Proud capital of the Pays de la Loire in North-Western France
Nantes is an old trading city that has evolved over the centuries into a hardworking university town. With plenty to explore on foot in town, beaches nearby and Brittany just a short drive away, it’s almost a pleasure to get lost in this part of the world.
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When Nantes locals have a retail itch to scratch, they head straight for the Rue Crébillon. This chic shopping street is lined with designer names and dominated by international brands such as The Kooples (14 rue Crébillon) and Cartier (18 rue Crébillon). The 19th-century arcade in nearby Passage Pommeraye specialises in local designers and one-of-a-kind boutiques, while the Saturday flea market in the Place Viarmes is the perfect place to pick up an antique bargain. Nantes is famous for its locally produced wines, and you’ll find a range of vintages on sale at the Maison des Vins de Loire (15 place du Commerce). Les Rigolettes Nantaises (18 rue de Verdun) is the place to buy regional specialities.
Food & Drink
Seafood fresh from the Atlantic is a staple of the Nantes foodie scene, and nowhere does it better than Lulu Rouget (1 rue du Cheval Blanc). This delectable little hideaway isn’t on the tourist radar but manages to make many of the other fish restaurants in the city look commonplace. Another must-visit for foodies is traditional French brasserie La Cigale (4 place Graslin), which has been at the forefront of gastronomy in Nantes since the 19th century. More basic but equally scrumptious is the fare at Crêperie Heb Ken (5 rue de Guérande), which reputedly serves some of the best crêpes in town. For a special occasion, book a table at Les Chants d'Avril (2 rue Laënnec), which combines contemporary cooking methods with fresh local produce.
La Folle Journée
This themed event brings classical music to the masses. Held over a long weekend in winter, it features a series of short, low-priced concerts that everyone from kids to classical music buffs can enjoy.
Nefs Spring Festival
Taking place in Nantes’ old shipyards, the Nefs Spring Festival focuses on the city’s famous mechanised creatures. Circus shows and theatre productions designed around giant machine-like elephant and ‘tortoise-giraffes’ form the centre of the celebrations.
Citizens of Europe
‘Europe Day’ is celebrated in all European Union countries, but in Nantes they take the festival particularly seriously. Expect everything from concerts and dancing to tasting and exhibitions.
This celebration of Breton and Celtic culture focuses on the arts. Throughout the month of October, Celtic heritage enthusiasts come together to put on a series of dances, musical events and exhibitions that attract upward of 3,000 visitors.
Three Continents Festival
Since its inauguration in 1979, the Three Continents Festival has grown to become one of the leading events in France dedicated solely to independent film productions from Asia, Africa and Latin America. An incredible range of filmmakers competes for the prestigious ‘Montgolfière d'Or’, a balloon-shaped award.
Once the most important port on the Loire, Nantes is gradually making the transition to commercial centre and historic visitor destination. The past few years have seen an explosion in the luxury hotel scene, with upmarket chains such as Radisson Blu (6 place Aristide Briand) opening elite branches in Nantes’ historic centre. Some of the most attractive accommodation options are housed in converted ancient buildings – the Sōzō Hotel (16 rue Frédéric Caillaud) occupies a beautiful 19th-century chapel and is a perfect mid-budget option. The exquisite but reasonably priced Jules Verne-themed apartments next to the Loire (86 quai de la Fosse) are ideal for those travelling on a budget.