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Historically the capital of the Duchy of Brittany, Nantes (Breton: Naoned) is today the capital of the administrative region of Pays de la Loire as well as the department of Loire-Atlantique. The sixth largest city in France, it was once an important port city, situated some 50 kilometres inland and connected to the Atlantic by River Loire. Its position on the delta of rivers Loire, Erdre and Sèvre to the west of France earned the city its nickname "La Venise de l'Ouest" (Venice of the West). Today, Nantes is a modern and industrialised town, yet very much culturally linked to the Breton heritage. Its most famous son is the writer Jules Verne, who brought us "Around the World in 80 Days".
Nantes is divided into 11 neighbourhoods, each under the control of a Consultative Committee.
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The Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany), dated back to 13th century, was both a residential palace and a military fortress. Over time, the castle was constantly remodelled and very recently a major restoration was underway to return the site to its emblematic glory in the history of Nantes and Brittany. The doors to the castle was reopened in 2007 upon the completion of the restoration, and currently houses Musée d'Histoire de Nantes (Nantes History Museum). The grounds of the castle, along with the ramparts, are free to visit on a daily basis except 1 January, 1 May, 1 November and 25 December. The Museum collections (permanent and temporary) are, however, ticket requiring. A standard ticket to either the permanent or the temporary collection is €5, while a combination ticket for both is €8.
Cathédrale St-Pierre-et-St-Paul (Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul) is a flamboyant late Gothic cathedral located close to the castle. The site was originally that of a Romanesque building but altered over time accordingly to the architecture movement across Europe. It took 457 years to complete the construction of the cathedral. The cathedral opens daily and is free of charge.
Commonly known as Église Notre-Dame de Bon-Port, its official name is Église de St-Louis (Basilica of St-Louis). The dome of this basilica was modelled after the dome of Les Invalides in Paris. Admission is free.
The construction of Église St-Nicolas (Basilica of St Nicholas) started in 1844 and completed 25 years later in 1869. It was among the first Neo-Gothic style buildings built in France. It also contains a marvellous set of pipe organs. The basilica is free for visit, and here is a link that allows 360º virtual visit of the basilica.
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Les Machines de l'Île (The Machines of the Isle of Nantes) hosts a number of mechanical animals including the Great Elephant which a ride can be taken. This giant mechanical elephant moves at a crawl of 250 metres per hour with a maximum of 49 passengers on board each time, with realistic flexes and movement, and the trunk will even spray water out every so often! Standard adult ticket is €6.50, and it includes the access to the terrace of l'Atelier de la Machine (the machine workshop) and to la Branche prototype de l'Arbre aux Hérons (the prototypic branch of the tree of herons).
La Tour LU (The LU Tower) is a rather "pink" and picturesque tower that stands by the entrance of the former factory of Lefèvre-Utile (LU) Biscuit Company. The unused factory was rescued from demolition in the late 1990's. The tower offers a vantage viewpoint of the city, while the factory has since been renamed Lieu Unique (Unique Place) and it is now used as a cultural centre.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes (Fine Arts Museum of Nantes) is housed in a beautifully designed museum of late 19th century. Works of arts by Delacroix, Money, Picasso, Kandisky, de La Tour and Courbet may be found here. The museum opens daily except Tuesdays and public holidays, and a standard adult ticket costs €3.50 each.
The Musée Jules Verne (Jules Verne Museum), dedicated to the Nantes native Jules Verne, is located on the side of Butte Sainte Anne, overlooking the River Loire. There are 8 rooms/themes at the museum, housing a collection of artifacts, replicas of Verne's inventions, and memorabilia inspired by his writings. Open daily except Tuesdays, public holidays and Sunday mornings. Standard adult ticket price is €3.
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The Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum) has permanent zoological collections as well as that of earth sciences. From time to time, external temporary exhibitions are also presented. Ticket costs €3.50 and the museum is open daily except Tuesdays and bank holidays.
Passage Pommeraye is an 19th century arcade/galleria named after the man who built it, Pommeraye. Located between rue Crébillon and rue de la Fosse, it was modelled based on the arcades in Paris at the time, complete with elaborate decors and includes renaissance style sculptures. It contains a variety of interesting shops and cafés.
Place du Commerce (Commercial Square) is the main square of the city and is fully pedestrianised. The main stations/stops for all the different public transportations of the city converge nearby in order to cater the needs of the consumers. Since 1990, it is also alternatively known as Place Sarajevo, as a sign of solidarity with the people of Sarajevo who were caught in the conflict during Yugoslav wars.
The elegant Place Royale (Royal Square) lies at one end of the chic rue Crébillon. Designed in a classical manner - symmetrical façades, open square in the heart of the city, adorned with a fountain at the centre with allegorically allusion to the city, the Loire and its tributaries (l’Erdre, la Sèvre, le Cher and le Loiret) - the square was most recently renovated in summer 2007.
Pass Nantes opens the door to 25 top attractions in Nantes, allows unlimited travel on all TAN network transportations including airport shuttle TAN Air, gives reductions at partner outlets as well as free guide book and map. The passes available are: 24h pass - €18, 48h pass - €28 and 72h pass - €36. Online purchase of the pass has a special 10% reduction.
For more information on tourism in Nantes, please check the page of the tourist office of Nantes Métropole.
Each year, Nantes hosts a large number of cultural events and festivities, and the following are just a few that may be of interest to visitors. For a more complete listing, have a look at this page by Ville de Nantes.
Nantes is a temperate city with oceanic climate given its proximity to the Atlantic. Summer in Nantes is generally mild, with temperatures not exceeding 25 °C and at a minimum of about 15 °C. The months of June, July and August are also usually the sunniest with the least rainfalls. In autumn, it remains mild with intermittent sunny days (day temperature between 12 °C to 22 °C) and cool nights. Winter in Nantes is rainy and can be very wet, although the rain is often followed by clear skies. Winter temperatures generally hovers between 5 °C to 10 °C. Occasional frosts may also occur. Spring remains cool in temperature until around May. The change in the weather in Nantes can happen suddenly, from sunny to rain and sunny again within minutes.
The Aéroport Nantes Atlantique (NTE), formerly Aéroport Château Bougon, is located about 12 kilometres from the city. Air France operates several direct domestic and European flights daily, connecting Nantes to cities including Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Nice, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, London and Amsterdam. Ryanair also flies direct to Dublin, Shannon, Milan (Bergamo), Barcelona, Leeds and East Midlands. Iberia serves both Madrid and Barcelona in Spain. Other destinations (some services may be limited to certain months/ seasons) served include Casablanca, Agadir, Québec, Pointe-à-Pitre, Fort-de-France, Saint-Denis de la Réunion and Port Louis.
TAN operates TAN Air airport shuttles to/fro the city centre of Nantes with a journey time of approximately 20-30 minutes. Ticket costs €7 each (which can be bought on the bus from the driver) and is valid for the entire TAN network transportation for an hour, including unlimited connections. The shuttle runs on a nearly hourly basis, so narrowly missing a scheduled shuttle means a considerable wait for the next one. The shuttle also has a very limited operating hours on Sunday and public holidays, with the first service from the airport starting at 3:20pm and the first service from Nantes starting at 3:50pm.
Alternatively, take bus number 37 to Neustrie and connect to the city centre by tram line 3. On Sundays and public holidays, when the operating hours for TAN Air start only in the late afternoon, this is the way to go. This option is also cheaper, requiring a standard 1-hour transportation ticket that costs €1.50. On days of limited service and for travel to the airport, do check the timetables for both the tram and the bus carefully to ensure sufficient time is given to make the flights.
There are also taxis at the taxi stand by the esplanade outside of Hall 1. Arrivals at Hall 4 should go to the shelter where a facility to call for a taxi is available. The trip to the city centre takes about 15-20 minutes. Expect to pay €25 to €30 for the journey.
Nantes is linked by TGV to major French cities, including Paris (2 hours), Lille (4 hours), Lyon (4.5 hours) and Marseille (6.5 hours). It is also linked to other cities by Corail including Bordeaux (4 hours) and Toulouse (6.5 hours), whereas rail travel by TER connects Nantes to regional cities including Rennes (1.5 hours), Tours (2 hours) and Orléans (2.5 hours).
Note that Nantes SNCF train station has 2 exits - North (access to the tram & city centre) and South (access to the Cité Internationale des Congrès). Train tickets may be purchased in advance through Voyages-SNCF or TGV-Europe.
Nantes is linked by A11 to Paris via Angers and Le Mans, by E62 to Poitiers, by E60/N165 to Brest, by A83 to Niort, by E03 to La Rochelle, and by E03/N137 to Rennes. They are also connected to other routes to regional towns as well as other European cities (e.g. E62 extends to Geneva, Milan and Genoa).
Nantes was once a major commercial port but most of the commercial traffic has since been moved downstream to Saint Nazaire. The areas of the river close to Nantes are now usually accessed by leisure cruises and are not exactly mean of direct transportation to get to Nantes.
Drivers unfamiliar with the city should take particular care, especially in the city centre area where there is a high density of pedestrians, the roads are often narrow and in parts windy, and many streets operate on a one-way system. Parking is not easy to come by either.
Taxis are available in and around Nantes. There are also designated taxi stops at the train station and by Place du Commerce. Taxis are operated by Allo Taxi Nantes Atlantique (telephone: +33 (0)240 69 22 22).
TAN (Transport de l'Agglomération Nantaise) operates the public transport network system in Nantes, including buses, trams, BusWay (similar to tram system but with bus running instead) and Navibus (water bus service). The tickets issued can be used on any of the transportation within the network. Tickets must be validated on the first use and they are valid for certain period of time in accordance to ticket type. Unlimited transfer is allowed.
Ticket types for visitors/casual users:
The historic centre of Nantes can be explored by foot with ease. Sights are relatively close to one another.
Bicloo is a nearly-free bike-hire service in Nantes. There are 79 pick-up points and some 700 bikes around the city for hire. A subscription is required - 1 day subscription costs €1 and 7 days subscription costs €5. The bike is free for use the first 30 minutes it is taken out. If it's not returned within 30 minutes to any of the bike stations, charges will be incurred - the first 30 minutes, €0.50; the second 30 minutes, €1.50 and subsequent 30 minutes period, €2 per period. After 24 hours, the bike is presumed lost and €150 will be charged to your credit card.
NGE is an alternative bike hire option and it does not observe the 30-minutes restriction periods like Bicloo. It is a good options for users planning to bike outside of the city area. The rates of hire are as follows: 1/2 day (4 hours) - €6, 1 day - €10, additional day - €6, 1 week - €30, 1 month - €50. Parking spots for the bikes may be rented at €0.80 per day or €8 per month.
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The cuisine of Nantes is very much influenced by its Breton roots, conjured in the kitchen using fresh produce of the lands in the region and of the daily catch straight from the Atlantic. However, among the local and regional specialties, international cuisines are also cropping up in Nantes, and the chefs of the city are definitely not afraid to infuse some of the old with some of the new. The following are some of the more traditional dishes that visitors to Nantes (and its environs) should try.
The cidre Breton (Breton cider) is available either as brut (dry), demi-sec (medium) or doux (sweet), and these ciders are naturally a little fizzy. A variation of the cocktail Kir (white wine with crème de cassis) is Kir Breton, where the white wine is substituted with the Breton cider and it is normally served as an apéritif.
Chouchen is a popular alcoholic beverage that was traditionally made of cider and honey but in modern days it is a form of mead, fermented from honey and water. Buckwheat honey is used, imparting its dark colour and distinct flavour to the chouchen. It is usually served cool as an apéritif.
Pommeau is made by mixing unfermented cider to one-year-old Calvados (a type of apple Brandy), and left to age in oak barrels for about 30 months. It is smooth to taste, with notes of vanilla, caramel and butterscotch. Pommeau from Brittany is known as Pommeau de Bretagne.
The Loire Valley regions near Nantes is also renowned for the production of Muscadet (not to be confused with the similar sounding Muscat, usually used to make sweet dessert wine), a white wine produced from Melon de Bourgogne grape variety. Muscadet wines are generally light-bodied and relatively dry, making it quite fresh, particularly when properly chilled. Those that have been left to age sur lie (i.e. wine left to remain in contact with dead yeast left over after fermentation) tend to have fuller body with fruity note. Muscadet is perfect for pairing with oyster, as well as with the other seafood and shellfish that are available in abundance.
|Grand Hotel de Nantes||2 bis rue santeuil 44 000||Hotel||81|
|Hotel Stars Nantes||3 rue Petit Chatelier||Hotel||74|
|Hotel Cholet||10 rue Gresset Quartier Graslin||Hotel||90|
|Hôtel EOLE EUROPE**||23 rue du Chemin rouge||Hostel||-|
|Quality Suites Hotel||27 rue du Chemin Rouge||Hotel||76|
|Hotel Première Classe Nantes Quest||Rue du Moulin de la Rousselière||Hotel||-|
|CITY RESIDENCE NANTES BEAUJOIRE||23/25 Rue Du Chemin Rouge||Hotel||-|
|CERISE Nantes Atlantis||12 rue de la Johardière 44800 SAINT-HERBLAIN||Hotel||-|
|CERISE Nantes la Beaujoire||50 rue de l'Ouche Buron||Hotel||-|
EU citizens may work in Nantes without visa restriction although most jobs will require some degree of fluency/ language proficiency in French. Maison de l'Emploi has an employment database for searches of positions available in Nantes and the Nantais region.
There is a large student population in Nantes (about 47,000 students) and the number of higher learning institution reflects this. It boasts a large university as well as 15 elite schools, of which some are listed below. (Link to the complete list.)
Alternatively, Nantes Métropole also provide wi-fi connections under the Nantes WiFi Cité initiative. Certain practical sites linked by Nantes Métropole will be available free of charge, but other usage requires payment as follow: €3 per hour, €5 per 24 hours, €10 per week or €16 per month.
To call France from abroad, start with the international direct dialing (IDD) code from the country you're in, followed by French country code 33. The area code for Nantes is 02 (mobile phone has the code of 06). The telephone number is made up of 10 digits including the area code, usually written in a set of 5 pairs of digits (i.e. 02 xx xx xx xx).
To dial an international number from France, the IDD is 00, followed by the country code that you wish to dial, the area code and the phone number.
There are 24 post offices operated by La Poste in Nantes, with varying branches operating time. In general, the opening time is between 8:30am and 9:30am, and the closing time is between 5:30pm and 6:30pm, Monday to Friday. Most are also open for half-day, until about noon, on Saturday. The mailboxes are painted bright yellow and often there is a slot for local city mail and another slot for "outside mail". Normally there is a queue in the post office, but most of the post offices have the self service machine installed which is quite easy to operate. Nowadays many of the tabac and even some of the souvenir shops also sell postage stamps. Normally an overseas postcard costs almost as much as sending a letter.
Nantes is a very safe and clean city, evident from the titles it was awarded in recent years, including "France Greenest City 2003" as voted by L'Express, "Best Place to Live" for both 2003 and 2004 voted by Le Point, and in 2004 Time Magazine designated it as "Europe's Most Liveable City". Nonetheless, caution should be exercised after dark and isolated areas should be avoided.
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