Nantes ( , Gallo: Naunnt) is a city in western
France, located on the Loire River, from the Atlantic
The city is the
sixth largest in France
, while its metropolitan area
is the eighth with 804,833
inhabitants at a 2008 estimate.
the capital of the Pays de la Loire region, as well as
the Loire-Atlantique département.
It is also the
most important city of the historic province of Brittany
, and culturally still remains strongly
identified with it.
In 2004, the magazine Time
described Nantes as "the most livable city in all of Europe
The name Nantes, pronounced in French
, derives from that of its
pre-Roman-era inhabitants, the Gaulish
known as the Namnetes
, who founded a town
there around 70 BC
. The city was called
, during the
Roman occupation that began in 56 BC
inhabitants of Nantes are known in French as Nantais
most common nickname is as the Venice of the West ( , ), a
name owing to its position on the river
delta of the Loire, the
Erdre, and the Sèvre (whose tributaries were infilled in the early 20th
After having been occupied by the Gauls
, Nantes was Christianised
in the 3rd
. The city was successively invaded by the Saxons
(around 285), the Franks
(around 500), the Britons
the 6th and 7th centuries
) and the
, who laid it waste in 843: "The
city of Nantes remained for many years deserted, devastated and
overgrown with briars and thorns."
The Chronicle of Nantes
continues until the
year 946, telling that Alain
, grandson of Alan the Great, the last king of
who was expelled by the Norse,
drove them out and founded the Duchy
Duchy of Brittany was annexed by
the kingdom of France in 1532,
Nantes kept the Parliament of
Brittany for a few years, before it was moved to Rennes.
1598, King Henry IV of France
signed the Edict of Nantes
which granted Protestant
During the 18th century, prior to abolition
, Nantes was the slave
capital of France. This kind of trade led Nantes to
become the largest port in France and a wealthy city. When the
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
. On 29 June 1793 the town was the site of a Republican victory
in this war. The Loire
was the site of tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of executions
by drowning, including those using the method which came to be
known as the Republican
, 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
anywhere may have
been the omnibus
service initiated in Nantes in
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
troops. In 1941, the murder of a
German officer, Lt. Col. Fritz Hotz
caused the retaliatory execution of 48 civilians. The city was
twice severely bombed by British
, on 16 and 23 August 1943, before being liberated by the
Americans in 1944.
1970s, Nantes' harbour was located on the Île de Nantes, when it was moved to the
very mouth of the Loire River, at Saint-Nazaire.
In the subsequent 20 years, many service sector
moved into the area, but economic difficulties forced most of these
to close. In 2001, a major redevelopment scheme was launched, the
goal of which is to revitalise the island as the new city centre.
Nantes seen from Spot Satellite
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
. In August 2004, Time
designated Nantes as the "the most livable city in all of
located on the banks of the Loire River, at the confluence of the
Erdre and the Sèvre Nantaise, 55 km (35 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean.
The city was built in a place where many
branches of the Loire river created several islands, but most of
those branches were filled in at the beginning of the 20th century
(and the confluence with the Erdre river diverted and covered) due
to the increasing car traffic.
It is notable that the city of Nantes is at the exact centre of
About 50 kilometres away from the coast, Nantes has generally cool
winters and mild summers, with rainfalls at least every week, which
makes Nantes a temperate city, though winters can bring freezing
temperatures and occasional hot spells in summer, especially during
the month of July.
(capital city) of both the Loire-Atlantique département and the Pays de la
The Nantes metropolitan area
) is the intercommunal
connecting the city of Nantes with nearby suburbs. It had a 1999
population of 554,478, 48.7% of which comprised the city of Nantes.
current mayor of Nantes is Jean-Marc
Ayrault (PS), first elected in 1989 and now serving a fourth
term, until 2014.
Since 1995, Nantes has been divided into 11 neighbourhoods, each
resembling a historic city quarter. Each of these neighbourhoods is
controlled by a Comité Consultatif (Consultative
Committee), comprising directly elected
officials and a team of municipal members, similar to a
England board of
These neighbourhoods are:
these neighbourhoods are situated on the right bank of the Loire, one is on
the left bank, and one is on the Île de Nantes island.
- Bellevue-Chantenay-Sainte Anne
- Île de Nantes
Nantes and Brittany
of Nantes, and the Loire-Atlantique département, were
formerly part of the historic province of Brittany; Nantes was one of its former capitals,
along with Rennes.
Flag of Brittany
Historically, the country around Nantes ( ; ; Gallo
: Paeï de Nàntt
) was always
seen as being part of Brittany. In 1207, the Dukes of Brittany made Nantes their home,
building the Castle of the Dukes of
Brittany on the banks of the Loire.
Most of the dukes
and duchesses were buried in either the cathedral or the nearby
In 1789, the separation of the historical provinces of France
in Brittany being split in five; the lower of the five,
(today Loire-Atlantique) was where Nantes
was situated. As such, Brittany as an administrative region did not
exist during the 19th and early 20th centuries, although it did
still exist culturally and informally. When regional
regroupments during the 20th century resulted in the reinstatement
of the regions, Loire-Atlantique found itself split from the other
four départements by the Vichy
regime in 1941; a new région had been created centred
on Nantes, the Pays de la
Much debate surrounding this move persists. Those against
(sometimes called the Breton militants) maintain that the
separation was made by a non-democratically elected government, and
that Loire-Atlantique is culturally, historically and
geographically united to Brittany; those in favour argue that any
reunification would reopen a "quarrel of the capitals" between
Nantes and Rennes, and that it would be fatal to the Pays de la
The issue of linguistics is also relevant; in the east of Brittany
(variously called Bretagne Gallèse
) Romance languages
especially the local Gallo
, as well
, have long had more
influence than Breton. However, in many large cities, including
Nantes and Saint-Brieuc
, the Breton language
has sometimes been spoken
more widely by the very urban and bourgeois
there (even though in Le Pays Nantais
the opposite was
true). In recent years, many bilingual plaques have appeared on
in the city,
with the help of the Ofis ar
( ; ).
Most recently, on 15 May 2004, a hastily organized demonstration in
Nantes calling for the reunification of Brittany attracted 6,000
participants, while in five surveys on the issue, between 62% and
75% of the population of Loire-Atlantique have come out in favour
In 2007, 1.3% of the children in Nantes attended the bilingual
schools for primary
Colleges and universities
The first organized omnibus
within a city appears to have originated in Nantes in 1826.
current network operated by Tan network
includes three tramway lines, one bus
rapid transit route (known as BusWay),
dozens of bus routes, an express
bus between Nantes Atlantique Airport, and the city centre (known as Tan Air),
three navibuses lines and four suburban
train lines (operated by SNCF and running
on four intercity train lines within
the city's limits).
Longer distance travel throughout the
is operated by Lila network
, which runs interurban buses.The
Tramway de Nantes
operation in 1879, but this first generation network closed in
1958. A new generation of tram lines opened in 1985, and the tram
network is now the longest in France. The tram network, also part
of the Tan network, shares a common ticketing system with buses and
other modes within that network.
railway station lies on a
number of rail lines. Nantes is connected by TGV (high speed train) to Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Lille, and
Strasbourg, with trains to Paris via the LGV Atlantique taking just over 2
hours. By Corail,
Nantes is connected to Quimper, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Lyon, and
Toulouse. The regional trains and buses of the
TER Pays de la Loire provide
links to Saint-Nazaire, Angers, Le Mans, La Roche
sur Yon, and many other regional cities.
Nantes was formerly a major commercial port
with port facilities on the River Loire in the city centre.
the commercial traffic has since migrated downstream, principally
to the area around Saint-Nazaire, although the river remains navigable to
ocean-going ships as far as Nantes. River cruises operate
on both the Loire and its tributary the Erdre.
Tan network also includes three urban water
routes on both rivers (known as Navibus
Atlantique Airport, located 8 km to the south-west of the city
centre, serves the city and surrounding areas. It is the biggest
airport in western France, linking with several French and European
cities, as well as Montreal in Canada and some northern
Africa cities. It is currently planned that this airport
will be replaced by the Aéroport du Grand Ouest, that
will be situated 30 km to the north-west of Nantes in the
commune of Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
The €580 million project was approved in
February 2008, with construction expected to start in 2012 and a
opening date in 2015.
Castles, churches and mosques
Sainte Croix church
Mosquée des turcs
Since 2009, Nantes has two great Mosques:
- Mosquée Arrahma
- Mosquée des turcs (photo)
A third (Mosquée Assalam) is under construction.
Isle of Nantes; a former shipyard
turned into a leisure and cultural site, including the Machines of
the Isle of Nantes permanent exhibition.
- Passage Pommeraye; 19th
century galleria with shopping.
- Brasserie La Cigale; described by Jean-Louis Trintignant as "perhaps
the most beautiful brasserie in the world."
- Place du Commerce; the city's main square.
- Place Royale; a historic
square located in the heart of the city, recently renewed.
- Place Graslin; a historic place featuring the Theatre of Nantes and famous brasserie
- Crebillon street and Orleans street lined with luxury boutiques
linked by the Place Royale.
- The new Palais de Justice (court house); built in 2000
and designed by Jean Nouvel.
- La Tour LU (the LU Tower); a tower standing the
entrance of the former Lefèvre-Utile Biscuit Co.
- Beaujoire Stadium; Nantes' largest sports stadium, home of FC Nantes Atlantique football club.
- Le Marché de Talensac (Talensac Market); the main and
historical public market.
Gardens and parks
Nantes has several cinemas including:
- Gaumont Nantes; centrally located at
Commerce in the heart of the city.
- Concorde; a historic cinema in central Nantes.
- Pathé Atlantis; Nantes' biggest cinema, also located in the
borough of Saint-Herblain, in the Atlantis commercial zone.
- Nantes Zénith (concert
hall); France's largest and newest, which can hold 8,500
- Théâtre Graslin (Graslin Theatre); Nantes' opera house &
- Lieu Unique; located in the former LU biscuit factory.
- Olympic; built in an old cinema in 1927.
- Carrière; located in the borough of Saint-Herblain.
- Trocardière; located in the borough of
- Onyx; located in the Atlantis commercial zone, designed by
- Cité des
- Terrain Neutre Théatre.
- Bouche D'Air.
- Theatre universitaire (University Theatre).
Japanese garden on the Île de
Nantes hosts quite a few cultural events of note, of which these
are just a few:
- Estuaire, a contemporary art
exhibition that takes place every two years between Nantes and
Saint-Nazaire (along the Loire estuary).
Rendez-vous de l'Erdre, a jazz festival centered around the
- Les rencontres du fleuve, a festival centered around ships and
- Le Festival Eidos du film d'environnement et de développement
durable, a cinema festival themed around the environment and
- The Festival des trois
continents, dedicated to African, Asian and South American
- La Folle Journée, a
classical music festival,
- Les Utopiales, international science fiction convention,
- The Festival Voisinages,
various theatre performances (Théâtre du Grand T, Théâtre
universitaire de Nantes, salle Onyx de Saint-Herblain).
The local football
. During the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, Nantes
hosted a number of matches including England against Samoa and
Wales against Fiji.
There are quite a few bands from Nantes who play different genres
but are not well known outside of France.
The Celtic band Tri Yann
originally known as Tri Yann an Naoned
(the three Johns
The DJ group C2C
, champion of
the Disco Mix Club
World Team DJ
Championship four years in a row (2003–2006) is native of
American band Beirut, following
with their European influences, have a song on their second album
The Flying Club Cup titled
To see a list of Bands from Nantes, see :fr:Rock à Nantes
Local television channels
Nantes seen from Erdre river.
- France 3 Pays de la Loire.
- Nova @ 87.8
- Rires Et Chansons @ 88.4
- MFM Sud Loire @ 88.8
- Alouette @ 89.5
- RFM @ 90.1
- France-Inter @ 90.6
- JET FM @ 91.2
- Radio Prun' @ 92.0
- Virgin Radio @ 94.7
- FIP Nantes @ 95.7
- Hit West @ 100.9
- Radio France Bleu Loire-Ocean @ 101.8
- NRJ @ 102.4
- Fidélité @ 103.8
- RTL @ 104.3
- Europe 1 @ 104.7
- France Infos @ 105.5
- Cherie FM @ 106.2
- Radio Classique @ 106.7
- BFM @ 107.2
Newspapers for sale:
- Nantes Poche
- Nouvel Ouest
- Presse Ocean
- Anne of Brittany, Duchess of Brittany and Queen of France. Known as the only
women to have married two kings
of France, Charles VIII
and Louis XII.
- Aristide Briand, French
statesman, awarded the Nobel Peace
- Benoit Regent,
Léon Louis Juchault de Lamoricière, French general and later
commander of the Papal
- Claire Bretécher,
- Claude Cahun (born Lucy Schwob); photographer and writer
- Eric Tabarly, sailor
- Jacques Demy, movie director
- Jean Graton, cartoonist
- Caitlin Allen, principal 'Figaro'
- Jules Verne, writer
de Lallande Poydras, former New Orleans member of the United States House of
Bourgault-Ducoudray, composer, professor, Prix de Rome winner
- Paul Ladmirault, composer
Cambronne, commander of the Old Guard at Waterloo
- Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau,
- Sandrine Voillet, art historian, television
- Suzanne Malherbe, artist
Twin towns — Sister cities
Nantes has town twinning
cooperation agreements with:
- Cardiff, Wales, UK since
- Saarbrücken, Germany, since 1965.
- Tbilisi, Georgia, since 1979.
- Seattle, Washington, U.S., since
- Jacksonville, Florida, U.S., since
- Cluj-Napoca, Romania, since 1991.
- Rufisque, Senegal, since 1992.
- Agadir, Morocco, since 1993.
Japan, since 1999.
- Cochabamba, Bolivia, since 1999.
- Dschang, Cameroon, since 2002.
- Recife, Brazil, since
- Durban, South Africa, since 2004.
- Qingdao, China, since
- Suncheon, South
Korea, since 2007.
The city also has friendship relations with: