city’s regal legacy. It’s presently under renovation, after a tragic fire in 2020, and an exhibition outside documents the process.

Jardin des

Jardin des Plantes

Nantes is known as the city of one hundred parks, all offering green spaces for relaxation and recreation. The Jardin des Plantes is a botanical wonder, with its beautifully landscaped gardens and exotic plant collections. For a leisurely afternoon, take a picnic to the banks of the Erdre River, and enjoy the tranquillity of the water amidst the bustle of the big city.

Evre River Bank

Marché de Talensac

Talensac Market

The Marché de Talensac is the city’s gastronomic heart, dating from 1937, and its seafood and fish stands are a particular delight.  Here sample regional specialties like the rum and lemon flavoured gâteau nantais or the pungent curé nantais cheese. Pair these with a glass of crisp Muscadet, the region’s signature white wine.

The city centre is easily walkable, much of it pedestrianised, and seamlessly blends old and the new. Restaurants and bars pop up on every corner and Nantes’ culinary scene is a reflection of its diverse influences and proximity to the sea. Chefs tend to be young and innovative and their menus are surprisingly good value.

Île de Nantes

Île de Nantes

The Île de Nantes, once the industrial heart, has been transformed into a cultural hub that celebrates the city’s innovative spirit. Some of the biggest international names in architecture have been involved in regenerating the former shipyards.

The big attraction here is the Machines de l’Île, a blend of the inventive worlds of Jules Verne, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and the industrial history of Nantes.

The Galerie des Machines, houses a living exhibition of gigantic mechanical animals, lumbering around the huge interior space. The 12m tall Grand Elephant escapes outside, carrying a coachload of passengers on its back, to trundle around the quays. Get off and ride the Carrousel des Mondes Marins, an imaginative roundabout with 27 moving sea creatures.

Carrousel des Mondes Marine

Art in Nantes

Le Voyage à Nantes is a unique and innovative yearly art project that transforms the city of Nantes into a living gallery. The 2024 event will take place between July and September but the installations from 2023 are still in place.  Visitors can follow a creative itinerary through the heart of the city, taking in over 100 artworks in public spaces.

Château des Ducs de Bretagne

The journey begins at the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, the city’s historic castle, and continues to the Musée d’Arts de Nantes, recently renovated. Here there’s a splendid collection of masterpieces from Tintoretto to Chagall. You continue through the city to the Machines de l’Île and the memorial to the abolition of savery.

You can also explore further. The Estuaire Nantes art trail continues for 60km along the Loire to the sea at Saint-Nazaire. 33 unique artworks sit in the landscape, all specifically designed for their location. One notable piece is Le Pendule by Roman Signer, a minimalist structure featuring a 7-meter long pendulum hanging from an unused concrete plant. Others include a drowned house, in the centre of the river, and a bendy boat.

Fact file

GO: Ryanair flies direct from London Stansted to Nantes.

The Stansted Express is the fastest way to the airport from central London.

INFO: Le Voyage à Nantes has information about the city.

The Nantes city pass offers free access to museums, public transport, cruises, and guided tours.

Les Tables de Nantes has information about restaurants.

STAY: Hotel La Pérouse is right in the city centre with distinctive décor.

EAT: Sain features local seasonal ingredients.

Le Coin des Crêpes serves up traditional Bretagne crepes.

Sépia offers a distinctive take on French cuisine.

Maison Bagarre is in the Michelin guide with its bistronomy menu.

Café du Musée in the museum has French favourites.

Song Saveurs et Sens mixes Asian flavours with local produce.

La Cigale is a beautiful art nouveau brasserie.

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