Nantes, the natural beauty with a penchant for the crazy

Today, the former centre of French industry is anything but sad and grey. Quite the opposite, in fact. Nantes has a really beautiful centre, an island with wandering elephants and shimmering oases, waiting to be discovered.

A leisurely cruise on the Erdre

For a town like Nantes, a river like the Loire has been the main artery since the founding of the town. But the approximately 100-kilometres long Erdre, a side river of the Loire, is a character-shaping stretch of water that is worth exploring. The best way is on an extensive boat trip from Nantes northwards and back. Expect to see not only all sorts of architecturally valuable bridge structures, but mainly all sorts of châteaux in amidst the greenest countryside. You discover herons and anglers, pass sightseers on SUPs or in canoes. That’s the peaceful side of Nantes.

Where only the artists meet: Dinner in ‘La Cigale’

In the famous restaurant, La Cigale, you can dine where once artists passed through. Its reputation precedes it, and since about 100 years ago. Right opposite the opera, in Place Graslin, the bedrock of French brasseries in Nantes treats you to eat and drink with style in a welcoming ambiance. Whilst you can observe the lively comings and going in the square from the outside tables, the furnishings inside La Cigale astonish guests.

La Cigale - Place Graslin

In the village of pastel-coloured dream houses: Trentemoult

From Nantes to an unhurried life in a former fishing village. The lovely Trentemoult is only 10 minutes by car from Nantes and catapults its visitors into another century. But even the journey is worth it. From the Maritime station the ‘Navibus’ ferry sails every 15–20 minutes to the left bank of the Loire. Trentemoult was previously the home of the cap horner and today delights with the enchanting charm of the pretty promenade, the rustic courtyards and the brightly coloured house frontages.

Then industry, now green and idyllic: the Ile de Nantes

The Ile de Nantes is the cultural heart of the town and is unrivalled in France. What used to be an important centre for industry, is now the playground of art. Next to former industrial warehouses stand state-of-the-art buildings, which are completely absorbed into the island’s landscape. Not surprising then that this urban project is unique and not only draws many visitors, but also in particular, start-ups, and creatives and free-thinkers from all over the world.

Lunchtime in the hip ‘La Cantine du Voyage’

Planning a trip to the Ile de Nantes? Then ‘La Cantine du Voyage’ on the banks of the Loire, is the perfect place to stop for lunch. In a huge structure, reminiscent of a greenhouse, local dishes are offered, that are simple but tasty. The best thing is that many ingredients are grown in the vegetable garden next door: you can’t get fresher than that. The view from the quay to the silhouette of the town is also a sight to be seen.

La Cantine du Voyage - 20 Quai des Antilles

A touch of Jules Verne: les Machines de l’Île

Jules Verne meets Leonardo Da Vinci who meets Burning Man. The ‘machines de l’Ile’ is what visitors come for in their droves to Ile de Nantes. Because the mechanical marvels excite big or small alike. The art project on the site of the former shipyard in Nantes is made up of three attractions: the gallery, the elephant and le carrousel. More than anything, the last two are mechanical innovations that can hardly be matched. The elephant is an oversized robotic elephant made of wood and metal, which roams the island and whose circuit can be experienced as a passenger on the deck. No less creative is the carousel, whose oversized sea creatures move.

Off into the green oasis: The Jardin des Plantes

Want time out in nature? The botanical garden, Jardin des Plantes, lies in the middle of town. Along with the myriad of trees and plants in the extensive grounds, you should also have a look at the many small artworks. Amongst these for example, is a series of different size park benches, graduated from a miniature one up to a park bench that is so big, you can walk underneath it. Another eye-catcher: Some of the over 10,000 plants in the jardin botanique lie in the beautiful 19th century hothouses.

Stay overnight in the France Océania hotel

There is no better positioned hotel in Nantes. The Hôtel de France Océania peers at Place de l’Opera from the side, which especially on an evening is well-patronised and filled with life. The hotel itself greets its visitors with a remarkably flamboyant entrance hall, whose long history is engraved into the stone. A mansion that comes across as huge but with modern furnishings thrown in, awaits. Enjoy a good night’s stay here in Nantes.

Oceania Hotel de France Nantes - 24 Rue Crébillon - (External link)