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Nantes ( , Gallo: Naunnt) is a city in western Francemarker, located on the Loire Rivermarker, from the Atlanticmarker coast. The city is the sixth largest in France, while its metropolitan area is the eighth with 804,833 inhabitants at a 2008 estimate.

Nantes is the capital of the Pays de la Loiremarker region, as well as the Loire-Atlantiquemarker 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 tribe known as the Namnetes, who founded a town there around 70 BC. The city was called Portus Namnetus, during the Roman occupation that began in 56 BC. The inhabitants of Nantes are known in French as Nantais ( ).

Nantes' most common nickname is as the Venice of the West ( , ), a name owing to its position on the river delta of the Loiremarker, the Erdremarker, and the Sèvremarker (whose tributaries were infilled in the early 20th century).


L'île Feydeau
After having been occupied by the Gauls and the Romans, Nantes was Christianised in the 3rd century AD. 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 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 Barbe-Torte, 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.

When the 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 Rennesmarker. In 1598, King Henry IV of France signed the Edict of Nantes here, which granted Protestant rights to their religion.

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 tens, perhaps hundreds 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 Parismarker, Londonmarker and New Yorkmarker. The first railways were built in 1851 and many industries were created. In 1940, the city was occupied by German 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 forces, on 16 and 23 August 1943, before being liberated by the Americans in 1944.

Until the 1970s, Nantes' harbour was located on the Île de Nantes, when it was moved to the very mouth of the Loire River, at Saint-Nazairemarker. In the subsequent 20 years, many service sector organisations 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 Point. In August 2004, Time designated Nantes as the "the most livable city in all of Europe."


Nantes is located on the banks of the Loire Rivermarker, at the confluence of the Erdremarker and the Sèvre Nantaisemarker, 55 km (35 mi) from the Atlantic Oceanmarker. 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 Earth's land hemisphere.


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.


Nantes is the préfecture (capital city) of both the Loire-Atlantiquemarker département and the Pays de la Loiremarker région.

The Nantes metropolitan area (Nantes Métropole) is the intercommunal structure 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. The current mayor of Nantes is Jean-Marc Ayrault (PSmarker), 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 New Englandmarker board of selectmen. These neighbourhoods are:
  • Centre-ville
  • Bellevue-Chantenay-Sainte Anne
  • Dervallières-Zola
  • Hauts-Pavés-Saint-Félix
  • Malakoff-Saint-Donatien
  • Île de Nantes
  • Breil-Barberie
  • Nantes-Nord
  • Nantes-Erdre
  • Bottière-Doulon
  • Nantes-Sud

Nine of these neighbourhoods are situated on the right bank of the Loiremarker, one is on the left bank, and one is on the Île de Nantes island.

Nantes and Brittany

Flag of Brittany
The city 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 Rennesmarker.

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 Brittanymarker on the banks of the Loire. Most of the dukes and duchesses were buried in either the cathedral or the nearby abbeys.

In 1789, the separation of the historical provinces of France resulted in Brittany being split in five; the lower of the five, Loire-Inférieure (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 Loiremarker.

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 Loiremarker région.

The issue of linguistics is also relevant; in the east of Brittany (variously called Bretagne Gallèse or Haute Bretagne) Romance languages especially the local Gallo, as well as French, 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 population there (even though in Le Pays Nantais the opposite was true). In recent years, many bilingual plaques have appeared on tourist attractions in the city, with the help of the Ofis ar Brezhoneg ( ; ).

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 of reunification.

In 2007, 1.3% of the children in Nantes attended the bilingual schools for primary education.


Colleges and universities


The first organized omnibus transit system within a city appears to have originated in Nantes in 1826. The 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 Airportmarker, 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 Loire-Atlantique département is operated by Lila network, which runs interurban buses.The Tramway de Nantes originally began 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.

Nantes railway stationmarker lies on a number of rail lines. Nantes is connected by TGV (high speed train) to Parismarker, Lyonmarker, Marseillemarker, Lillemarker, and Strasbourgmarker, with trains to Paris via the LGV Atlantique taking just over 2 hours. By Corail, Nantes is connected to Quimper, La Rochellemarker, Bordeauxmarker, Lyonmarker, and Toulousemarker. The regional trains and buses of the TER Pays de la Loire provide links to Saint-Nazairemarker, Angersmarker, Le Mansmarker, La Roche sur Yonmarker, and many other regional cities.

Nantes was formerly a major commercial port, with port facilities on the River Loire in the city centre. Much of the commercial traffic has since migrated downstream, principally to the area around Saint-Nazairemarker, although the river remains navigable to ocean-going ships as far as Nantes. River cruises operate on both the Loire and its tributary the Erdremarker. The Tan network also includes three urban water bus routes on both rivers (known as Navibus).

Nantes Atlantique Airportmarker, 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 Montrealmarker 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-Landesmarker. The €580 million project was approved in February 2008, with construction expected to start in 2012 and a opening date in 2015.

Main sights

Castles, churches and mosques

The cathedral
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.


Historical places

  • The Isle of Nantes; a former shipyard turned into a leisure and cultural site, including the Machines of the Isle of Nantesmarker 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 La Cigale.
  • 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. factory.
  • Beaujoire Stadiummarker; 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 Place du Commercemarker 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.

Concert halls

  • Nantes Zénithmarker (concert hall); France's largest and newest, which can hold 8,500 people.
  • Théâtre Graslinmarker (Graslin Theatre); Nantes' opera house & historic theatre.
  • Lieu Unique; located in the former LU biscuit factory.
  • Olympic; built in an old cinema in 1927.
  • Carrière; located in the borough of Saint-Herblainmarker.
  • Trocardière; located in the borough of Rezémarker.
  • Onyx; located in the Atlantis commercial zone, designed by Jean Nouvel.
  • Pannonica.
  • Cité des congrès.
  • Terrain Neutre Théatre.
  • Bouche D'Air.
  • Theatre universitaire (University Theatre).


Japanese garden on the Île de Versailles, Nantes

Cultural events

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).
  • Les Rendez-vous de l'Erdre, a jazz festival centered around the Erdremarker river.
  • Les rencontres du fleuve, a festival centered around ships and the river.
  • Le Festival Eidos du film d'environnement et de développement durable, a cinema festival themed around the environment and sustainability.
  • The Festival des trois continents, dedicated to African, Asian and South American cinema.
  • 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 team is FC Nantes. During the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, Nantes hosted a number of matches including Englandmarker against Samoamarker and Walesmarker against Fijimarker.


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 was originally known as Tri Yann an Naoned (the three Johns from Nantes).

The DJ group C2C, champion of the Disco Mix Club World Team DJ Championship four years in a row (2003–2006) is native of Nantes.

The Americanmarker band Beirut, following with their European influences, have a song on their second album The Flying Club Cup titled 'Nantes'.

To see a list of Bands from Nantes, see :fr:Rock à Nantes (French).


Nantes seen from Erdre river.
Local television channels

  • Nantes 7.
  • Télénantes.
  • France 3 Pays de la Loire.

Radio stations

  • 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

Local newspapers

Newspapers for sale:
  • Nantes Poche
  • Nouvel Ouest
  • Presse Ocean
Free newspapers:

Famous Nantais

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Nantes has town twinning and cooperation agreements with:

Friendship relations

The city also has friendship relations with:


External links

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