Nantes is the very epitome of all that is great and good about France. Stunning natural beauty? Check. Rammed full of history? Check. Artsy, innovative and spirited? Check, check and check. In fact, Nantes is everything you love about France, in one easy to manage city.
Once part of Brittany, Nantes had its borders redrawn after WWII. But while it may be bang in the heart of Normandy today, there is something unmistakably Breton about this place. The stunning 15th century Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne is testament to that: 500-metres of curtain walls punctuated by seven fairy tale towers, surrounded by a moat and built from local stone. The chateau houses the Nantes Urban History Museum, which takes you chronologically through the ages to today, in seven major sections. Renaissance and neo-Gothic architecture lovers will also enjoy the breathtaking churches such as the Eglise St. Croix, Nantes Cathedral and Basilique St. Nicolas. Never forget that you are on the edge of the famous Loire valley and its stunning chateaux in Nantes, and a cleverly-planned day trip to some of the closer castles is well worth it.
With Nantes’ new Norman boundaries came a new lease of life for the city. A university gives it a buzzy, youthful feel, and pop-up galleries and creative spaces abound. Try the HAB Galerie – an ex-banana warehouse – located on the western tip of the Ile de Nantes if you like contemporary art. Part of the FRAC (the regional contemporary art circuit), the space holds three exhibitions a year.