Nantes is the capital of the north-western French region of Pays de la Loire. Nantes has strong historical connections with the adjoining region of Brittany, and is the historical capital of the region (though it has not been its official capital since the days of Napoleon).
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Nantes’ cityscape is primarily recent, with more buildings built during the 20th century than in any other era. Several 15th- and 16th-century half-timbered houses still stand in Le Bouffay (map), an ancient area corresponding to Nantes’ medieval core which is bordered by Nantes Cathedral (map) and the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany (map). The large, Gothic cathedral replaced an earlier Romanesque church.
The Psallette (map), built next to the cathedral about 1500, is a late-Gothic mansion. The Gothic castle is one of Nantes’ chief landmarks.
Place du Commerce (map). This is the centre of the city and everybody will be able to direct you here. Near here you will find la Place Royale (map), le Quai de la Fosse, la rue Crébillon (famous for its posh shops, map).
Île de Versailles (map). An island in the river Erdre close to the city centre (reach it from Tram line 2). The entire island is a Japanese garden and is a pleasant place to relax.
Nantes has several museums. The Fine Art Museum (map) is the city’s largest. Opened in 1900, it has an extensive collection ranging from Italian Renaissance paintings to contemporary sculpture. The museum includes works by Tintoretto, Brueghel, Rubens, Georges de La Tour, Ingres, Monet, Picasso, Kandinsky and Anish Kapoor.
The Historical Museum of Nantes, in Château des ducs de Bretagne (map), is dedicated to local history and houses the municipal collections. Items include paintings, sculptures, photographs, maps and furniture displayed to illustrate major points of Nantes history.
Nantes is a very bike-friendly city. There are bicycle lanes alongside most major roads, demarcated by green arrows, and many small streets and trails that are only accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.