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Six Essential Sites in Nantes

Situated in France’s Loire Country, although Breton at heart, Nantes is a vibrant city which hosts a large number of cultural events every year. The most prominent of these is undoubtedly A Journey to Nantes, a festival at which artists display their works in the streets. If you happen to visit Nantes, here are the six emblematic sights in the old Breton capital.

Castle of the Dukes of Brittany. We begin with a historic monument, the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany. It is the last castle situated on the banks of the Loire before it runs into the Atlantic. This elegant castle now houses the Nantes History Museum.

Graslin Square. Here, in the vicinity of the green Cours Cambronne esplanade, are two must-see sights – the Nantes Opera House, a neoclassical building with statues dedicated to Molière and Racine, and the Art Nouveau La Cigale bar-restaurant.

Le Lieu Unique. This building, once the premises of the old LU Biscuit Factory, is divided into several areas – a performance venue, an exhibition area and a hammam, among others. Its emblematic tower affords pleasant views of the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany and the city as a whole.

Île de Nantes. The Isle of Nantes features various contemporary works by great architects, including Nouvel, Buren and Portzamparc. One of the standout landmarks is the Palais de Justice, designed by Jean Nouvel, located on the François Mitterrand quayside, which welcomes visitors to this spot.

The Machines of the Isle of Nantes and the Marine Worlds Carrousel. The so-called Machines of the Isle, located on the former site of the Nantes shipyards, is an unusual artistic and tourist project. It consists of sculptures of giant mechanical animals, indicating a fusion between the imaginary worlds of Jules Verne, who was born in Nantes in 1828, the visionary machines of Leonardo da Vinci and the industrial history of the city itself. Another must-see is the Marine Worlds Carrousel, a three-storey merry-go-round with a marine theme. The attraction won the Thea Award in 2014, one of the most prestigious in in the leisure theme industry.

Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery (Fosse quayside). In 1998, to mark the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, the artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and the architect Julian Bonder built a commemorative monument along the Loire dockside. The monument comprises 2,000 glass panels depicting scenes from the slave expeditions that departed from Nantes not so long ago.

Apart from these six sights, Nantes offers other charming spots that can be toured in a single weekend. Check out our flights here.

Text by María Jesús Tomé
Photos by María Jesús Tomé / Nantes Tourisme