Nantes, capital of Pays de la Loire

The artsy city of Nantes on the banks of the River Loire has often been praised for its quality of life and is a healthy, green city, awarded the European Green Capital Award in 2013 and offering thousands of hectares of green space. And with a pedestrianised centre and plenty of smart shops to browse, all you needis a comfortable pair of shoes. Don’t miss…

  • Le Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Château of the Dukes of Brittany)

Home to Nantes’ history museum, this impressive building with its imposing granite towers served as both a residential palace and a defensive fortress in the 15th century. The buildings have been fully restored and its easy access makes it a great place for all the family to visit. Browse a collection of more than 800 exhibits and discover the city’s history through animation. Take a guided tour of 32 themed rooms and learn about Nantes’ heritage – including its connection with Britain, the slave trade and major industrial developments. For the best views across the city rooftops, walk around the ramparts – and wait until nightfall for the floodlit château to take your breath away.

  • The footsteps of the elephant on L’Île de Nantes

Les Machines de l’Île is an amalgamation of performing art, engineering, tourism and regeneration, set on an island and former industrial centre within Nantes. It’s described as a place where Leonardo di Vinci meets Jules Verne, a wonderfully weird and captivating world and evocative of the unique inventions of times gone by. One of its main attractions is the grand mechanical elephant, 12 meters high and eight wide. Built in 2007 from 45 tonnes of wood and steel, it can take up to 49 passengers for a 45-minute walk, taking in the old warehouse before ambling out into the square and past the other peculiar creatures of the island. Riders can spray outsiders with water from the elephant’s trunk.

  • Île Feydeau and the former homes of 18th-century ship owners

  • Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes, the city’s 15th-century cathedral

  • Shopping on Rue Crébillon, known for its luxury clothes and jewellery shops

  • Le Voyage à Nantes, a summertime event showcasing contemporary art installations along a trail marked by a green line on the ground, taking in the city’s key monuments and must-see places

  • The Tour de Bretagne, a skyscraper with rooftop bar and panoramic views

  • Le Jardin des Plantes, an impressive municipal botanic garden