Nantes France is set on the Loire River at the confluence of the Erdre and Sevre Nantaise Rivers, about 35 miles from the Atlantic Coast. It is the major city on the western edge of the historic Loire Valley, a beautiful cultural landscape that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although much of this vast delta and its canals have been filled in, the city still boasts waterways that have caused it to be called the "Venice of the West." Some of the most popular things to do in Nantes include lazy sightseeing cruises through the estuary, usually in small boats or barges. There are some larger sightseeing boats that offer lunch and dinner cruises.
The city is a base for exploring the Loire Valley, and the two most popular ways to do this are by car rentals or on bike tours through the countryside. Another of the things to do in Nantes is renting bicycles, as this is a very bike friendly city with bike lanes throughout the historic part of the city. Whether you are sightseeing from a bike, on foot, or using the city's excellent bus transportation system, there are numerous excellent attractions.
Nantes France was the primary French port for the eighteenth and early nineteenth century slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean colonies in the New World. You might want to begin your things to do in Nantes by exploring the magnificent architecture of the Ile Feydeau District, a neighborhood of eighteenth-century mansions built by the shipping magnates and wealthy traders of that era. These mansions are built with sculpted mascarons and wrought-iron balconies, each more grand than the next as the wealthy merchants strove to outdo their neighbors.
Another example of spectacular architecture is the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, built in 1207. It is a wonderful example of a medieval fortified chateau (complete with moat), with the advantage of being right in the city center. Today, it houses the Nantes History Museum. The Fine Arts Museum is housed in a graceful building erected in 1801, and contains paintings and artwork from the eleventh century to the present, including a respectable collection of Impressionist art. There are many other architectural gems, museums, and places of interest to explore, including the Jules Verne Museum, located in another beautiful nineteenth-century building and celebrating the life and ideas of the city's most famous native son.
Although not directly accessible by ferries, Nantes France is served by ferries that dock at the port of Saint-Nazaire, which lies at the mouth of the delta. There are ferries available from here to Gijon on the northern coast of Spain. The city has a nearby international airport with numerous flights from other French cities. There are also flights to cities in the UK, to Corsica, to Italy, and to Morocco. The train journey from Paris is just over two hours, and convenient train connections are possible to Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, and even the Disneyland Resort. You have a wide variety of Nantes hotels to choose from in all budget categories. There is a youth hostel, and good number or budget and mid-range properties, and a handful of guest houses.
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