Although no longer technically in Brittany, Nantes remains its spiritual capital. Situated on the banks of the Loire, this ancient city was founded more than 2,000 years ago by the Celts. These days it’s an artistic hub, with a big student population giving it a young and lively vibe. Shop in the markets and explore the city’s vast heritage, especially the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, the onetime home of the Dukes of Brittany. If you’re in the mood for relaxing, there are beaches close by with La Baule easily reached by car or train. You will need to tear yourself away from the excellent gastronomic scene, including superb seafood and famous wine, first though.
Areas & Neighbourhoods in Nantes
Quartier des Olivettes - Just to the north of the Bras de la Madeleine section of the Loire and located around the street of the same name, the Olivettes is a lively square section of the city where you’ll find plenty of places to eat and drink.
Bellevue - A constantly changing neighbourhood on the north side of the river and home to a number of other districts, including Chantenay. Easy to get around using the handy tramway located here.
Trentemoult - Once a small fishing village, Trentemoult was swallowed up by the city of Nantes but remains a charming place to stroll, drink and eat. It’s part of the Reze, which stretches along the south bank of the river, with distinctive three-storey houses designed to avoid flooding.
Ile de Nantes - An island located in the centre of the city, surrounded by two branches of the Loire and accessed by 13 bridges.
Things to See in Nantes
The ‘City of Dukes’ is the fifth largest city in France so there’s plenty to see here. Visit the Duke’s Castle which dates back to the 13th century, a real emblem of the once mighty Britanny. You can learn more about the city at the Nantes History Museum. The Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul is located close to the castle and worth checking out, taking over 450 years to complete. Visit the unique Les Machines de l’Ile, home to huge mechanical animals that call to mind something from Jules Verne, perhaps the city’s most famous son. Climb the pink La Tour LU or get your cultural fix at the Musee des Beaux Arts de Nantes.
Things to Do in Nantes
Learn more about Nantes’ greatest writer at the Musee Jules Verne, which sits overlooking the river, or get your fill of science-fact rather than fiction at the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle, complete with incredible permanent exhibitions. Hang out at the Passage Pommeraye, modelled on the Parisian arcades of the 19th century or get your retail kicks at the aptly named Place du Commerce. The elegant Place Royale at the far end of the chic Rue Crebillon is beautifully designed in the classical style, with elegant symmetrical facades.