Feel our top 5 sensory experiences in Nantes…

See the château of the Dukes of Brittany, which served as both a residential palace and defensive fortress. It has imposing granite towers and now houses the museum of the history of Nantes.

Hear the footsteps of the elephant on L’Île de Nantes. Part of the wonderfully eccentric Machines de L’Île, the mechanical elephant is 12 meters high and built from 45 tonnes of wood and steel. It can take up to 49 passengers for a 45-minute walk, during which riders can spray outsiders with water from its trunk.

Smell local breads in the boulangeries: préfou (garlic bread from Vendée); fouée (a wood-fired roll similar to pitta bread and stuffed with various ingredients) and gâteau Nantais, a cake made with almonds and rum.

Touch plants at the Jardin des Plantes, an impressive municipal botanic garden containing as many as 11,000 species planted within a web of ponds, paths and statues.

The artsy city of Nantes (External link) on the banks of the River Loire (External link) 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. It has an important maritime and river history; you can explore the homes of 18th-century ship owners on the old Île Feydeau and its port. And with a pedestrianised centre and plenty of smart shops to browse, all you need for this city break is a comfortable pair of shoes.

Getting to Nantes

By air: Nantes-Atlantique International AirportBy train: 2h15m from Paris by TGV

Further information:Nantes Tourist Office9 Rue des États44000 NantesTel. +33 (0)2 72 64 04 79 (External link)