Nantes holidays reveal a city that’s characterised by change. Formerly considered a part of Brittany, the stylish French town has, since World War II, been rebranded as capital of the Loire Valley. Once an industrial and ship-building centre, Nantes now revels in its young student population and its considerable artistic and cultural muscle. Writer Jules Verne was born here, and he absorbed the old sailors’ yarns he heard down the docks into his bestselling works of fiction.
Reinvention is in the water here. Le Lieu Unique – a hub of cultural activity comprising bars, a music venue and even an industrial-chic hammam spa in the basement – is housed in an upcycled former biscuit factory. Even the city’s best food market – Marché de Talensac – trades from the site of a former slaughterhouse. The crown jewel of all that reinvention is the nigh-on magical Les Machines de l’île park – a vast steampunk theme-park-slash bestiary, with mechanical spiders the size of cars and colossal ants, plus a unique opportunity to hitch a 30-minute ride on a four-storey steel elephant – all on the site of an abandoned shipyard. Thanks to its uncanny instinct for metamorphosis, we’re sure that holidays to Nantes will result in you going home a very different person.
View from Le Nid
Drink in 360-degree views of the city from this plush café-cum-bonkers-art-space on the 32nd floor of Nantes’ most stylish skyscraper, the Tour Bretagne.
Ile de Nantes’ menagerie
This brilliant world of mechanical creatures is spellbinding. The vast elephant blasts water from its trunk, delighting kids, and there are rides for the family to enjoy.
The lights at the chateau
Tackle the 500-metre path to the ramparts of the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne for fairytale views – even better when illuminated after the sun sets.