Nantes is a city in western France, located on the Loire River, 50 km (31 mi) from the Atlantic coast. Nantes is the capital city of the Pays de la Loire region and Loire-Atlantique département. Together with Vannes, Rennes and Carhaix, it was one of the major cities of the historic province of Brittany, and the ancient Duchy of Brittany. Culturally, Nantes is a Breton city.
After having been occupied by the Gauls and the Romans, Nantes was Christianised in the 3rd century. The city was successively invaded by the Saxons (around 285), the Franks (around 500), the Britons (in the 6th and 7th centuries) and the Normans, who laid waste to it in 843: "The city of Nantes remained for many years deserted, devastated and overgrown with briars and thorns." The Chronicle of Nantes continues until about 1050 and it recounts that Alain Barbe-Torte, who was the grandson of Alan the Great, the last king of Brittany who was expelled by the Norse, drove them out and founded the Duchy of Brittany.
During the 18th century, prior to abolition of slavery, Nantes was the slave trade capital of France. This kind of trade led Nantes to become the largest port in France and a wealthy city. When the French Revolution broke out, Nantes chose to be part of it, although the whole surrounding region soon degenerated into an open civil war against the new republic known as the War in the Vendée. On 29 June 1793 the town was the site of a Republican victory in this war. The Loire was the site of thousands of executions by drowning, including those using the method which came to be known as the Republican marriage, in which a man and a woman were stripped naked, tied together, and thrown into the river.
In the 19th century, Nantes became an industrial city. The first public transport anywhere may have been the omnibus service initiated in Nantes in 1826. It was soon imitated in Paris, London and New York. The first railways were built in 1851 and many industries were created. In 1940, the city was occupied by German troops. In 1941, the assassination of a German officer, Lt. Col. Fritz Hotz, caused the retaliatory execution of 48 civilians. The city was twice severely bombed by British forces, on 16 and 23 August 1943, before being liberated by the Americans in 1944.
In 2003, the French weekly L'Express voted Nantes to be the "greenest city" in France, while in both 2003 and 2004 it was voted the "best place to live" by the weekly Le Point. In August 2004, TIME designated Nantes as "the most livable city in all of Europe.
- Nantes Cathedral or the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Nantes, is a Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral. The construction of the cathedral began in 1434, on the site of a Romanesque cathedral, and took 457 years to finish, finally reaching completion in 1891. The reconstruction of the cathedral commenced during the early to mid-15th century during a time when Nantes and Brittany were commercially prosperous, initiating such large-scale architectural projects on a wide scale, partly owing to the opportunist and skilful diplomatic policy of John VI in a period of political turmoil and conflict with England. The cathedral's foundation stone was laid on 14 April 1434, by John VI, Duke of Brittany and Jean de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes (1417-1443). The first architect in charge was Guillaume de Dammartin who was later replaced by Mathurin Rodier. The construction began with the west façade, the aisles of the nave and its lateral chapels.
- The Château des ducs de Bretagne is a large castle located in the city of Nantes; it served as the centre of the historical province of Brittany until its separation in 1941. It is located on the right bank of the Loire, which formerly fed its ditches. It was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries, subsequently becoming the Breton residence of the French Monarchy. The castle has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1862. Today the castle houses the Nantes History Museum. Starting in the 1990s, the town of Nantes undertook a massive programme of restoration and repairs to return the site to its former glory as an emblem of the history of Nantes and Brittany. Following 15 years of works and three years of closure to the public, it was reopened on 9 February 2007 and is now a popular tourist attraction.
- île Feydeau. The isle evokes the extravagant way of life the maritime traders led in the 18th century, when the port of Nantes was the biggest in France and one of the most important in Europe. Since 1926, it took nearly 20 years to fill-in the parts of the rivers Erdre and Loire that flowed round the ile Gloriette. From that moment on the isle lost its natural status and today strips of lawn bordered by granite show us where there was once the river. Someone forgot to tell the shipbuilders houses about the change and their sandy foundations no longer hold them up straight. Built mainly in limestone, decorated with ornamental façades and wrought-iron balconies with inner courtyards and vaulted staircases, the pomp of these houses indicates the importance of the city's former commercial trade. The buildings have two façades around an inner courtyard which opens on to the road and the quayside and from which rise beautiful stone staircases with wrought iron banisters. The balconies indicate how important a floor was; the ground floor was for commercial use only and is dominated by arched windows and reception rooms. Above were the finely decorated private apartments.
- The Musée Jules Verne is a museum dedicated to the French writer Jules Verne. The museum is housed in a beautiful late 19th century building, which overlooks the Loire River. While Verne never lived in the building, its surroundings reflect the atmosphere which influenced his work. The museum has a collection of artifacts, replicas of his inventions, and memorabilia inspired by his writings.
- Notre-Dame de Bon-Port is a basilica located in Nantes, constructed in 1846 by the architects Seheult and Joseph-Fleury Chenantais. Its official name is Église de Saint-Louis (Basilica of Saint-Louis), though it is rarely known by this name. The church is located at the Place du Sanitat, facing the Quai de la Fosse (Quay of the Pit). The dome which tops it is modelled on that of Les Invalides in Paris. At the top of the spire lies an archangel representing Saint Gabriel.
The Château des ducs de Bretagne