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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

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5 Outings Near Nantes

An old port enclave on the banks of the river Loire, Nantes is now best known as Jules Verne’s hometown. It is one of those cities that always lives up to visitors’ expectations. So, too, does the following selection of places located in the vicinity of Brittany’s erstwhile capital, where you will get the chance to visit unique spots, have a whale of a time in the theme parks and explore villages redolent with history. Up for the adventure?

Marais Poitevin
Covering an area of 100,000 hectares and known as “The Green Venice”, the Marais Poitevin is a marshland traversed by the Sèvre Niortaise river before it flows into the Atlantic. It combines areas of dry marsh drained by man and wet marsh, part of which is channelled into navigable canals. Be sure to head for Arçais and Coulon, two of the most prominent communes in the area, where you can hire a boat or kayak to glide along the marsh waters. Or, if you prefer, you can hire a bike and ride along the bicycle paths criss-crossing this land, a natural gem situated just over an hour and a half from Nantes. Don’t miss out on it!

La Rochelle
From the 14th to the 17th century, La Rochelle was one of the leading ports in France and the point of departure for French settlers heading for Canada. Situated just two hours from Nantes, the first thing that strikes visitors to the city are its fortified towers, a throwback to a past marked by war. The Chain Tower and Saint Nicolas Tower once protected the old harbour; the Tower of the Lantern had the function of lighting it up and acting as a beacon for ships, while the Gothic Grosse Horloge or Clock Tower was the gateway into the old city. Another unusual feature of La Rochelle is that a large number of its buildings are made of limestone, prompting it to become known as the Ville Blanche or White City.

Ré Island
A 12-kilometre-long toll bridge joins La Rochelle to what is possibly one of the most picturesque spots on France’s west coast – Ré Island. Measuring 30 by 5 kilometres, the island is home to salt marshes, beaches, vineyards, bird-watching observatories and villages of irresistible charm and is blessed with a mild, pleasant climate for the area. The best way of exploring this fantastic island is by bicycle and, if you can afford to get here off season, you will avoid the crowds and the accommodation crunch (the drawback of any destination which is both beautiful and popular).

Poitiers, which lies about two and a half hours from Nantes, is a city charged with history which you should make a point of visiting. It was founded by a Celtic tribe known as the Pictones and built up by the Romans in the first century AD, later to become an important site in medieval times. Known for its host of churches, which are open to the public, the Church of Notre-Dame la Grande is among the most outstanding, featuring original, 12th-century frescoes in its interior. The best way to tour this city is by strolling through the streets in the old town, where you are bound to get carried away by the medieval atmosphere.

This popular theme park lies just 10 kilometres north of Poitiers, with attractions based on cutting-edge cinema, audiovisual and robotic technologies. Your time at Futuroscope is sure to provide lots of entertainment and new sensations, and both adults and children will have fun here.

Book your Vueling to Nantes and get ready to enjoy these five locations in the city’s environs.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by TwoWings, Flavio Ensiki, Eric Pouhier, Erwan Deverre, Hamon jp

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11 Things to See and Do in Nantes

By Marlys Schuermann Easy Hiker

Nantes is one of the many charming and interesting small French towns you have to discover. You can easily spend a leisurely week-end there and keep yourself busy sight-seeing the town, either on foot or renting a Bicloo (the equivalent of a Velib in Paris.)

What to See and Where to Go

1. The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany and Nantes, which is now a museum. If the weather is fine, you can even settle yourselves on the grassy moat surrounding the castle, either to picnic, play or just to soak in the sun.

2. Make sure you go inside the castle and perhaps look into that well and make a wish.

3. The gothic Cathedral, famous for being the most beautifully restored cathedral in France.

4. Enjoy a stroll at the Place Royale, where right and left, you will find open-air cafes for your coffee break.

5. Bike to or take the tramway line no. 1, to the Gare Maritime to catch a Navibus (river boat) to bring you to the old fishing village of Trentemoult.

6. There are no more working fishermen in Trentemoult but it is worth the while to see the quaint houses and ruelles still surviving.

7. The Ile de Nantes, where “Le Jardin des Machines” is located, is one destination you cannot and would not want to miss, mainly to see and perhaps take a ride on its most popular attraction, the Giant Mechanical Elephant.

To savour the spectacle, I would recommend for you to stay on the ground and just watch the mechanical pachyderm trumpet out steam and slowly stroll around the park.

8. After all that excitement with this circus, you can go back to the mainland and visit the Passage Pomeraye, a 3-level 19th century shopping arcade.

9. See the objects the chocolatiers of Maison Larnicol created out of chocolate – a lady’s stiletto, a handbag, two giant lipsticks and a replica Jaguar.

10. Right near Nantes central train station is the famous Tour de LU. It was in Nantes that the biscuit factory of LU had its main site but has since been turned into a theatre/museum.

On your visit to the old fishing village Trentemoult, you must have seen their sign, too.

11. And where to eat when in Nantes? At the Brasserie La Cigale, of course (4, Place Graslin.) This restaurant has served good food for almost 115 years. Be part of their history. Best to reserve if going for dinner or go after 14h00 to be sure of getting a table. They’re open all day (07h30-00h30)

To help you go and see more of Nantes, check out their Tourism Bureau’s advice HERE.

Image: Dyhorus

By Marlys SchuermannEasy Hiker

Somewhere well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.

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5 things to do with your children in Nantes

By Valentina Besana – Be Road

I’ve been to Nantes for 48 hours with my partner in life and our son who is just over two years old. This lovely town in the Loire offers a variety of fun things to do that respond to the requirements of both adults and children.

1. Isle de la Machine

A unique museum that will charm parents and children of all ages. This cultural project is based on the merging of the fantastic worlds imagined by Jules Verne (author of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and “Around the World in 80 Days”, born in Nantes), Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical universe and Nantes’ industrial history.
One of the most striking features of the exhibit is the huge mechanical elephant that moves around in the museum and on which it is possible to take half-hour tours, though I think it is just as interesting to watch it stroll around from the ground. Oh, be careful about getting too close to the elephant because it sprays water from its trunk and you might end up taking an unexpected shower! Inside the museum there are other mechanical animals built with much attention to detail: caterpillars, birds, and a variety of insects…

Also fascinating is the great “marine world merry-go-round” located outside (soaring a good 25 meters from the ground) on which you can ride together with your children. Facing the museum is a play-ground with swings and slides. Located on the shores of the Loire river in the former dockyard area, the museum is just a quick street car (number 1) ride away from the town center and can also be easily reached with a lovely walk.

If you get hungry, rather than having a snack at the museum’s café that doesn’t have much to offer, my suggestion is to walk a little further to the area called “Hangar à Bananes” where there are several café’s offering delicious crepes and cakes.

2. Historic town center with chocolates and wooden toys

Strolling through Nantes’ beautiful historic town center is very pleasant and can be done entirely by foot. I recommend a walk in the car free street Rue de Verdan, where you will find a distinctive Boulangerie (“Boulangerie Simon”, at number 19) where you can purchase a healthy snack for your children, and just a few steps away at number 23, a typical French chocolaterie that will put you in a good mood (Lambert Chocolaterie). Those who fancy shopping for design baby attire should not miss “Drom”, a gorgeous store at number 31 of Rue de Verdan, selling beautiful romper suits, dresses and all sorts of accessories.
And if your children are bored, facing the clothing store is the “Le Bonhomme de Bois”, a wonderful toy store full of original ideas and wooden toys.

3. Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne

Beautiful medieval – renaissance style castle built between the XIII and XVI centuries. As daylight begins to fade, the facade glows with lovely light shows. During the day it is possible to take a tour inside the castle, but it is also nice just to walk around in the courtyard, look down into the great well and feed the many ducks that have made a home in the area. The castle is in the center, not far from the Bouffay neighborhood, the ideal place to get something to eat (point 5)

4. Le Nid, aperitif with a view

This is not a place specifically for children, but our son liked it. It’s on the last floor (thirty second) of the Brittany Tower, with a breathtaking 360° view of the city. The name of the place is not a simple coincidence – inside there is a large sculpture of a stork and egg-shaped chairs that are much admired by the younger guests. Here I suggest you enjoy the view and have something to drink, but not to eat: we tasted the bagels that they serve… icy cold!

5. Sweet and salty crepes in Bouffay

Going abroad with children and deciding what to get for them to eat might be quite difficult. But what can be better than a delicious crepe? It’s a balanced and nourishing dish stuffed to your choosing. In Nantes the mix used for salty crepes is made with buckwheat flour (they are called Gallettes), which are therefore darker than we are used to seeing them but just as delicious. Sweet crepes are made with the traditional mix, are very thin and can also be stuffed in any way you want.There are very many Creperie’s in the Bouffay neighborhood within Nantes’ city center, and it isn’t easy to chose one. We happened to stop at the Creperie Jaune by chance and were very happy with the choice.

By Valentina Besana – Be Road

Somewhere well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.

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