Nantes, in Western Loire, is a beautiful city that was once the long-held historical capital of Brittany and is today a vibrant hub for the creative arts.
Located on the Loire, as the river flows into its estuary, Nantes is filled with a stunning range of architecture from the past and a wealth of surprising, fascinating and unusual works of modern art from the present. Historically part of Brittany, the city is home to the magnificent castle of the Dukes of Brittany, made from beautiful white tufa stone. Built to protect Brittany from the Kingdom of France, the château now houses the Nantes Historical Museum where you can find out all about Nantes' fascinating past. The wonderful, flamboyant Gothic cathedral and the elegant Passage Pommeraye, a 19th century shopping arcade, are some of Nantes' other unmissable historical buildings.
Today, the city is well-known as a space where culture and the arts flourish. From the marvellous Machines de l'île, an incredible arts project where the imagination of Jules Verne meets the invention of Leonardo da Vinci, to the contemporary artworks along the Loire Estuary, Nantes is undoubtedly the place to be inspired. The majestic Elephant, built by the artists of the Machines de l'Ile, is a sight not to be missed as this 12m high mechanical ride walks up and down the quayside with its passengers. A real favourite with the kids!
Every summer, Nantes really comes alive with the 10 mile discovery trail of Le Voyage à Nantes. Discover temporary arts installations, arts exhibitions and the beautiful heritage sites around the city. At the Lieu Unique, located in the old LU biscuit factory, you can explore all kinds of cultural activities including modern theatre, dance, literature and philosophy. There's even a hammam (Turkish bath) to relax in. Or if you fancy enjoying your art with a view, visit Le Nid on the 32nd floor at the top of the Tour Bretagne where a huge white bird, half-stork, half-heron, watches quietly over the city and you can see far and wide from the 360 degree panoramic viewing platform.
There's plenty of great places to shop, but you can't miss a stroll inside the ornate Passage Pommeraye. Be sure to try some local specialities in Nantes' wonderful restaurants such as dishes using beurre blanc, a white butter sauce that goes very well with fish and the delicious gâteau nantais, a cake made using almonds and Antilles rum. Enjoy your meal with a glass or two of Muscadet produced in the nearby wineries and vineyards of the Loire Valley. With its location between land and sea, Nantes' cuisine is a delightful mixture of flavours.