Nantes offers a walk through art and history

Les Machines de l

Although a vibrant city, Nantes offers a charming, slightly slower lifestyle, which is evident in people moving from Paris to Nantes for a change of pace. Nantes is a very walkable city.

In fact, the sixth largest city in France has a self-guided walking tour known as The Green Line. This really is a painted green line on the streets that you follow and where you will find museums, historical sites, art galleries as well as some amazing street art. Nantes is also within easy reach of beaches, vineyards, the Loire Valley and Brittany. This is reflected in the area’s tourism board referred to as Le Voyage à Nantes (a journey to Nantes).

One of the stops on The Green Line is Château de ducs de Bretagne, in the heart of Nantes’ medieval quarter, a late 15th century castle built by Francois II and his daughter Anne of Brittany. The castle also includes one of the city’s museums Nantes History Museum. Although I did not have the opportunity to explore inside, the museum’s 32 rooms showcase a collection of over 1,150 pieces, taking you through the city’s history to present day. On this walk, you will also see some beautiful churches and cathedrals; one we did get a glimpse at is Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul. This Cathedral sadly suffered a devastating fire in 2020 and is currently undergoing renovations.  

More modern buildings can be found across the Loire River such as The Palace of Justice built in 2000, designed by architect Jean Nouvel. Its lines are based on the idea of visibility and monumentality. Another most interesting and innovative project and a must see is Les Machines de l’île, located on the site of old shipyards. This is an array of mechanical creatures – brainchild of and brought to life by François Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice. From caterpillars, giant ants and spiders to a fly eating chameleon and the most impressive of all is a Grand Elephant standing 12m tall. All of these can be ridden, and, in some cases, you can oversee the movements.  

Also located on this site is a beautiful 25m tall three level Carrousel des Mondes Marins. When you think of merry-go-rounds, you think of horses, carriages and zebras but this one is made of sea creatures, basically a huge mechanical aquarium.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience this as it was under renovation. 

Also, part of this project is The Heron Tree to be completed by spring of 2027. Made of steel, this tree will stand 30 metres tall and be crowned by two giant herons – each can carry up to twelve passengers for a circular flight. The above creatives from Les Machines de l’île will sit on these branches and will also be part of the ride. This will all be located on a two and a half hectares urban garden. This project will be a sight to behold when completed. 

As the Middle East region enjoys shopping, the medieval quarter of Nantes offers an array of shopping from small local boutiques to well-known shops such as Zara, H&M and of course, France’s famous, luxury shopping centre Galleries Layfette. In addition, you will find the Passage Pommeraye named after a young notary Louis Pommeraye who wanted to transform the district into a passage of luxury shops. Classified as a historical monument in 1976, this shopping centre is on three levels accessed by a beautiful staircase. There is artwork and statues throughout and is topped with a glass roof. This building miraculously escaped the bombings in 1943.

There are other hidden gems in the city such as lle De Versaille (Little Versailles) where you will find a beautiful Japanese garden. 

Let’s not forget that food is at the heart of France’s offering, and in Nantes, you will find plenty of options from fresh seafood, locally sourced products and grape.

With 138 hotels and over 8,000 hotel rooms, you will find accommodation to meet any of your clients’ requirements. One I would highly recommend the he Oceania, Hotel de France Nantes, a former 18th century private mansion. With only 72 rooms, the contemporary designed hotel provides a cosy warm ambiance, excellent location in the medial quarter and near Place Gaslin, as well as walking distance to a number of the key historical sites and shopping including Passage Pommeraye.

One of Europe’s leading river cruise companies, CroiseiEurope, offers all-inclusive river cruise packages on the Loire. Cabins all have exterior views and are equipped with all the modern amenities including satellite TV, air conditioning, of course, private bathrooms. The common areas include a panoramic sun deck, with some ships offer jacuzzis and swimming pools.  And what is a cruise without a lounge/bar and restaurant.  

Just an hour and a half away is France’s second most popular theme park after Disneyland Paris, Puy du Fou, a historical theme park that will take you back in time with over 26 themed shows from the Three Musketeers to an amazing show where actors perform with amazing costumes covered with lights, over and in water. The cinematography, stage design and shows are spectacular and second to none. Although a family attraction, some of the shows may not be that suitable for young children, so it’s best to read the show contents carefully before. 

There are over 20 restaurants and 6 hotels on site to stay in (and others nearby), all themed on French history. With so much to see and do at this unique theme park I would suggest two-, three- or even a four-day stay to see it all.