Written by Adrienne Erin
When most people think of France, their first thoughts are of Paris and the many historical landmarks and legendary art pieces that fill its streets. But Paris is barely the tip of the Eiffel Tower.
France is, in fact, home to a number of treasures, including Nantes, one of the country's largest cities.
Located along the Loire River in Western France, Nantes is a city steeped in history, with beautiful parks, gardens, museums, and beaches that make this a place worth visiting. While there are many things to see in Nantes, including various festivals held throughout the year, like the Three Continents Festival
, here are five things you will not want to miss:
1. Châte Au Des Ducs de Bretagne
The Castle of the Dukes of Britanny
is a 13th fortress that served as the home to the Dukes of Britanny for 300 years. Now, it houses the Nantes History Museum, which takes visitors through 32 rooms of the beautifully restored castle and displays over 800 historical artifacts.
2. Machines de l’Île.
No trip to Nantes is complete without experiencing the Machines de l’Île. A cross between a museum and a zoo, this landmark is the home to three extraordinary exhibits.
The first is the Machine Gallery, where giant machines take the form of animals and plants and move about, sometimes with passengers.
Then there are the Maritime World's Carousel, a three-story merry-go-round that features stunning mechanical representations of ocean wildlife, and the Great Elephant, a monstrous contraption that can carry up to 50 passengers.
3. The Botanical Gardens
Nantes also boasts two beautiful botanical gardens.
The Jardin des Plantes, which dates back to the early 1800s, is one of France's most beautiful gardens. It contains close to 11,000 different types of plants, all of which are laid out within a series of waterways and ponds.
The Jardin Japonais de l’Ile de Versailles (the Japanese Gardens of the Isle of Versailles), takes the form of an authentic Japanese garden, complete with bamboo and a waterfall.
You won't experience tranquility like this anywhere else, unless maybe your garden at home has been installed with the top mosquito traps.
4. Le Passage Pommeraye
The setting for many a Jacques Demy movie, the Passage of Pommeraye is a scenic upscale shopping mall. Named after its developer, Louis Pommeraye, this shopping centre is built around an alley between two streets and opens up in the centre to a gorgeous indoor courtyard lined in shops and a balcony.
Though the prices may be a little high, it's still worth a visit to see the high fashion side of Nantes.
5. Musée Jules Verne
The Jules Verne Museum is the perfect place for any literature buff or science fiction fan. Though not his actual home, the museum building is set in a location that inspired much of Verne's work.
On display are a number of artifacts and memorabilia that celebrate his writing, including representations of his inventions and some of the author's actual belongings.
Adrienne is a freelance writer and Francophile whose love of travel was ignited by her experience studying abroad in Paris. She travelled extensively in France to practice her language skills, and also travelled abroad to a number of European countries to visit friends, family, and sites that had interested her for years. Read her personal blog, Pongra, to see more of her work.