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Nantes: 10 great experiences in a small city in France

Do you know that you stand and look for the words when someone asks you about your last journey because you simply do not know where to start? This is how I felt after my trip to Nantes.
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Nantes: 10 great experiences in a small town in France is written by Laura Graf

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Nantes - a city that invites to play

Nantes in France is young, quirky, playful, green, creative - and does not take itself too seriously.

Time flew by on the extended weekend I had in Nantes. So when I got home, I only just managed to throw away the backpack before I immediately ordered a new ticket to France. Nantes and I are not done with each other at all!

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Nantes - French and quirky

I definitely recommend visiting this overlooked gem in the west of France. And to make your trip as easy as possible, I have put together some of the best experiences that you must not miss when you are visiting the city.

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Ride the Grand Éléphant

Okay, I admit it: The 12 meter high wooden and steel elephant was one of the main reasons I simply had to go to Nantes and I was more than thrilled when I finally met the city mascot. Not only can it 'blow the trumpet', fan its leather ears and spray water on curious passers-by - you can also get a lift, and explore the neat mechanics inside the elephant's belly.

Tip: Crawl aboard the elephant at Machine Gallery (where you can see more mechanical animals!) to get the best view of the former shipyard. You stand by Carrousel Des Mondes Marines; a fantastic three-story carousel with sea creatures from all over the world - definitely something to try.

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Go hunting in local shops in Nantes

Do you want a souvenir to take home? A fun postcard to send home to mom? Or maybe a birthday present for your best friend? Nantes has it all!

There are lots of cute little shops with everything from handmade jewelry to funky socks and posters - often from local artists.

Here are some of my favorites: Led P'tits Papiers (Place Félix Fournier 2; office supplies), Josette & Tic (Rue Crébillon 16; socks), Maison de Prune (Place de la Bourse 8; fashion clothes), TRIBÜ (Rue de l 'Hôtel de Ville 4; jewelery, fashion, ceramics), Boutique Bientôt (Rue Maréchal 77; gifts and souvenirs).

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Eat seafood

Nantes is located in western France and thus only 60 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean, and therefore there seafood everywhere. You can eat delicious fish, oysters and seafood at a reasonable price at most of the city's French restaurants, several of which can be found in the Michelin guide.

Le Cigale (Place Graslin) is an institution in Nantes and opened as early as 1895. The brasserie has a wide selection of seafood dishes, and the interior is a great example of art nouveau - so even if you are not hungry, you should at least stop by for a cup of coffee.

Le Bouchon (Rue Bousset 7) is an intimate restaurant in the historic center of the city, and although the focus is not on seafood here, they have some fantastic fish dishes on the menu.

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Holy crepe!

You can not go to France without mashing yourself in crêpes. There is no way around it; the French just know how to make the perfect pancake - whether it's sweet or spicy.

You will find plenty of pancake places where you can get a 'crêpe to go' (eg Talensac market), but of course there are also several restaurants dedicated to the thin pancake. Try Le Coin de Crêpes (Rue Armand Brossard 2), a cozy - but modern - eatery with a large selection of accessories to choose from.

They also have a good selection of cider, which is a popular drink in this part of the country and a perfect accompaniment to your meal. Then it can not become much more French.

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Explore Île de Nantes

When the shipyards on Île de Nantes collapsed in 1987, it was decided to transform the island's extraordinary historic industry into a green modern space, while preserving some of the ancient structures. A bit like at Islands Brygge and Christianshavn in Copenhagen.

If we fast-forward to today, we find a mix of businesses, hotels, homes, 'co-working spaces', cafes, restaurants and several educational institutions right next to each other, creating a lively and urban atmosphere.

Here you must see The Banana Warehouse (8000 m2 with restaurants, bars nightclub, theater and art gallery), La Cantine du Voyage (which offers a cheap three-course menu, pétanque and sun loungers), Café ASKIP (café, gallery and laundry), and Canadian (an outdoor art installation on Restaurant Le 1).

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Tough around the local market

market Talensac is Nantes' oldest and largest market, and this is where you will find everything a food-loving stomach craves: Wine, pastries, meat, fish, oysters, cheeses, chocolates and bread are sold indoors, while the region's farmers line up. a colorful palette of fruits and vegetables outside.

Buy a fresh baguette and some local cheese and also a piece of 'Gâteaux nantais' - a local delicacy - and take a stroll along the river Erdre and have a small picnic.

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Follow the Green Line

Nantes overflows with art. Every summer the city hosts A journey to Nantes (July 6 to September 1, 2019), which is an event where artists are invited to create sculptures and modern art installations that spread around the city. Some of these are allowed to stand after the event is over, which is why you may stumble across unexpected discoveries on almost any street corner. From fun 'reinvented' shop signs and strangely shaped benches in the botanical garden to a hidden jungle, various lighting installations and a measuring tape in huge size. There is always something that disturbs the normal cityscape - in the good way - and sets the senses and thoughts in motion. Follow the green line (in fact, a green line has been painted on the ground) to experience all that the route has to offer.

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Enjoy a drink with a view

While the Tour of Brittany may not be particularly pretty from the street, this is where you get an excellent 360°s views of the city from the popular bar on the 32nd floor. The bar The nest is designed by Jean Jullien and is dominated by a huge bird, which is half art and half the bar itself. There is a distinct bird theme and you can sit on the eggshell-shaped chairs around the room or enjoy a drink on the roof terrace.

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Visit the art museum

As one of the six major art museums outside Paris houses Nantes Museum of Art (Rue Georges-Clemenceau 10) more than 12.000 works of art from the thirteenth to twentieth centuries, including masterpieces by Monet, Chagall, Kandinsky and Picasso. The renovation of the historic buildings and the design of the new art building were managed by the renowned Stanton Williams Architects, who have created a bright and inviting modern museum that pique curiosity already from the outside.

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Get out of town

It would be a shame to visit Nantes without exploring the surrounding country and the beautiful landscapes that France has to offer. If you are pressed for time, hop on the 'water bus' to Trentemoult; a former fishing village, which is a maze of colorful houses with red roofs and with traditional bistros and cafes along the lively quay.

If you have an extra day available, take a river trip to Saint-Nazaire, where you will pass unique natural heritage and the 'open-air' art museum Estuaire - a collection of 33 contemporary works of art. If you'd rather be your own captain, check it out Floating and experience the river Erdre in electric boat or kayak. If water is not exactly your element, remember to visit the region's wineries where the local Muscadet wine is produced.

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You must bring it home from Nantes

Traditional Berlingots or Rigolettes sweets, LU biscuits, toffees, Gâteaux nantais, Muscadet sur Lie wine, Guérande 'fleur de sel' salt.

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Good trip to beautiful Nantes and France.

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What to see in Nantes? Sights and attractions

  • Big elephant
  • The island of Île de Nantes
  • The Talensac market
  • The Green Line
  • Tour of Brittany
  • Nantes Museum of Art
  • Estuary provinces
  • The fishing town of Trentemoult
  • Nantes Cathedral

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About the travel writer

Laura Graf

Laura is from the German city of Nuremberg and educated in communication and business studies at RUC. Her joy of traveling began as a child in the family's camper van when the trip went around Europe. She later moved to Australia for her internship and lived in Sydney for a year. Then she moved to Zurich, but chose to settle in Copenhagen three years ago.
Laura's best travel destinations are Jordan, New Zealand and Grenada, but she hopes to one day have the opportunity to experience Bhutan.

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