Over the last thirty years Nantes has become one of the most dynamic and inventive city in France. An impressive array of cultural events are rolled out over the year, some of which stretch out across the globe: The ‘musical madness’ of the ”Folle Journée“ classical musical festival, the giants created by the street theatre company ”Royal de Luxe“, Estuaire (permanent open-air collection), or the ”Machines de l’ïle“ mechanical animals, and don't miss the summer event (every day in july and august) Le Voyage à Nantes !
In 2013 Nantes became the first French town to be awarded the title of European Green Capital. This European award is the recognition of 20 years of political will that encompasses urban development and mobility (tramway, busway, etc.), fighting against global warming and preserving the natural heritage around the Loire estuary.
Nantes came 5th in the world for ‘bike-friendly’ towns as decided by the Danish ‘Copenhagenize’ agency. Nantes was then selected by the ECF (European Cyclists’ Federation) to host the international Velo-City congress 2015 and follow in the footsteps of Seville, Vancouver, Vienna and Adelaide by becoming the world cycling capital. The event welcomed 1,000 participants (experts, cycling associations, leaders,...) with the aim of influencing those in power to develop bicycle friendly infrastructures and to encourage a greater take up of cycling.
The Machines de l’Ile is an artistic, touristic and cultural site in Nantes since 2007. Three major artworks, the Great Elephant (2007), the Merry Go Round of the Marine Worlds (2012), the Spider (2016) and the Huge Heron Tree (project in 2021) symbolise doors to the world of dreams and magical journeys. A mixture between the invented worlds of Jules Verne and the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci.
Renovated and extended in June 2017, the Fine Arts Museum has been renamed the Musée d’arts . Steered by the Stanton-Williams Agency (Royal National Theatre, Tower of London, Belgrade Theatre, etc…), it houses a total of 17,000 m2, several exhibition halls and an auditorium. A key change is a 30% increase in exhibition space for one of the only ‘generalist’ museums in France. It is the only one outside of Paris able to present such an extensive and broad panorama of art stretching from the thirteenth to the twenty-first century. It has 10,000 works of art (paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and contemporary installations), and several hundred masterpieces painted by De la Tour, Ingres, Courbet, Chagall, Kandinsky, Picasso…
All year long, from Nantes to Saint Nazaire it's an open air art collection. Each creation, signed by an internationally renowned artist leads you to an atypical place or to a remarkable site of the estuary of the Loire river. Since 2007, over 30 artworks have now been the stones of a monument scattered along 60 km. This artistic trail will make you discover a fascinating territory, its heritage and its natural resources.
Take advantage of a river cruise to reach the point where the Loire runs into the ocean and see the estuary from the unique viewpoint of… the river: working docks, remarkable natural areas, and the Estuaire art installations communicating with their surroundings. Embark on a colourful rhythmic night time river cruise from July to October.
Nantes was the capital of the slave trade in France: it organised 43% of the French slave trade shipments in the XVIII century. The City wants to assume its past and give shape to the memory via a powerful political gesture. The Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in Nantes is the biggest in Europe. Located on the Quai de la Fosse, a symbolic place in the city that has seen many slave ships to Africa, the Memorial has been open to the public since March 2012. Following an international competition, the city of Nantes has entrusted the design of the Memorial to Krzysztof Wodiczko, a Polish artist and Julian Bonder, an Argentinian architect.
Located alongside the Canal Saint-Felix, the old biscuit factory LU revamped by the architect Patrick Bouchain lives to the rhythm of an atypical art centre: the Lieu Unique. Here, you will find a bar, a shop, theatre (nationwide tour venue), a hammam, a day nursery and the picturesque tower of the old LU biscuit factory which offers a uniquely panoramic view of Nantes.
Formerly occupied by the shipyards (closed in 1987) and by industries, this area is in complete rehabilitation and finds some harmony between the conservation of industrial heritage and the development of a new modern space. The Isle of Nantes is a perpetually changing area with contemporary architecture. On both sides of this territory perched on the Loire river are standing resolutely original and innovative buildings built by the greatest international architects: Jean Nouvel, Alexandre Chemetoff, Christian de Portzamparc, Marcel Smets…)
This famous, award-winning restaurant is considered to be one of the best in towns. Chef Jean-Yves Gueho is well-known for creating innovative dishes, such as lobster salad with yellow wine sauce. Guide Michelin 2015 * Gault&Millau 2015 4 toques Jean-Yves Gueho has elected a new place to cook and welcome people.
Ludovic Pouzelgues, aka Lulu Rouget, had held every position at l’Atlantide (including pastry chef), was trained by chocolatier-pâtissier Vincent Guerlais, before joining the staff at Maison Troisgros in Roanne. Thanks to this exceptional experience, his personality expresses itself today through a true cuisine d’auteur (different everyday!) praising the ocean’s riches to high heaven. His signature dish is “le roug(et) noir de Lulu” (“Lulu’s red and black mullet”). Expert wine selection.
On the 32nd floor of the tower “la tour Bretagne”, come and relax with a drink and take in the stunning 360° views of the Greater Nantes area. “Le Nid” is the refuge of an immense white bird, part swan, part heron calmly keeping one sleepy eye on town below. The modern artist Jean Jullien created The Nest.
West of the Cathedral lies the historic medieval quarter of Bouffay, which has retained much of its old charm. A stroll alongside the cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses – some dating back to the 15th century – feels like a jump in time back to the Middle Ages. The place to have a drink with friends!
Housed in the former LU biscuit factory since the 1st January 2000, the “lieu unique” is a friendly, cultural melting pot, ripe for artistic exploration. It is a place of coming together and as well as its own dedicated creative spaces there are a number of retail activities including: bar, restaurant, bookshop, steam room, nursery.Orphan to her twin tower, lost in 1974, the LU tower was restored to its exact original when the factory was reconverted into a national arts venue. As a symbol of Nantes’ industrial heritage, the tower is once again recognised locally as a figurehead, this time for the lieu unique.
Part of La Fabrique on the Île de Nantes, Stereolux is an arts and culture project focused on contemporary musics and digital creation. It stands next to Les Nefs of Les Machines de l'île, not far from the city centre, in a neighbourhood it shares with other cultural projects, together with higher education institutions, tourist attractions and creative and cutting-edge industries.
The Folle Journée has become a major classical music event for Nantes! The concept is to provide a classical weekend like no other in the world, presenting dozens of concerts, shorter deals and more affordability. After 24 years of programmes built around a particular composer, the Folle Journée turns to music expressing the same theme: 2018 will be the year of the New World !
Every summer, discover this poetic urban trail. Artists, designers, architects are invited to express themselves in the public arena. It is the occasion for the town to go a little bit further off-beat than normal! Ephemeral installations, works of art, places where it’s good to meet lead you on a journey of discovery across the town. Save the date !
Built in 1843 and still unchanged in the 21st century. Built on a steep incline, the three floors are flanked by numerous shops and a monumental decorative staircase. It’s a heaven for shoppers needing a fix and has inspired many artists, the film-maker Demy and the designer Tardi. A new extension has been built in 2015, this forms part of a new arcade opening out onto the rue Santeuil.
Timber-framed houses, visible remnants of the 15th and 16th centuries blend in with today’s shops, bars and restaurants in every imaginable style. It’s a place of crossroads and chance meetings; for going out, for shopping or just wandering through with the ever-present crowds.
If you want to go sight-seeing and use the public transport system at the same time, the Pass Nantes is your best option. This city pass includes free entrances to museums, monuments, and the TAN public transport network, excluding the airport shuttle. Pass holders also get a range of discounts at in shops, and other venues. A 24-hour pass costs from 25 Euros, a 48-hour pass from 35 Euros and a 72-hour pass from 45 Euros.
The Aeroport Nantes Atlantique lies just south of Nantes and is the leading airport in the west of France. The bus TAN shuttle takes you, in about 20 minutes, near the railway station (“Gare SNCF Sud” stop) and then near the Convention centre ( “Lieu Unique” stop) or in the direct city centre (“Commerce” stop). Tickets (single:9 Euros) can be bought inside the TAN shuttle-buses and are valid for one hour throughout the local TAN public transport network. A taxi stand is located just opposite the entrance door of the airport terminal. A taxi ride to downtown Nantes takes around 10 to 15 minutes and will cost you between 40 to 50 Euros, depending on the distance and the time of day.
Nantes has a good tram network , stretching around 35 kilometres, as well as a good bus network. The public transport system is operated by TAN (Transport de l’Agglomeration Nantaise). A single ticket for 1 hour costs 1,60 Euros (or 2 euros in the bus at the driver ! ) and can be used throughout the TAN network, except on the airport shuttle. The ticket is valid for one hour and it must be perforated before you begin your journey. TAN also offers a 24-hour ticket (5,40 Euros).