Nantes, the creative
At the top of the list of most-liveable cities in France, Nantes combines a rich history with contemporary creativity in ways that never cease to surprise.
Once the largest port in France, the former 'Venice of the West' has managed over the years to become a city for travellers, for history, and for multifaceted ferment. With a vibrant university centre, it is also an arena for cultural expression open to the imagination, shining as well with innovative architectural projects that offer a new reading of urban space. It is at the centre of cultural friction and an island of creation, a true incubator of innovation and trade that now bubbles where the former shipyards once plied their trade along the harbour.
For the past 15 years, the ancient city of the Dukes of Brittany has been following a real change: today it is the city of 'the Elephant' and other extraordinary machines created for the delight of tourists who come to experience these monumental mechanical structures in motion. In the centre of the city, the Pommeraye Passage, the splendid Cours Cambronne, the Natural History Museum, the Graslin Theatre and the legendary brasserie La Cigale are opportunities to feast on past treasures, and to understand the wealth of this great metropolis.
Leave your car at the car park, because the city can easily be visited on foot, thanks to the tram network that runs from the botanical gardens to the Place Graslin, through the old town past the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, the Castle of the Dukes, and small pedestrian streets, without forgetting its run along the Quay of Versailles, where one can see the beginnings of the Erdre River next to the prefecture.
Something else not to be missed is the small port of Trentemoult with its fishermen's houses sporting colourful facades. The Navibus that crosses the Loire gives the journey a holiday feel. The writer Julien Gracq described Nantes as the 'bustling city... full of dreams' in his book The Shape of a City. Today, more than ever, Nantes, a creative, sparkling, and attractive place, is making those dreams come true.
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© Text and photography courtesy of EnVols