1. You Don’t Need A Map
One of the challenges in any new city for a visitor is finding your way around. Rather than walking through the streets as confident as a local, taking in the fresh air and scenery, we sometimes find ourselves with our face pointed at a map. This is especially true in Europe where most streets are not on a parallel grid. In Nantes, they have a green line along the ground that will lead you through the city, passing by all the sites you’d like to see. This one element had me stop in my tracks and do a face palm. “Why don’t all cities do this?” I asked Pete. You can do the guided 10 mile walk in an entire day (wear comfy shoes!) or break up the journey in sections throughout your stay.
More Info: http://www.levoyageanantes.fr/en/
2. Self-Guided Tour Of History
Who doesn’t want to visit an ancient French castle? Nantes has one right smack dab in the city center. Formally the Castle Of The Dukes Of Brittany, it’s now a multilevel museum showcasing the history of the region. What makes it visitor-friendly is the self-guided tour pre-downloaded onto iPods in multiple languages.
3. Comfort Foods
I enjoy trying new foods whenever I travel, but what makes Nantes different is that there is nothing bizarre or challenging on the cafe menus. It’s all comforting warm-your-heart treats like steak frites, savory gallettes, nutella crepes, fresh baked French pastries, and apple cider. The apple cider seems to be a mainstay as it’s available to order by the pitcher at most restaurants. While I’m a big fan of coffee, there’s just something soothing about sipping cider after a long day of exploring.
4. A Dedication To The Arts
I’ve never walked through a more creative city. Art here seems to be ingrained in the culture and incorporated into every building and surface imaginable. From the simplicity of businesses turning their signs upside down to make a statement, to the grand steampunk mechanical elephant at Les Machines de L’ile, walking through Nantes feels like you’re walking through a surreal dream. It seems the more bizarre and fun, the better. Nantes former mayor invested heavily in the arts and made new art installations a requirement for new construction. His vision completely revitalized the sluggish economy after the shipyard closed on the Loire. Now, Nantes is a hub for creativity with a young vibrant culture where art and thinking outside of the box is a way of life.
5. Easy Peasy Transportation
While I’m still uber impressed by the green line navigating through town like a built-in map, public transportation is readily available too. If you’re feet are tired, there’s a regular bus schedule and tram that can take you across the city. You can purchase a city pass online before your trip or at the tourism office (located right in front of the Chateau de Brittany). This pass will grant you access to all the public transport plus most of the city’s museums and attractions. Nantes is also easily accessible from Paris by plane or by train. The airport is modern, easy to navigate, and it’s only a 45 minute flight from Paris.