Bienvenue to Nantes, the city of the Pays de la Loire. The 6th largest city in France, it’s a heady mix of transformed warehouse spaces, medieval quarters, exquisite chateaux and quirky art installations. Fly from Southampton airport and you can breeze through the terminal and enjoy the allure of the Loire in a little over an hour.
Set on the river, Nantes is a hotspot of arts, heritage and culture. Take in an opera at the Théâtre Graslin,visit the dramatic Palais de Justice and embrace the city’s history at the Château des Ducs . When it comes to its burgeoning art scene, Nantes is no slacker. See the amazing La Maison dans la Loire and take a ride on the Machines de l’Ile, there’s a big view to admire. Guided tours of the city run every weekend or you can simply escape to the beautiful countryside. The best way to explore this part of the Loire is by bike. Bring your own or hire one, the miles of windy lanes, pretty towns and rolling countryside speckled with relais and brasseries make it well worth the puff.
Breeze through Southampton airport and jet off to Nantes Atlantique with Flybe. With a flight time of just over an hour, land and you’re about 12kms from the city centre.
Top things to see and do
The Château des Ducs is the last chateau before the sea, and a fortress that now showcases Nantes rich history.
As one of Nantes’ most famous residents, head to the small but perfectly formed Jules Verne museum to learn more about his life and work.
Nestled in the former shipyard, artists have channeled Da Vinci and Jules Verne to create Les Machines de l’Île. Animals include a 40ft elephant that can take you on a little jaunt.
Off the beaten track
Shoring up Nantes reputation as a true art destination, visit the brilliant La Maison dans la Loire by Jean-Luc Courcoult.
On the banks of the Loire and close to such lovely coastline, there’s much to discover on the water at Nantes. Take a river cruise or try your hand on a traditional sailing ship.
Great markets mean great local produce. Don’t go home without sampling regional goodies like Muscadet sur Lie, Petit Beurre biscuits, Guérande 'fleur de sel' salt and Blonde du Bouffay beer - all made in Nantes or nearby.