Top French Cities - Nantes at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Nantes Tourism at

City region: At the crossroads of Brittany and the Loire Valley / Pays de la Loire

Population & what they are called: 298,029 inhabitants (2014 census), called Nantais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 3 h 45 min (238 miles) via the A11 autoroute L'Océane

  • by train: about 2 h 15 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse

  • by plane: about 1 h 15 min to Nantes Atlantique Airport

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Jules Verne, writer

  • Jacques Demy, French New Wave film director

  • Christine and the Queen, singer and songwriter

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • One of the best ways to discover Nantes is by following a green line along the sidewalk. It leads visitors to Nantes' architectural, artistic, cultural and historical highlights.

  • Nantes is considered the birthplace of Surrealism, since André Breton (the founder of the movement) met Jacques Vaché (one of the movement's chief inspirations) here in 1916.

Notable sites:

  • Les Machines de l’Île – quirky mechanical automatons, including a 39-foot-tall walking Grand Elephant, with a little something to satisfy adults and kids (

  • Château des ducs de Bretagne – former ducal residence and now home of the Musée d’Histoire de Nantes with exhibitions about the city (

  • Cathédrale St-Pierre et Saint-Paul – Flamboyant Gothic cathedral housing royal tombs from the Renaissance

Top annual events:

  • La Folle Journée – the largest classical music festival in France (

  • Le Voyage à Nantes – a summer event highlighting contemporary art exhibitions across the city (

  • Rendez-vous de l'Erdre – couples a free jazz festival with a pleasure-boating show on the Erdre (

Most notable museums:

  • Musée d'Arts – an extensive fine arts collection ranging from Italian Renaissance paintings to contemporary sculpture (

  • Musée d’Histoire de Nantes – located in the Château des ducs de Bretagne, the museum retraces the story of the city (

  • Musée Jules Verne – interactive exhibitions bring to life the work of Jules Verne, the city’s native son (

Culinary specialties:

  • beurre blanc – a butter sauce made with Muscadet wine and a popular accompaniment for fish

  • biscuits – the Petit Beurre of Nantes (mass produced by the LU company) is the best-known shortbread in France

  • caramels au beurre salé – salted butter toffees made with some world-famous product from the famous Guérande salt marshes

Local wines & spirits:

  • Pays Nantais AOC wines – the largest vineyards of the Loire Valley and the heart of Muscadet country (the greatest single-varietal white wine vineyards in the world)

  • Le Nantillais – a natural syrup that, when used in small quantities with dry white wine, results in a satisfying aperitif


  • Marché de Talensac – a covered market, the largest and best-known in town

  • Passage Pommeraye – ornate, old-fashioned (built in the mid-19th century) three-level shopping arcade with a glass roof

  • Rue Crébillon – the street along which the most important designer stores are found, plus some interesting local labels

Most popular night spots:

  • Le Lieu Unique – former biscuit factory converted into a space that hosts art exhibits, drama, music and dance performances

  • La Cantine du Voyage – an outdoor (seasonal) bar/restaurant/shop on the quays of the Isle of Nantes

  • Le Hangar à Bananes – a former banana warehouse that today hosts an exhibition hall, concert venue, restaurants and bars overlooking the Loire (

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Ile de Nantes – a wander on the Isle of Nantes takes in the creativity and modern architecture of this eco-friendly district, now a model of city living after 30 years of urban regeneration (

  • Estuaire Nantes<>Saint-Nazaire – with 30 permanent works of art, an open-air trail that provides an unusual way to discover the river estuary (

  • the beach – the Atlantic Coast at Baie de La Baule is a bay with five miles of fine sand

Local industries:

  • aeronautics – Airbus produces its fleet's wingboxes and radomes in Nantes, the second-largest center for aeronautics in France

  • Atlanpole – a technopole that includes nearly 500 companies and research and higher-education facilities that specialize in biopharmaceuticals, information technology, renewable energy, mechanics, food production, naval engineering and creative industries

In Pop Culture:

  • Jacques Demy movies – Lola (1964) and A Room in Town (1982) were both shot by this French New Wave director in Nantes, his native city

  • Jacquot de Nantes – a 1991 French drama film directed by Agnès Varda recreating the early life of her husband, Jacques Demy, in Occupied France

About Top French Cities -

Top French Cities is an association of 29 cities, from regional capitals like Bordeaux to important towns like Avignon and Versailles. They are perfect for young travelers, families and anyone else looking for fun and authentic French experiences that will fit their budget. Most of these cities are university towns with a youthful atmosphere, but all of them reflect the heritage and distinctive flavors of the regions to which they belong. Many are forward-looking too, with historic buildings repurposed to house contemporary art and activity centers like Les Docks in Marseille. Many have created or integrated new, modern museums to contrast with their classical, architectural heritage, like in Nimes, where the cutting-edge Museum of Roman Civilization (Musée de la Romanité) is located across from the historic Roman amphitheater, or in Nantes, where whimsical mechanical creatures are being created, or in the UNESCO World Heritage Site concrete city of Le Havre.


Marion Fourestier
Atout France-The France Tourism Development Agency