Nantes Guide. Leisure Guides.

 

Nantes is visual feast of ancient, modern and downright quirky. Once the capital of Brittany, now heading Loire-Atlantique, it boasts a wide-ranging cultural scene and enough events to give the whole city a year-round buzz. Click here to view Nantes guide, 

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Getting around


The airport is about 25 minutes from the centre of Nantes and a shuttle bus runs every 30 minutes throughout the day and evening. Once in Nantes, you can get around the historic centre easily enough on foot, but the city also has three tram lines as well as comprehensive local buses and trains. Trams go across the Loire to the Île de Nantes and up the Erdre to the Île de Versailles. 
 
One ticket covers bus, tram, ‘Navibus’ boat taxis and local trains. Tickets can be bought from a machine at any stop. If you buy a Nantes Pass from the tourist office or airport, this covers all transport, free entry to main sights and many special offers – a real money saver for seeing the city. A well-used pick-up, drop-off bike scheme (‘Bicloo’) is also in place, with options by the day or week.
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Getting here

Getting here could not be any easier. We offer many frequent flights from London City Airport and plenty hotel packages. To book flights and hotels please click here.

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Hotels


Nantes has a wide choice of accommodation, with plenty of centrally located options. South of the river, the four-star Hôtel Oceania Nantes Aéroport is right by the airport, but easily accessible with good local transport links. An equally luxurious central option is the Mercure Nantes Centre Grand Hotel (4 rue du Couëdic), which fully lives up to the impressive entrance foyer. Handy for the station and tramway, and a short walk to the chateau, is the Kyriad Nantes Centre (8 allée du Commandant Charcot).

If you prefer a traditional hotel set-up, you won’t do better than the 18th-century Hôtel de France (24 rue Crébillon), with its high-ceilinged rooms and period-style French furniture. These days, short-let apartment blocks, where hotel-style rooms have basic kitchen facilities, are everywhere in Nantes. The Appart’City Nantes Quais de Loire (2 impasse du Sanitat) is near the Gare Maritime, or try the Residhome Berges de la Loire (31 Quai Malakoff) for something a bit more upmarket.

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Nightlife


Nights out in Nantes start in the bars, especially in the Bouffay quarter, where Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a magnet for the young crowd. Locals then move on to clubs like Le Loft (9 rue Franklin) and L’Elephant (18 place de la Bourse). Le Lieu Unique arts centre (2 quai Ferdinand Favre) is getting a growing reputation for its DJ nights at weekends. 
 
On the Île de Nantes, the Hangar à Bananes (21 quai des Antilles) has a choice of hot venues; try La Calle for a Latino beat, or lively Irish pub Le Dock Yard. Dedicated clubbers should note that the night-bus service ‘Luciole’ links the centre with widely spaced entertainment venues on Thursday (the traditional student night out) and Saturday nights. For a cultural treat, visit the gleaming opera house (Place du Graslin) with its magnificent Italianate interior and adventurous programme.
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Restaurants


Nantes has lots to offer gourmets and wine-lovers, with surprisingly reasonable prices even at the top end of the range. The narrow streets of the Bouffay quarter are stuffed with restaurants and bars, including a wide selection of ethnic eateries. For traditional French food at modest prices, a good bet here is La Reine Margot (8 rue de la Juiverie) with its intimate dining room. 
 
Opposite the Théâtre Graslin is the brasserie La Cigale (4 place Graslin), started in 1895 and famed for its lavish art nouveau décor and seafood dishes. This is the place to lunch, in the plush interior or outside in the square. At the upper end of the gastronomic scale, La Raffinerie (54 rue Fouré) presents the impeccably refined cooking of returning local boy Nicolas Bourget. For Asian fusion food incorporating Breton specialities such as scallops in an Eastern chic interior, visit the popular Song Saveur & Sens (5 rue Santeuil). Pick of the lot has to be Michelin-starred L’Atlantide (16 quai Ernest Renaud) where a menu to delight a gourmet’s heart features wild turbot.
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Shopping

 
Nantes has lots to offer gourmets and wine lovers, with surprisingly reasonable prices even at the top end of the range. The narrow streets of the Bouffay quarter are stuffed with restaurants and bars, including a wide selection of ethnic eateries. Opposite the Théâtre Graslin is the lovely Brasserie La Cigale (4 place Graslin), famous for its lavish art nouveau décor and seafood dishes. This area is currently being redesigned, but there are lots of good, unpretentious restaurants here, including Aux Petits Oignons (2 rue Suffren) and Le Bouche à Oreille (14 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau) for meat lovers.
 
Sophisticated menus can be found at Lulu Rouget (1 rue du Cheval Blanc) and L’U.Ni (36 rue Fouré) where even the vegetables get imaginative treatment. Across the river, there are plenty of options at the Hangar à Bananes (21 quai des Antilles); Le Cargo is the pick for great-value food, and music on weekend nights.
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Top 10 sights


Top 5 sights for first-timers

Château des ducs de Bretagne

The castle of the dukes ofBrittany, built in the 15th century, has been updated to include a very modern museum of the history ofNantes. The city’s changing identity is well documented, including a dimly lit room on the horrors of the slave trade, former source of the city’s wealth. Don’t miss the free rampart walk all around the castle with views over the city.

4 place Marc Elder
www.chateau-nantes.fr


Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes

The Vikings sackedNantesin 843, murdering bishop Saint-Gohard at the altar in an earlier version of this cathedral. The current flamboyant Gothic building has been renovated to present a luminous interior ofLoirelimestone. The famous marble tomb of Duke François II and his second wife is the most significant monument.

Place Saint-Pierre
http://nantescathedrale.free.fr


Les Machines de l’île

Don’t miss this venture located in the former shipbuilding works on the Île de Nantes. The city’s industrial past is transformed into a vast space for the activity of mechanical creations such as a larger-than-life elephant, which takes visitors on a leisurely tour, or the heron tree. There’s a new spectacular feature roundabout based on the oceanic adventure stories of Jules Verne.

Boulevard Léon Bureau
www.lesmachines-nantes.fr


Tour de Bretagne

A high-speed lift makes short work of the 32-storey climb to a 360-degree viewing platform with sensational views over the city from this 1970s tower block. Just as good is the iconic bar Le Nid, where drinks are served from the ‘nest’ of a huge white bird, whose head and neck curve round ‘broken egg’ stools and tables. Good fun.

Place de Bretagne


Île Feydeau

This area was once an island as the name suggests but the Loirehas today lost many of its branches in the interests of modern traffic systems. What the Île Feydeau retains are streets of houses once owned by wealthy merchants, some at a jaunty angle thanks to unstable foundations. With their ornate iron balconies and graphically sculpted mascarons (masks), they reflectNantes’ worldwide commercial profile.

Quarter south of the Gare Centrale

Top 5 sights for old hands

Memorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage

A sombre reminder of the root ofNantes’ commercial prosperity has been set up on the bank of theLoire. A path is scattered with tiny glass panels recording the ships involved in the slave trade, before an underground tunnel offers facts, figures and quotations from around the world about the struggle to abolish this crime against humanity.

Quai de la Fosse
http://memorial.nantes.fr

Le Lieu unique

This funky arts centre is located in the former Lu Biscuit manufacture and retains its industrial architecture, currently being remodelled with some minimalist artistic twists. The underground toilets are decorated with a riot of graffiti. There’s a trendy bar with riverside terrace and a restaurant, and the remaining decorative tower with its gyroscope is open in the afternoons. There’s even a Turkish bath downstairs!

Quai Ferdinand-Favre
www.lelieuunique.com

Musée de l’Imprimerie

Digital enthusiasts may never have known the old world of print and ink, but here you can marvel at those early printing processes or enjoy the nostalgia. Printing presses, lithographs, binding equipment and many other curious artefacts conjure up a lost pre-computer world.

24 quai de la Fosse
http://musee-imprimerie.com

Jardin des Plantes

Just opposite the station, this beautiful green space houses an extensive botanical collection and some remarkable individual trees. It’s a great place to relax, picnic or people-watch, but you can also visit the tropical greenhouses at certain times. There’s a restaurant, lake, other water features and a grass beach, complete with deckchairs.

BoulevardStalingrad
 

Nymphéa

An eerie and atmospheric experience, this work by Corsican visual artist Ange Leccia creates an ephemeral world of nymphs and sirens with images projected onto the waters of the Canal Saint-Félix as night falls. This is just one of the many artistic effects in the city designed to be seen after dark.

Canal Saint-Félix

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Top 5 activities


Sail the Erdre
 
From the Île de Versailles, Ruban Vert hires out small, silent electric boats for a trip up the Erdre River, described by François I as the most beautiful river in France. Take time to pause at a riverside restaurant or just admire the wildlife.
 
Open-top tour bus
 
A city tour on the salmon-pink, open-top bus is a great way to discover Nantes as it covers all the main sights on both sides of the river and can save a lot of walking. A hop-on, hop-off policy means you can linger at your favourite points, but just being driven round this highly visual city is a treat in itself.
 
Estuaire by night
 
Take a guided nocturnal tour of works in this ambitious arts project which has vivified Nantes and the Loire estuary in 2013. There are also day sailings with commentary and maps for those wanting to explore the vast and totally original ‘exhibition’ by car or bike. 
 
Wine route 

The Nantes area is famous for Muscadet wines and the fruity Gros Plant. Start your quest at the Maison des Vins de Loire (15 place du Commerce), then follow the wine route to vineyards for tastings and purchases. The tourist office has all the details.
 
Trip to Trentemoult
 
Take a 10-minute ferry ride on the Loire from the Gare Maritime to the pretty village of Trentemoult, with its colourful quayside houses. The former fishing village offers a view into another world with tiny passageways meandering through the houses and verdant courtyards behind the waterfront with its bars and restaurants.
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Top 5 events


Printemps des Arts
 
A month-long festival celebrating the baroque in theatre, dance, music and visual art.
 
Date: June
Venue: Nantes and surrounding area
 
 
Le Voyage à Nantes
 
Follow the green line around the sights to celebrate Nantes’ status as Green Capital of Europe for 2013.
 
Date: July to August
Venue: Throughout Nantes
 
 
Les Rendez-vous de l’Erdre

Jazz festival featuring artists and music from all over the world.
 
Date: August to September
Venue: Nantes and along the Erdre
 
 
Celtomania

An annual Breton culture fest with music, dancing, theatre and exhibitions on Celtic themes.
 
Date: October
Venue: Nantes and other venues in Loire-Atlantique
 
 
Les Utopiales 
 
Les Utopiales festival celebrates all aspects of the science-fiction world with film screenings, exhibitions, cartoons and maybe the chance to rub shoulders with strange beings.
 
Date: November
Venue: Nantes Cité internationale des Congrès


Written by World Travel Guide

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