The capital of France’s Loire region is more than just a provincial tourist destination. An hour’s drive from Brittany, Nantes is a lively city that has grown from medieval roots into a buzzing place to be.
Green and clean
With more than 100,000 trees, hundreds of parks and almost three hectares of flower beds, Nantes is remarkably green. From the Parc de Procé — at just over 27 acres, a good space for runners — to the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden that includes a 200-year-old magnolia, the city is not short on natural beauty.
Nantes is also committed to sustainability: it was named European Green Capital in 2013 for a climate plan that included three eco-districts to balance affordable housing with green space. It also aims to halve CO2 emissions per capita by 2030.
From A to B
The medieval Bouffay district in the centre of Nantes is largely pedestrianised, allowing for a relaxed walk. If you don’t fancy walking, public transport is never far away. In 1985, Nantes became the first French city to build a modern tramway, and now 95 per cent of inhabitants live within 300 metres of a public transport link.
It is also easy to get in and out of the city. It takes around two hours to cover the 342km to Paris on one of 18 daily TGV high-speed train services.
Value for money
While Nantes is popular — L’Express magazine lists it as the top city to work in France — it is a considerably cheaper alternative to the capital, Paris, and other big cities such as Lyon and Bordeaux. In 2017, apartment values in Nantes averaged €2,713 per square metre, compared with €8,823 in Paris, according to data provider Statista.
A unique place for art
The Île de Nantes — an island in the river Loire, which runs through the centre of the city — is home to a spectacular giant mechanical elephant. Inspired by the work of Nantes-born 19th-century novelist Jules Verne, this water-spouting Nellie is part of the Machines de l’Île collection of mechanical creations, which was launched in 2007.
Other cultural highlights include the riverside Musée d’arts de Nantes, which reopened in 2017 following a €48.8m refurbishment of the 19th-century space. The revitalised museum features art spanning nine centuries. Meanwhile, Le lieu unique, a national centre for contemporary art, also hosts theatre, cinema and music.
A taste of musk
Thanks to its Loire valley location, Nantes is surrounded by vineyards known for their white Muscadet wine. In a nod to Nantes’ proximity to the Atlantic coast, the wine is considered a perfect accompaniment to shellfish. La Cave en Voyage is a wine truck specialising in organic wine that will deliver to your door.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Alamy; Vvoevale/Dreamstime; Getty Images; La Cave en Voyage