Nantes: France’s city of art, history and innovation
Nantes is one of France’s most delightful dichotomies. An ancient port known as the city of art and history, it is also a town thriving with youthful creativity and inventiveness. Indeed, half of its population is under the age of 40.
Crossing the fairy-tale moat of the 800-year-old Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, visitors might expect to find a palace full of dry and dusty relics. Instead, the multimedia exhibits inside offer a modern perspective on the city’s past, present and future.
The Musée Jules Verne is dedicated to “The Father of Science Fiction,” the city’s most famous son. It houses artefacts, 1st-edition books, replicas of his futuristic inventions and memorabilia inspired by his writings, like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days.
An unprecedented artistic project, Les Machines de L’Île de Nantes is a magical menagerie of mechanical creatures dreamt up with Verne and Da Vinci’s invented worlds in mind. Young and old are wonderstruck by The Great Elephant, a 12-metre-high walking pachyderm that can be ridden by 50 people at a time.
A former biscuit factory in the city centre, Le Lieu Unique is now a space for artistic exploration and cultural conviviality. Tourists have a bite at the industrial-chic restaurant before catching a dance or theatre performance, eclectic concert, philosophical session or modern art exhibition.
Crêpes and other delightful foods
Gourmands head to the Crêperie Heb Ken for varieties of crêpes, Brittany’s national dish. Sweet tooths add a bolée of lait ribot (thickened milk) to their order, while savoury lovers opt for a tart glass of cider.
Hardly changed since its 1895 opening, the Brasserie La Cigale is a high-ceilinged, mosaic-filled extravagance frequented by perfectly coiffed old ladies for its fresh seafood and French classics. A bona fide belle époque treasure.