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The cultural capital of western France and gateway to the Loire Valley comes alive in summer with a multitude of events. And from next weekend, BMI Regional ; bmiregional. You can fly to Nantes Atlantique airport 00 33 8 92 56 88 00; nantes. From here, all the main sites are accessible on foot, though you can use your bus ticket to connect to the tram system.
I travelled with Voyages-sncf. Nantes was once a powerful maritime city, carved into a watery maze where the River Loire, charging towards the sea, meets the River Erdre, trickling down from the north. These days, the two waterways are not as influential as they once were.
Nevertheless, the city's maritime heritage lives on in the novels of Jules Verne. The founding father of science fiction was born in the city in and was inspired by the huge, 19th-century sailing ships that once passed his windows. On the north bank of the Loire, the old town unfurls over three main squares: Place Graslin, Place Royale and Place du Commerce, with the cathedral 3 and castle 4 marking the city's eastern edge. The main tourist office 6 at 9 Rue des Etats 00 33 2 72 ; en.
Click here to see a bigger image of the map. Nantes has only one tower, the storey Tour Bretagne 10 — a Seventies-era skyscraper that rises from Place de Bretagne. At the top you'll find Le Nid — or "The Nest" — a rooftop bar, complete with a panoramic terrace and curious artworks by French graphic designer Jean Jullien, including a gigantic heron whose neck wraps around the whole room 00 33 2 40 35 36 49; weekends, from 10am.
Exit the Tour Bretagne 10 and walk south down Cours des 50 Otages 11 , the city's wide and inviting main thoroughfare. The street is named in honour of French hostages who were executed by occupying Germans in , though there were actually Enter to explore its impressive museum, detailing the history of Nantes, or walk in the grounds, which hold a maze-like art installation by Patrick Dougherty that's great fun for children.