Like many other French cities, Nantes has an ancient Celtic history responsible for its very foundation. The first Celtic settlement fell into the hands of the Romans under Julius Caesar, and after three centuries of Roman domination it was conquered by various other invaders. First there were the Saxons, then the Franks, the Britons and the Normans in a succession of cultures and customs that lasted as late as the 10th century.
Afterwards, during more peaceful times, Nantes started to grow as an important trade centre in this part of Europe. The curious thing is commerce developed to such an extent, that right before the abolition of slavery in the 18th century, Nantes was Europe’s largest slave trade market. However, this city was one of the first to grant freedom of religious expression to Huguenots, and it was here that the first omnibus was ever used. Then, the model got imitated in Paris and quickly spread throughout Europe.
Nowadays, Nantes is a popular tourist attraction and a large industrial centre in this part of France, for which it is also called Nantes-Atlantique. Not only will you be exposed to the beauties of the Atlantic, but Nantes also offers the great landscape of the Loire estuary thriving with activity in the Saint Lazarus port. Many tourists choose to visit the harbour at sunset, for a really breathtaking scenery.
This virtual tour of some of the Nantes’ most representative sights will reveal only a little of the secrets of this West European citiy. First on the list of great sights comes the Nantes Cathedral; like in all old cities this is the focal point around which the city extended sideways.
The patron saints of the city, St Paul and Peter are also the guardians of the Cathedral, a religious sight of paramount importance for this part of France. It was built in the Gothic style on the site of another much older religious edifice belonging to the Romanesque period. It took no less than 457 years to complete and it is perhaps the largest architectural project in the area. The facade is simple with two towers that dominate the main terrace. What is truly remarkable is the white stone interior and the imposing dimensions of the inner column together with the naves and the aisles.
Architecture in Nantes
For the shopping lovers, there is a nice mall right in the centre of the city that swarms with tourists. Called Passage Pommeraye because it is built between two streets and includes a flight of steps that gives access to the next level, this is more like a museum than a regular store. You won’t feel like in a regular mall here since there are all sorts of artistic elements that resemble an art gallery, such as the exquisite Renaissance-like sculptures. This is perhaps a unique opportunity to shop inside a classified historic monument, so, enjoy it!
As for cultural events, Nantes is actually really creative; not only is this the birthplace of Jules Vernes but of surrealism as well. The tourist may expect to have here one of the most eclectic cultural experiences particularly if it is to judge by the many festivals that animate the city all year round. There are the Carnival in April, the Summer Festival in June and then the Erdre program, which is a unique combination of musical performance, water sports and unique natural settings. Every day of festival is one of celebration and quality time. Don’t miss it!