Journey to Nantes, the city turned upside-down by art
You think you know this westernmost metropolis of Europe? You ain’t seen nothing yet... Where else can you take in a 360 degree view of the city and surrounding areas, perched 150 meters in the air? How else would you be able to find temperature predictions from a contemporary work of art? How many acres of greenery does the Botanical Garden present in the heart of the city? Who are the characters painted on this wall fallen from the sky?
Here are some important places to visit on your trip to Nantes:
Journey to Nantes: A 5.3 mile-long urban tour, from the SNCF train station to the western point of the Île de Nantes. Along the way, let yourself be swept from a piece signed by a famous contemporary artist to remarkable pieces of local heritage, from the must-see sights to little-known treasures, from historical cobblestone roads to modern architecture, from a fantastic view of the urban landscape to an incredible sunset over the mouth of the Loire River.
The Lieu Unique: The old factory for the legendary Petit-Beurre biscuits is the most singular national stage in France: It comprises a theater, exhibition space, bar, restaurant, the grenier du siècle time capsule, made up of objects from local Nantais to be opened in 2100, and even a hammam!
The Graslin Opera: The statues of Molière, Racine and the eight muses overlooking the Corinthian columns welcome you to this small Neoclassical masterpiece.
La Cigale: The Art Nouveau decor of this brasserie in the Modern style of the 19th century inspired both the surrealists and Jacques Demy, who there filmed several scenes of Lola.
The Pommeraye Passage: It’s a timeless pleasure to stride along the walkways of this mercantile arcade from the 19th century. Very few cities in Europe can lay claim to a covered passage with such an architectural value.
The Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery: One-of-a-kind in France, this meditative tour, conceived by the artist Krzystof Wodiczko and the architect Julian Bonder, is punctuated by quotes in every language, from every time and every place. 2,000 commemorative plaques recall the slave ships leaving from Nantes and the main trading posts in Africa and America.
The Machines de l’île et the Carrousel des Mondes Marins : On top of old shipyards, at the crossroads of the fantasy worlds of Jules Verne, the mechanical wonders of Leonardo da Vinci and the industrial history of Nantes, these monumental urban structures have been created as an open door to the public. Starting on July 15th 2012: the Carrousel des Mondes Marins turns its wheels. In this gargantuan three-floor carousel dedicated to the sea, ride the bestiary of machines from the ocean depths to the watery surface.
Île de Nantes/HAB Galerie: Jean Nouvel, Daniel Buren, Jean Prouvé, Christian de Portzamaparc...The best international architects designed the contours of this metamorphosing island. Rehabilitated industrial buildings and new constructions alike criss-cross the area all the way to the west peak of the Île de Nantes, where all year long, the 4,600 square-foot HAB Gallery is dedicated to modern art.
Trentemoult: This old fishing village offers one of the most beautiful views of Nantes and stunning sunsets over the estuary. After crossing the Loire by Navibus, lose yourself among its narrow roads that eventually lead you to an incongruously placed pendulum.
L’Erdre: François II elevated it to the status of the most beautiful river in France. By foot or by boat, let yourself get caught up in its meandering flow and discover remarkable natural countrysides.
Festivals and Events
- The Estuaire Nantes <> Saint-Nazaire: In the third edition of Estuaire debut eight new works, signed by famed international artists
- Festival Hellfest (Clisson): June
- Journey to Nantes, the event: Summer
- Festival Les goûts uniques: Summer
- Carrousel des Mondes Marins: July
- Rendez-vous de l’Erdre: August-September
- Noël au Château: December
- Noël aux nefs: December
- Festival La Folle Journée: February
In contrast to other great French cities, Nantais cuisine isn’t truly characterised by emblematic dishes, but rather by an open-mindedness, curiosity and exotic mixes. Without a doubt, this is because Nantes is at the intersection of the sea and the earth, sweet and salty, plant and animal, between Brittany, Vendée and the Loire. And then also because Nantes, with its history as a port city, has been enriched by the flavors of the world that sailors and explorers have brought over the centuries.
- Salty flavors: Vegetables (lamb’s lettuce, carrots, leeks), seafood (crabs, langoustine, oysters, mussels), fish (sardine, sea bass), fish of the Loire (pike, eel), cheese (curé nantais, mâchecoulais)
- Sweet flavors: Biscuits Nantais or Petit-Beurre biscuits, berlingots (twisted hard candy), rigolettes and salted butter caramels, fougasse and gâteau nantais, chocolates, nantillais
- Dry, effervescent white wine specific to the Nantes region: Muscadet sur Lie
Getting to Nantes
- By train/TV: 2 hours from Paris - Gare Montparnasse, 4 hours from Lille and Bordeaux, 4.5 hours from Lyon, and 5 hours from Strasbourg
- Nantes-Atlantique Airport