Although it is now the administrative center of the Pays-de-la-Loire, Nantes was the capital of Brittany for hundreds of years.
It’s a vibrant university city where history and the present day are fused to offer visitors art, culture and fun.
The Isle of Nantes
Connected to the mainland by bridges, the once-industrial Île de Nantes is a fascinating part of the city to spend some time in. Wide paths for strolling, bar terraces and Les Machines de l’Île: a unique spot, inspired by the works of Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci, which centerpiece is a 39ft high elephant, which takes passengers on a tour of the surroundings.
Beach day trips
As well as being on the edge of Château country, Nantes is only a hop, skip and a jump to the sea. This makes Nantes just as attractive for summer breaks as it does winter; when you’ve seen the sights, schedule a few day trips to the beach. One of the nearby gems to the southwest is the stunning island Noirmoutier-en-l’Île. Sand dunes meet pine forests, all within a couple of hours drive.
Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
Surrounded by a water-filled moat, the imposing Château des Ducs de Bretagne is Nantes’ main landmark and a good place to start any visit of France’s sixth largest city. After an extensive 15-year restoration program, the castle now houses Nantes’ history museum, where visitors can learn about the city’s past as France’s largest port.
The old town
Nantes' old town can be found in the maze of streets to the west of the château in the Bouffay district. As well as half-timbered houses, you’ll also discover some of the city’s best shopping and the Passage Pommeraye, a spectacular 19th-century glass-roofed shopping mall, classified as a historic monument since 1976.