From top to bottom, from left to right: river Loire in central Nantes; Castle of the Dukes of Brittany; Pommeraye Arcade; the Isle of Nantes between the two branches of the Loire
|Motto: Latin: Favet Neptunus eunti
("Neptune favours the traveller")
|Coordinates: / 47.2181; -1.5528 / 47.2181; -1.5528|
|Region||Pays de la Loire|
|Canton||Chief city of 11 cantons|
|• Mayor (2014–2020)||Johanna Rolland (PS)|
|Area||65.19 km (25.17 sq mi)|
|• Urban (2008)||537.70 km (207.61 sq mi)|
|• Metro (2013)||3,302 km (1,275 sq mi)|
|Population (2013 census)||292,718|
|• Rank||6th in France|
|• Density||4,500/km (12,000/sq mi)|
|• Urban (2013)||612,782|
|• Urban density||1,100/km (3,000/sq mi)|
|• Metro (2013)||908,815|
|• Metro density||280/km (710/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (GMT +1) (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|INSEE/Postal code||44109 /44000, 44100, 44200 and 44300|
French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Nantes ([nɑ̃t] ( listen)) (Gallo: Naunnt or Nantt (pronounced: [nɑ̃t] or [nɑ̃ːt]); Breton: Naoned (pronounced [ˈnɑ̃wnət])) is a city in western France, located on the Loire River, 50 km (31 mi) from the Atlantic coast. The city is the sixth largest in France, with almost 300,000 inhabitants within its administrative limits, and an urban area of 600,000 inhabitants. Together with Saint-Nazaire, a seaport located on the Loire estuary, Nantes forms the main metropolis of north-western France.
Nantes is the administrative seat of the Loire-Atlantique département and of the Pays de la Loire région, one of the 18 regions of France. Historically and culturally, Nantes belongs to Brittany, a former duchy and province. The fact that it is not part of the modern administrative Brittany région is subject to debate.
Nantes appeared during the Antiquity as a port on the Loire. It became the seat of a bishopric at the end of the Roman era, before being conquered by the Breton people in 851. Nantes was the main residence of the dukes of Brittany in the 15th century, but after the Union of Brittany and France in 1532, Rennes imposed itself as the capital of the province. In the 17th century, following the establishment of the French colonial empire, Nantes gradually became the largest harbour in France, and it was responsible for almost half of the French Atlantic slave trade in the 18th century. The French Revolution was a period of turmoil which resulted in an economic decline. Nantes managed to develop a strong industry after 1850, chiefly in ship building and food processing. However, deindustrialisation in the second half of the 20th century pushed the city to reorient its economy towards services.
In 2012, the Globalization and World Cities Research Network ranked Nantes as a Gamma- world city. It is the fourth highest ranking city in France after Paris, Lyon and Marseilles. The Gamma- category gathers other large cities such as Algiers, Orlando, Porto, Turin and Leipzig. Nantes has often been praised for its quality of life and it was awarded the European Green Capital Award in 2013. The European Commission noted its efforts to reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions, its high-quality and well-managed public transport system, and its biodiversity with 3,366 hectares (8,320 acres) of green spaces and several Natura 2000 zones which guarantee protection of nature in the area.
Between the end of the 2nd century BC and the beginning of the 1st century BC, the Namnetes, the local Gaulish people, established a settlement on the north bank of the river Loire, near its confluence with the river Erdre. The settlement is mentioned in Ptolemy's Geography as Κονδηούινϰον (Kondēoúinkon) and Κονδιούινϰον (Kondioúinkon), which might be read as Κονδηούιϰον (Kondēoúikon). During the Gallo-Roman period, this name was latinised and adapted as Condevincum (the most common form), Condevicnum, Condivicnum, Condivincum, etc. Condevincum seems to be related to the Gaulish word condate meaning "confluence".
At the end of the Roman period, Condevincum became known as Portus Namnetum ("Port of the Namnetes") and civitas Namnetum ("City of the Namnetes"). This phenomenon (replacing the original name of a town with another one related to the Gaulish tribe) can be observed on most of the ancient cities of France throughout the 4th century. For instance, Lutecia became Paris, city of the Parisii, Darioritum became Vannes, city of the Veneti. Portus Namnetum evolved in Nanetiæ and Namnetis in the 5th century, and in Nantes after the 6th century, through a syncope which suppressed the middle syllable. The name of the Namnetes people could either come from the Gaulish root *nant- ("river" or "stream"), from the pre-Celtic root *nanto ("valley") or from the other tribe name Amnites, which could mean "men of the river".
The name Nantes is pronounced [nɑ̃t] and the city inhabitants are called Nantais ([nɑ̃tɛ]). In Gallo, the romance dialect traditionally spoken in the region around Nantes, the city is called Naunnt or Nantt, according to the various spelling systems. The Gallo pronunciation is the same as the French one, although northern speakers pronounce it with a long [ɑ̃]. In Breton language, Nantes is known as Naoned or An Naoned. The latter, meaning "the Nantes", is less common and reflects the fact that articles are more frequent in Breton toponyms than in French ones.
Nantes' historical nickname was Venice of the West (French: La Venise de l'Ouest), a reference to the many quays and river channels which existed in the old town before these channels were filled in the 1920s and 1930s. The most common nickname nowadays is La Cité des Ducs, meaning the city of the dukes (of Brittany), in reference to its castle and its former role as a residence to the Dukes of Brittany.
Nantes and its area do not have any Neolithic monuments, although they are numerous in neighbouring regions. The first inhabitants seem to have settled in the Bronze Age, attracted by the small iron and tin deposits that can be found in the region's subsoil. The area became a trading place for tin, extracted in Abbaretz and Piriac, and then exported as far as in Ireland. After around a thousand years of trading, a local industry finally appeared around 900BC. Remains of smithies dating from the 8th and 7th centuries have been found in various parts of the city. Strabo and Polybius wrote that a major Gaulish settlement called Corbilo existed on the Loire estuary in their time, but it has never been clearly localised and it was not necessarily the same city as Nantes.
The history of Nantes between the 7th century BC and the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC is poorly documented. There is no proof of existence of a proper city before the reign of Tiberius in the 1st century AD. During the Gaulish period, Nantes was the capital of the Namnetes people, allied to the Veneti. Their territory did not extend south of the Loire; the south bank belonged to the rival Pictones. Until the end of the 2nd century AD, Nantes was challenged as the main town in the area by Ratiatum, nowadays Rezé, on the south bank. Ratiatum, founded under Augustus, developed more quickly than Nantes and served as a major harbour for the whole region. Nantes finally grew bigger when Ratiatum collapsed because of the Germanic invasions. Nantes never became a large city under the Roman occupation, because at that time tradesmen favoured internal roads over Atlantic routes. For instance, Nantes did not have a theatre or an amphitheatre, although other amenities such as a temple dedicated to Mars Mullo, sewers and public baths show that Nantes had some importance nonetheless. Nantes experienced a Germanic attack in 275, and locals decided afterwards to build a city wall, a move seen in many other Gaulish towns. The wall in Nantes was one of the largest in Gaul, enclosing the whole built area of 16 hectares (40 acres). Christianity was introduced in the 3rd century. The first local martyrs, Donatian and Rogatian, were executed around 288-290. A cathedral was founded in Nantes in the 4th century.
After the attack of 275, Nantes does not seem to have suffered any other assaults. It was not subject to the large wave of Briton immigration experienced in most of Brittany, and it remained faithful to the Roman Empire until the very last years of its existence in the 5th century. Together with the east of Brittany, Nantes passed to the Germanic Franks around 490. Nantes served as a major stronghold for the Franks against the Britons. Under Charlemagne, the town became the capital of the Breton March, a buffer zone aimed at protecting the Carolingian empire against a Briton invasion. The first governor of the March was Roland, a semi-mythical character of the Matter of France. After the death of Charlemagne, the Breton armies invaded the March. Nominoe, first Duke of Brittany, seized Nantes in 850. The first decades of Breton rule in Nantes were difficult as Breton lords kept fighting between each other, preventing them to be able to stop Viking incursions. The most spectacular in Nantes occurred in 843, when the Viking warriors killed the bishop. Nantes was finally integrated to the Viking realm in 919, but the Norse were expelled from the town in 937 by Alan II, Duke of Brittany.
Feudalism was established during the 10th and 11th century in France. Nantes was already at the head of a county, founded in the 9th century. Until the beginning of the 13th century, it was subject to many succession crises which saw the town pass several times from the Dukes of Brittany to the counts of Anjou of the Plantagenêt dynasty. In the 14th century, Brittany itself experienced a war of succession, which ended with the accession of the House of Montfort to the ducal throne. The Montforts, seeking their emancipation from the suzerainty of the Kings of France, reinforced the Breton institutions. They chose Nantes, the largest town in Brittany with over 10,000 inhabitants, as their main residence, and made it the home of their council, their treasury and their chancery. At the same time, the port traffic, which had remained insignificant throughout the Middle Ages, experienced growth and became the main activity in the city. Nantes started to trade with foreign countries and became a place of exportation, mostly for the salt of Bourgneuf, but also for wine, fabrics and hemp, usually sold to the British Isles. The 15th century is considered the first golden age of Nantes. The reign of Francis II especially, saw many improvements in a city which was in a dire need of repairs after the various wars of succession and a series of storms and fires from 1387 to 1415. Many buildings were built or rebuilt, including the cathedral and the castle. The University of Nantes, the first in Brittany, was founded in 1460.
The marriage of Anne of Brittany to Charles VIII of France in 1491 started the process of union between France and Brittany, which was definitely ratified by Francis I of France in 1532. The union put an end to a long feudal conflict between France and Brittany, and reasserted the suzerainty of the King over Breton subjects. In exchange of its lost independence, Brittany kept all its privileges. Most of the Breton institutions were maintained, but the process of unification greatly favoured Rennes, which had been the place of ducal coronations. Rennes received most of the legal and administrative institutions, while Nantes only kept a financial role with its Chamber of Accounts. At the end of the French Wars of Religion, Nantes became famous for the signing of the Edict of Nantes which allowed Protestantism in France. However, the town was a major Catholic League stronghold and the edict did not reflect the opinion of the local population. Indeed, the local Protestant community did not number more than a thousand people, and Nantes was one of the last places to resist the authority of the Protestant-raised Henry IV. The Edict was signed in Nantes after the capitulation of the Duke of Mercœur, governor of Brittany.
Coastal navigation and the export of locally produced goods (salt, wine, fabrics) were still dominant in the local economy around 1600. In the middle of the 17th century, the silting-up of local salterns and a strong concurrence in wine exports meant that the port of Nantes had to find other activities. In the 1640s, local ship-owners started importing sugar from the French West Indies (Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint-Domingue), and the activity became extremely profitable after protectionist reforms implemented by Colbert prevented the importation of sugar from Spanish colonies, which had dominated the market until then. In 1664, Nantes was only the eighth port in France, but it had already become the largest by 1700. Plantations in the colonies needed an important labour force to produce sugar, and also rum, tobacco, indigo dye, coffee and cocoa. Nantes ship-owners started to trade African slaves in 1706. Nantes was part of the triangular trade: ships first went to Western Africa to buy slaves, slaves were then sold in the French West Indies, and the ships later came back to Nantes with precious quantities of sugar and other exotic goods. Between 1707 and 1793, Nantes was responsible for 42% of the French slave trade and Nantais merchants sold around 450,000 African slaves in the West Indies.
Because manufactured goods were more lucrative than unrefined products, the local elite established a first local industry in the 18th century. There were around fifteen sugar refineries in the city around 1750, and nine cotton mills in 1786. Nantes and its region were the main manufacturer of printed cotton fabrics in France in the 18th century. The Netherlands were the largest client for exotic goods in Nantes. Trade brought a great deal of wealth to Nantes but the city was still constricted in its old city walls. Their destruction throughout the 18th century eventually allowed many extensions and embellishments. New squares and public buildings were built in the neoclassical style, while rich merchants paid for sumptuous hôtels particuliers.
The French Revolution, starting in 1789, initially received a moderate but significant support in Nantes, a city of the bourgeoisie and of private enterprise. On 18 July 1789, locals seized the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany in an imitation of the storming of the Bastille. Meanwhile, rural western France, very Catholic and conservative, was fiercely against the abolition of the monarchy and the submission of the clergy. A civil war in the neighbouring Vendée started in 1793 and quickly spread to surrounding regions. Nantes was an important Republican garrison on the Loire and on the way to England. On 29 June 1793, Royalist troops from Vendée, numbering 30,000 men, attacked the city on their way to Normandy where they hoped to get British backup. The 12,000 Republican soldiers managed to resist, and the battle of Nantes resulted in the death of one of the Royalist chiefs, Jacques Cathelineau. Three years later, another major Royalist leader, François de Charette, was executed in Nantes.
After the battle of Nantes, the National Convention which had founded the First French Republic, decided to purge Nantes of all its anti-revolutionary elements. Nantes was seen by the Convention as a corrupted merchant city and the local elite was less and less supportive of the Revolution, as the growing centralisation reduced their power. From October 1793 until February 1794, deputy Jean-Baptiste Carrier presided over a revolutionary tribunal remembered for its cruelty and ruthlessness. Between 12,000 and 13,000 people including women and children, were arrested, and 8,000 to 11,000 of them died, either by execution with the guillotine, shooting or drowning, or of typhus. The infamous Drownings in the Loire were aimed at killing large numbers of people at the same time, and the river was nicknamed "the national bathtub" by Carrier.
Overall, the Revolution was a disaster for the local economy. First, the slave trade almost disappeared because of the abolition of slavery and the independence of Saint-Domingue, and the Continental Blockade against France annihilated trade with other European countries. Nantes never fully recovered its 18th-century golden age afterwards. In 1807, the port saw only 43,242 tons of goods, compared to 237,716 in 1790.
Although it had been outlawed by the Revolution, the slave trade re-established itself as the major source of income in the first decades of the 19th century. Nantes was the last French port to practice the Atlantic trade illegally, participating until around 1827. Slave trade in the 19th century may have been as extensive as in the previous century, deporting some 400,000 slaves to the colonies. In the 1820s, local entrepreneurs took advantage of local vegetable production and Breton fishing to develop a canning industry, but canning was outshone by the importation of sugar from the Réunion Island in the 1840s and 1850s. Nantes tradesmen were allowed a tax rebate on Réunion sugar, and it proved very lucrative until a disease devastated the cane plantations in 1683. By the middle of the 19th century, Le Havre and Marseilles had already established themselves as the two main French ports, the first trading with America, the latter with Asia. They had fully embraced the industrial age, thanks to massive investments from Paris, while Nantes was clearly behind and struggled to find new profitable activities. Nostalgic for the pre-revolutionary golden age, the local elite of the first half of the 19th century had been suspicious of political and technological progress. In 1851, after much debate and opposition, Nantes was finally connected to Paris by the Tours–Saint-Nazaire railway.
In the second half of the 19th century, Nantes eventually became a major industrial city, thanks to a few families who invested in successful businesses. In 1900, the two main activities were food processing and shipbuilding. The former was primarily the canning industry, but it also included the biscuit manufacturer LU, and the latter was represented by three shipyards which were among the largest in France. These industries helped maintain the port activity and they were a source of opportunities for many other sectors, including agriculture, sugar imports, fertilizer production, machinery, and metallurgy, which employed 12,000 people in Nantes and its surroundings in 1914. Because large modern ships had more and more difficulties to go back up the Loire to reach Nantes, a new port had been founded in 1835 in Saint-Nazaire, at the very mouth of the estuary. Saint-Nazaire was primarily developed as a place where goods could be transhipped before being sent to Nantes, but it also built rival shipyards. Saint-Nazaire exceeded Nantes for the port traffic for the first time in 1868. In reaction to the growth of Saint-Nazaire, Nantes built a 15 kilometres (9.3 miles)-long canal, parallel to the Loire, to remain accessible to large ships. The canal was completed in 1892, but it was already abandoned in 1910, because of more efficient dredging works conducted on the Loire between 1903 and 1914.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the many river channels that flew through the city were increasingly perceived as a brake on comfort and economic development. Constant sand silting required dredging which in turn weakened the quays; one of them completely collapsed in 1924. Embankments were overcrowded, with railways, roads, and tramways. Between 1926 and 1946, most of the channels were filled up and water diverted. The new spaces were transformed into large thoroughfares and the urban landscape was completely changed. The two islands located in the old town, the Feydeau and Gloriette Islands, were attached to the north bank, while the other islands on the Loire were gathered to form the large Isle of Nantes.
As the filling works were almost completed, the cityscape was again shaken by the air raids of the Second World War. The city was captured by Nazi Germany on 18 June 1940 during the Battle of France. The first British bombs hit Nantes in August 1941 and May 1942, but the main attacks happened on 16 and 23 September 1943, when most of the industrial facilities were destroyed, and when parts of the city centre and its periphery were reduced to rubbles by American bombs. Around 20,000 people lost their homes in the 1943 raids, and 70,000 people subsequently left the city. In total, Allied raids in Nantes killed 1,732 people and destroyed 2,000 buildings, leaving a further 6,000 unusable. The war in Nantes was also marked by the execution of 48 civilians in 1941, in retaliation of the assassination of a German officer, Lt. Col. Fritz Hotz. They are remembered as the "50 hostages", because the Germans initially planned to kill 50 people. The Germans abandoned Nantes on 12 August 1944 and it was recaptured without fighting by the French Forces of the Interior and the American army.
Post-war years were a period of strikes and protests in Nantes. A strike organised by the 17,500 metallurgists of the city over the summer of 1955 to protest against salary disparities between Paris and the rest of France deeply marked the French political scene and the movement was followed in many other cities. Nantes later saw other large strikes and demonstrations during the May 1968 events, when marches gathered around 20,000 people in the streets. The 1970s global recession brought a large wave of deindustrialisation in France, and Nantes saw the closure of many factories, including its shipyards. As a result, the 1970s and 1980s were mostly a period of economic stagnation for the city. In the 1980s and 1990s, Nantes turned its economy towards services and it experienced new economic growth under Jean-Marc Ayrault, mayor from 1989 to 2012. Under his mandate, Nantes capitalised on life quality to attract service firms. The city gained a rich cultural life and advertised itself as a creative place not far from the ocean. Institutions and facilities such as the airport were re-branded as "Nantes Atlantique" to highlight this proximity. Local authorities also reflected on the slave trade legacy and have promoted commemoration and dialogue with other cultures.
Nantes is located in north-western France, near the Atlantic ocean and 342 kilometres (213 miles) south-west of Paris. Bordeaux, the other major metropolis of western France, is located 274 kilometres (170 miles) south. Nantes and Bordeaux share a similar location at the beginning of an estuary, Nantes being on the Loire estuary.
The city is located on a natural crossroads between the ocean in the West, the centre of France towards Orléans in the East, Brittany in the North, and Vendée, on the way to Bordeaux, in the South. It is a meeting point for various cultural aspects, including architecture: typical northern French houses with slate roofing are to be found north of the Loire, while dwellings built in a Mediterranean way, with low roofs covered with terracotta, dominate on the south bank. The Loire also corresponds to the northern limit of grape culture. Landscapes north of Nantes are dominated by bocage and are mostly dedicated to polyculture and animal husbandry, while the South is renowned for its Muscadet vineyards and its market gardening.
On a global scale, Nantes is almost at the geographical centre of the land hemisphere. This was located in 1945 by Samuel Boggs, near the main railway station (around / 47.217; -1.533).
The Loire is a wild and large river, some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) long. Its estuary, starting in Nantes, is itself 60 kilometres (37 miles) long. The Loire has a very seasonal regime and its bed and banks have considerably changed over the centuries. In Nantes, the river once divided into many channels, creating a dozen of islands and sand ridges. These formed a natural crossing on the river and helped the establishment of the city. Most of the islands were embanked in the Modern era, and they later disappeared in the 1920s and 1930s when the smallest waterways were filled. Nowadays, the Loire in Nantes comprises only two branches, each side of the Isle of Nantes.
The Loire is tidal in Nantes, and tides can still be seen around 30 kilometres (19 miles) further east. The tidal range can reach 6 metres (20 feet) in Nantes and is bigger than at the very mouth of the estuary. This is the result of dredging works conducted in the 20th century to make Nantes reachable to large ships, and originally tides were much weaker. Nantes was in fact located at a point where the river current and the tides cancelled each-other out, and this resulted in silting and the formation of the original islands.
The city is built on two confluences. The Erdre flows into the Loire on the north bank, while the Sèvre Nantaise flows into the Loire on the south bank. These two rivers initially provided natural links with the hinterland. When the channels of the Loire were filled, the Erdre itself was diverted in Central Nantes and its confluence was moved further east. The Erdre includes the small Versailles Island, turned into a Japanese garden in the 1980s. It was created in the 19th century with landfill resulting from the construction of the Nantes-Brest canal.
Nantes is built on the Armorican Massif, a range of very eroded mountains which can be considered the backbone of Brittany. The Armorican Massif stretches from the extremity of the Breton peninsula to the outskirts of the vast sedimentary Paris Basin and it is composed of several parallel ridges, made of Ordovician and Cadomian rocks. Nantes is built on the spot where one these ridges, the Sillon de Bretagne, meets the Loire. It passes along the western end of the old town and forms a series of cliffs above the quays. The very extremity, the Butte Sainte-Anne, is a major natural landmark and is 38 metres (125 feet) above sea level (the lower areas around are at 15 metres (49 feet)).
The Sillon de Bretagne is made of granite, while the rest of the territory lies on a series of low plateaus covered with silt and clay, while mica schists and sediments can be found in lower areas. Much of the old town and all of the Isle of Nantes consist of artificial backfill. Elevation in Nantes is generally higher in the western neighbourhoods located on the Sillon, and it reaches a maximum of 52 metres (171 feet) in the north-western extremity of the territory. In the centre, the river Erdre flows in a slate fault, and the east of the city is flatter, with only a few hills reaching 30 metres (98 feet). The lowest points, along the Loire, are at only 2 metres (6 feet 7 inches) above sea level.
Nantes has a Western European oceanic climate, strongly influenced by its proximity from the Atlantic ocean. West winds produced by cyclonic depressions in the Atlantic dominate, while North and North-West winds are also common. The slight variations in elevation mean that fog is common in valleys while gradients orientated towards the South and South-West have a good insolation. Winters are usually mild and rainy, with a medium temperature of 5 °C (41 °F); snowfalls are scarce. Summers are warm but remain temperate, with a medium temperature of 18.5 °C (65.3 °F). Rainfall is abundant through the year, with an average of 820 millimetres (32 inches) per year. The climate in Nantes is excellent for growing a large variety of plants, from temperate vegetables to many exotic trees and flowers brought during colonial times.
|Climate data for Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, France|
|Record high °C (°F)||18.2
|Average high °C (°F)||9.0
|Daily mean °C (°F)||6.1
|Average low °C (°F)||3.1
|Record low °C (°F)||−13.0
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||86.4
|Average precipitation days||12.3||10.0||10.1||10.1||10.9||7.2||6.9||6.6||8.0||11.8||12.2||13.0||119.1|
|Average snowy days||1.2||1.3||0.8||0.3||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.4||1.1||5.1|
|Average relative humidity (%)||88||84||80||77||78||76||75||76||80||86||88||89||81.4|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||73.2||97.3||141.3||169.8||189.0||206.5||213.7||226.8||193.8||118.2||85.8||76.1||1,791.3|
|Source #1: Meteo France"Données climatiques de la station de Nantes" (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved 10 December 2014. "Climat Pays de la Loire" (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved 10 December 2014.|
|Source #2: Infoclimat.fr (humidity, snowy days 1961–1990) "Normes et records 1961–1990: Nantes-Atlantique (44) – altitude 26 metres (85 feet)" (in French). Infoclimat. Retrieved 10 December 2014.|
Urbanism in Nantes is typical of French towns and cities. It has a historical centre gathering old monuments, administrative functions, and small retail; the centre is surrounded by 19th-century faubourgs, themselves surrounded by newer housing developments, comprising suburban houses and large council estates. The historical centre comprises a medieval core, which corresponds to the former walled town, and 18th-century extensions towards the west and the east. The northern extension, called Marchix, was considered squalid and almost disappeared in the 20th century. The old town never really extended towards the south before the 19th century, as it meant building on the unsteady islands of the Loire.
The medieval core comprises narrow streets and a mixture of half-timbered buildings, more recent sandstone buildings, post-World War II reconstructions and modern redevelopments. It is mostly a student neighbourhood, with a large quantity of bars and small shops. The eastern extension, behind the Cathedral, is traditionally inhabited by the aristocracy, while the larger western extension, along the Loire embankments, was built for the bourgeoisie. It remains the most expensive area in the city, with its wide avenues, its squares and its typical hôtels particuliers. The area was extended in the 19th century towards the vast Parc de Procé. The other faubourgs were built along the main boulevards and on the flat plateaus, turning the valleys into parks. Outside of Central Nantes, several villages were progressively absorbed by urbanisation, among them Chantenay, Doulon, L'Eraudière and Saint-Joseph-de-Porterie.
After World War II, several housing projects were built to accommodate the growing population. The oldest, Les Dervallières, was developed in 1956. It was followed by Bellevue in 1959, and Le Breil and Malakoff in 1971. They quickly became areas of deprivation and exclusion and they are experiencing regeneration since the 2000s. The very north of the city, along the banks of the river Erdre, comprises the furthest areas, including the main campus of the University and other higher schools. In the second part of the 20th century, Nantes started to expand outside of its limits, first towards the south, into the communes of Rezé, Vertou, and Saint-Sébastien-sur-Loire, located on the other bank of the Loire, but geographically close to the centre, and then on to the communes of the north bank, such as Saint-Herblain, Orvault and Sainte-Luce-sur-Loire.
The Isle of Nantes, covering 4.6 square kilometres (1.8 square miles), is divided between the former shipyards on the west, an old faubourg in the centre and modern housing estates in the east. Since the 2000s, is has been subject to a vast transformation, aiming at converting the former industrial areas into office spaces, housing, and leisure facilities. Local authorities aim at turning it into an extension of the city centre. Further extension and increasing of the density of the centre is also planned on the north bank, on a new axis linking the train station to the river Loire.
Nantes has 100 public parks, gardens and squares, covering 218 hectares (540 acres). The oldest one is the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden created in 1807. It displays a rich collection of exotic plants, including a 200-year-old Magnolia grandiflora and the national collection of Camellia. Other large parks include Parc de Procé, Parc du Grand Blottereau and Parc de la Gaudinière, which are the former gardens of country houses built outside the old town. Natural areas represent further 180 hectares (440 acres) and they include a Natura 2000 protected forest: the "Petite Amazonie", several woods, meadows, and marshes. In total, green areas, public and private, comprise 41% of the area of the city.
Nantes adopted its own ecological framework in 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas and to achieve energy transition. The city comprises three ecodistricts, one on the Isle of Nantes, one near the train station and the other in the north-east of the city. They aim to provide cheap and ecological housing and at counter urban sprawl by redeveloping neglected areas within the city.
Nantes is the préfecture (capital city) of both the Loire-Atlantique département and the Pays de la Loire région. As such, it is the residence of a région and a département prefect, local representatives of the Government of France. Nantes is also the meeting place of the région council and the département council, two political elected bodies.
The city itself is administered by a mayor and a council, elected every six years. The council comprises 65 councillors. Its origins can be traced back to 1410, when John V, Duke of Brittany created the Burghers' Council. This assembly was closely controlled by the wealthy merchants and the Lord Lieutenant. After the union of Brittany to France, the burghers petitioned the King of France to decree them a proper City Council in order to gain more freedom. This was granted by Francis II in 1559. The new council comprised a mayor, ten aldermen and a Crown prosecutor. The first council was elected in 1565, together with the first mayor, Geoffroy Drouet. The City Council as it exists nowadays is a result of the French Revolution and 4 December 1789 Act. The current Mayor of Nantes is Johanna Rolland (Socialist Party), elected on 4 April 2014. The Socialist Party has held a continuous majority since 1983 and Nantes has solidified itself as a left-wing stronghold.
Since 1995, Nantes has been divided into 11 neighbourhoods (quartiers). Each of these has an advisory committee and administrative agents. Some elected members of the City Council are also appointed to each of the neighbourhoods to liaise with the local committees. The neighbourhood committees mainly exist to favour civil dialogue between citizens and the local government, and they meet twice a year.
As with most French municipalities, Nantes is part of an intercommunal structure combining the city and 24 smaller neighbouring communes. Called Nantes Métropole, this structure encompasses the whole urban area of Nantes, and it had a population of 609,198 in 2013. Nantes Métropole has the responsibility of many domains, including urban planning, transport, public areas, waste disposal, energy, water, housing, higher education, economic development, employment and European topics. As a consequence, the competencies of the City Council are reduced to security, primary and secondary education, early childhood, social aid, culture, sport and health. Nantes Métropole was created in 1999 and it is administered by a council gathering the 97 members of all the local municipal councils. An act, passed in 2014, means that from 2020 the metropolitan council will be directly elected by the inhabitants of Nantes Métropole. The council is currently presided over by Johanna Rolland, Mayor of Nantes.
Local authorities started using official symbols in the 14th century, when the provost had a seal made. It showed the Duke of Brittany standing on a boat and protecting the city with his sword. The current coat of arms was first recorded in 1514, at the funerals of Anne of Brittany. It can be blazoned as "Gules, on waves Vert in base a ship in full sail Ermine, a chief Ermine". The ermines symbolise Brittany, while the green waves suggest the river Loire.
Before the French Revolution, the coat of arms was further adorned with ducal emblems: the belt cord of the Order of the Cord, founded by Anne, and the countly coronet of Nantes. In the 18th century, the coronet was replaced by a mural crown, and, during the Revolution, a new emblem with a statue of liberty replaced the coat of arms. During Napoleon's reign, the old coat of arms was reverted but bees, symbols of the Empire, were added in the chief. The original coat of arms was readopted in 1816. The Liberation Cross and the War Cross 39–45 were added in 1948.
Before the French Revolution, the motto of Nantes was "Oculi omnium in te sperant, Domine" ("The eyes of all wait upon thee, O Lord", a line of the grace prayer). It disappeared during the Revolution and Nantes adopted its current motto in 1816. It is "Favet Neptunus eunti" ("Neptune favours the traveller"). The municipality uses its own flag which derives from the naval jack used by Breton vessels before the French Revolution. It comprises a white cross on a black one; the quarters bear Breton ermines, except the top left which shows the arms of Nantes. The black and the white crosses are historical symbols of Brittany and France respectively.
The city of Nantes, and the Loire-Atlantique département, were formerly part of the historic province of Brittany; Nantes was one of its traditional capitals, along with Rennes. In 1789, the replacement of the historical provinces of France by the new départements resulted in Brittany being split between five départements. 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. Nantes, like Rennes, is located in Higher Brittany, which corresponds to the Romance speaking part of Brittany, while Lower Brittany, in the west, is traditionally Breton speaking and more Celtic in culture. As a port and a large city whose hinterland encompassed other provinces, Nantes has always had a specific role within Brittany, being its economic capital and a place open to other peoples and cultures. For these reasons, the Breton culture in Nantes is not necessarily as characteristic as the culture of Lower Brittany, even though it experienced a massive Lower Breton immigration in the 19th century.
In the middle of the 20th century, several French governments reflected on creating a new level of local governance, by gathering départements in wider regions. Such regions were finally established following acts of parliament in 1955 and 1972. The new regions loosely follow the pre-revolutionary divisions and Brittany was revived as the Region Brittany. However, Nantes and the Loire-Atlantique département were not included because the new regions had to take into account economic realities and be centred on one single metropolis. Region Brittany was created around Rennes, which has a similar size to Nantes, and the Loire-Atlantique département formed a completely new region with four other départements, mainly comprising parts of the old provinces of Anjou, Maine and Poitou. The new region was called Pays de la Loire ("countries of the Loire") although it does not include most of the Loire Valley. It has often been said that the separation of Nantes from the rest of Brittany was decided by Vichy France during the Second World War. Philippe Pétain did create a new Brittany without Nantes in 1941, but his regions were provisional and disappeared after the Liberation.
Much debate surrounding Nantes and its place within Brittany persists. Polls have always shown a wide majority in favour of a Breton reunification, both in Loire-Atlantique and in the rest of the historical province. In 2014 for instance, a poll showed that 67% of all Breton people and 77% of the residents of Loire-Atlantique were in favour of a reunification. Political opponents, who are mainly officials of the Pays de la Loire region, argue that their region could not exist without Nantes, and that putting Nantes out of it would ruin its excellent results in terms of economic performance. Instead, they prefer a union of Brittany with the Pays de la Loire, but Breton officials are against a dilution of their region within a wider Greater West region. The city council of Nantes has publicly acknowledged the fact that the city is culturally part of Brittany, but its positions on a possible reunification are overall similar to the ones of the Pays de la Loire. City officials tend to consider Nantes as an open metropolis with its own personality and non-dependent on surrounding regions.
The City of Nantes has entered into 9 international twinning arrangements since 1964. Formal twinning arrangements have been made with:
The City of Nantes has also made other agreements with various cities and regions of the world, including Turin, Liverpool, Hamburg, Asturias and Quebec. Furthermore, various partnerships have been signed with places in developing countries, including Dschang in Cameroon, Grand'Anse in Haiti and Kindia in Guinea.
|Source:Base Cassini from EHESS for figures until 1990|
In 2013, Nantes numbered 292,718 inhabitants, the highest in its history. In the Middle Ages, Nantes was the largest city in Brittany, but it was smaller than three other north-western towns: Angers, Tours and Caen. Since the Middle Ages, the city has experienced constant growth, except during the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon I, when it experienced depopulation, mostly because of the Continental System. In 1500, the city numbered around 14,000 inhabitants. The population rose to 25,000 in 1600 and to 80,000 in 1793. In 1800, it was already the sixth French city, behind Paris (550,000) and Lyon, Marseilles, Bordeaux and Rouen (109,000-80,000 each) Demographic growth continued through the 19th century, but when many other European cities experienced a steadier growth than ever before during industrialisation, in Nantes the growth kept the same pace as in the 18th century. Nantes reached 100,000 inhabitants around 1850, and 130,000 around 1900. In 1908, it annexed the neighbouring communes of Doulon and Chantenay, gaining almost 30,000 inhabitants at the same time. Demographic growth was slower in the 20th century, stagnating under 260,000 from the 1960s to the 2000s, mostly because urban growth then spread to surrounding communes. Since the 2000s, the number of inhabitants of Nantes started to rise again, as authorities started redeveloping the city to increase urban density. At the same time, the urban area has continued to experience a rise in population. Without Nantes, it had already 151,678 inhabitants in 1968, and it reached 320,064 in 2013 (612,782 with Nantes). The whole metropolitan area numbered 907,995 inhabitants the same year, and its population has almost doubled since the 1960s. The metropolitan area is projected to one million inhabitants by 2030, mainly because of the fertility rate.
The population in Nantes is younger than on the national average, with 44.7% of the inhabitants in 2013 being under 29 (France: 36.5%). The same year, people over 60 accounted for 18.7% of the city population (France: 24%). Households with only one person counted for 51.9% of all households, while 16.8% of the households were families with children. Young couples with children tend to move outside of the city because of high property prices, while most of the newcomers are students (37%) and adults moving for professional reasons (49%). Students generally come from the region, while people in employment are often from Paris. In 2013, unemployment was at 11.4% of the active population (France: 10%, Loire-Atlantique: 8.5%). The most deprived council estates had unemployment rates between 22% and 47%. Among those in employment, 57.8% were in intermediate or managing positions, 24.2% were technicians and 13.1% were plant workers or related. The same year, 43.3% of the population over 15 had a higher education degree, while 22.3% had no diploma at all.
The population of Nantes has long included ethnic minorities. Spanish, Portuguese and Italian communities were mentioned in the 16th century and a new Irish Jacobite community appeared a century later. However, foreign immigration in Nantes has always been lower than in many other large French cities. Foreign population in Nantes has remained stable since 1990, and it is two times lower than the average for other French cities of similar size. France does not allow the official census to count ethnic or religious categories, but does count number of people born in a foreign country. In 2013, this category amounted for 24,949 people, or 8.5% of the total population. The clear majority (60.8%) were between 25 and 54 years old. The main countries of origin were Algeria (13.9%), Morocco (11.4%) and Tunisia (5.8%). Other African countries accounted for 24.9%, the European Union for 15.6%, the rest of Europe for 4.8%, and Turkey for 4.3%.
Nantes is historically a Catholic city. It has a cathedral, two minor basilicas, around 40 churches and around 20 chapels. Western France is traditionally very religious and the Catholic influence in Nantes resisted longer than in other large French cities. However, its power has strongly diminished since the 1970s because of the rise of atheism and secularism. Although the city is the place where Protestantism was allowed in France through the Edict of Nantes, Protestants have always formed a small minority. The main Protestant temple belongs to the United Protestant Church of France, but the city also has a number of more recent Evangelical and Baptist places of worship. Nantes had a small Jewish community in the Middle Ages, but Jews were expelled from Brittany in 1240 and Judaism only reappeared after the French Revolution. Nantes has one synagogue, built in 1852. Nantes had just a few hundreds of Muslim inhabitants in the 1950s, but as in the rest of France, their number quickly rose in the second half of the 20th century, when large numbers of Africans and Turks settled. Nantes had its first mosque in 1976, and three new ones were built in 2010-2012.
Nantes is part of the territory of the langues d'oïl, a dialect continuum which stretches across the northern half of France and comprises standard French. The local variety in Nantes is Gallo language, spoken in the whole Higher Brittany. It is not widely spoken anymore, as standard French imposed itself as the sole language of France after the French Revolution. Nantes, being a large city, has long been a stronghold of standard French. A local distinct dialect, called parler nantais, is sometimes mentioned by the press, but its existence is dubious and its words are mostly the result of past rural emigration. As a result of a strong Lower Breton immigration in the 19th century, Breton language was once widely spoken in some areas in Nantes. Nantes signed the charter of the Public Office for Breton Language in 2013. Since then it has publicly supported its six bilingual schools and has also introduced some bilingual signage.
The economy of Nantes was linked for centuries to the river and the ocean. The city was the largest harbour in France in the 18th century. During the industrial age, food processing dominated, with sugar refineries (Beghin-Say), biscuit factories (LU and BN biscuits (Biscuiterie nantaise)), canned fish (Saupiquet, Tipiak) and processed vegetables (Bonduelle, Cassegrain). All these brands still exist nowadays and dominate the French market. Nantes and its area is the largest food producer in France and in recent years the city has developed itself as a hub for innovation in food security with laboratories and leading firms such as Eurofins Scientific.
After port activities in Saint-Nazaire largely ceased, Nantes experienced deindustrialisation, which culminated in 1987 with the closure of the shipping yards. At that time, the city reinvented its image to attract service firms. Nantes capitalised on its proximity to the sea and a large cultural offer to give itself a creative, modern image. Capgemini (management consulting), SNCF (railway) and Bouygues Telecom opened large offices in the city and they were followed by many other smaller companies. In the 2000s and 2010s, Nantes developed its own business district, Euronantes, grouping five hundred thousand square metres (5,400,000 square feet) of office space and 10,000 jobs. Although its stock exchange was merged with that of Paris in 1990, Nantes has become the 3rd financial centre in France after Paris and Lyon.
The local economy is one of the strongest performing in France, producing 55 billion euros every year, of which 29 billion go back into the local economy. The City of Nantes itself comprises more than 25,000 economic establishments totalising 167,000 jobs while the urban area encompasses a total of 42,000 firms and 328,000 jobs. Nantes is one of the most dynamic city in France in terms of job creation, with 19,000 new jobs created within Nantes Métropole between 2007 and 2014, a better performance than in larger cities such as Marseilles, Lyon or Nice. The communes surrounding Nantes host some major industrial estates and retail parks, often located along the ring road. The urban unit comprises ten large shopping centres of which the largest, Atlantis in Saint-Herblain, comprises a mall with 116 shops and several superstores including an IKEA. These large shopping centres tend to threaten independent shops in Central Nantes, but the latter remains the largest area for retail in the whole region, with around 2,000 shops. Tourism is a growing sector and Nantes is the seventh most visited city in France, with 2 million visitors per year.
In 2014, 74.6% of the establishments in Nantes were involved in trade, transport and services, 16.2% in administration, education and health, 5.4% in construction and 3.7% in industry. Although industry is not as big as it was before the 1970s, Nantes is the second centre for aeronautics in France. The European company Airbus produces the wingboxes and radomes of all its aircraft in Nantes, and employs around 2,000 people in the city. The only port terminal to remain in Nantes still handles wood, sugar, fertilizers, metals, sand and cereals. Its traffic amounts for 10% of the total traffic of the wider Nantes–Saint-Nazaire harbour, which stretches along the Loire estuary. The Atlanpole technopole, located in the north of the city, on the limit with Carquefou, aims at developing technological and science sectors in the whole Pays de la Loire. It includes a business incubator and comprises 422 companies and 71 research and higher education structures. it specialises in biopharmaceuticals, information technology, renewable energy, mechanics, agri-food, and naval engineering. Creative industries in architecture, design, fashion, media, visual art and digital technologies experience a quick development in Nantes with more than 9,000 companies in 2016, a job creation rate of 15% between 2007 and 2012, and a dedicated hub under construction on the Isle of Nantes.
The cityscape in Nantes is mostly recent; more buildings were built in the 20th century than any previous era. Nantes has only 122 buildings listed as Monument historique, which makes it only the 19th city in France in that regard. Most of the old buildings are built with tuffeau stone, a light and easily sculpted sandstone typical of the Loire Valley, and with cheaper schist. Because of its sturdiness, granite was often used for building foundations. Old buildings on the former Feydeau Island and the neighbouring embankments are often leaning because they were built on a damp soil.
Nantes has a few structures dating back to Antiquity and Early Middle Ages. Remains of the Roman city wall, built in the 3rd century, can be seen across the old town. Saint-Étienne chapel located in the Saint-Donatien cemetery, outside of the centre, dates back from 510 and was originally located in a Roman necropolis. The Roman city walls were replaced by new walls in the 13th and 15th centuries. Although much of the walls were destroyed in the 18th century, some segments survived, such as the Porte Saint-Pierre (St Peter's Gate), built in 1478.
Several half-timbered houses from the 15th and 16th centuries still exist in Le Bouffay, a very ancient area which corresponds to the medieval core of the city. The area is bordered by the Cathedral and by the castle of the Dukes of Brittany. The Cathedral is a large Gothic building and it replaces an earlier Romanesque church. Construction lasted for 457 years, from 1434 to 1891, but the result is very harmonious. Inside, the tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany and his wife is a prime example of French Renaissance sculpture. The Psallette, built around 1500 next to the Cathedral, is a fine late Gothic mansion. The castle is another Gothic masterpiece and one of the main landmarks of Nantes. It was started in 1207 but much of the current buildings date from the 15th century. The castle had a military role but it was also a residence for the Ducal Court. Strong granite towers on the outside hide the delicate tuffeau stone ornaments of the inner facades, designed in a Flamboyant style with some Italianate influence. Counter-Reformation inspired two baroque churches in Nantes: the Oratory Chapel, built in 1655, and Sainte-Croix Church, rebuilt in 1670. The municipal belfry clock was added to the latter in 1860. it was initially located on a tower of the old Bouffay castle, a prison demolished after the French Revolution.
After the Renaissance, the city developed west of the medieval core, along new embankments. The wealth derived from trading permitted the construction of many public monuments in the 18th century. Most of these monuments were designed by two architects, Jean-Baptiste Ceineray and Mathurin Crucy, noted for their neoclassical influence. They include the Chamber of Accounts of Brittany (nowadays the préfecture, 1763–1783), the Graslin Theatre (1788), the Place Foch adorned with a column and a statue of Louis XVI in 1790, and the Stock Exchange (1790–1815). The Place Royale ("Royal Square") was completed in 1790 but its large fountain was only added in 1865. Its statues represent the City of Nantes, the river Loire and its main tributaries. The 18th century heritage is completed by a rich display of hôtels particuliers and other private buildings built for the economic elite of the time, such as the Cours Cambronne, inspired by Georgian terraces. Much of the 18th-century buildings have a neoclassical design, but they are adorned with a great quantity of sculpted faces and balconies typical of the Rococo style. This architecture has sometimes been called "Nantais baroque".
Most of the churches were rebuilt in the 19th century, a period of demographic growth and re-Christianising after the Revolution. Most of the churches built at that time are in the Gothic Revival style, including the two basilicas of the city, Saint-Nicolas and Saint-Donatien. The first was built between 1844 and 1869 and it was one of the first Gothic Revival projects in France. The latter was built between 1881 and 1901, after the Franco-Prussian War which resulted in a rise of Catholic feelings in France. Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Port, located near the Loire, is an example of 19th century neoclassicism. It was built in 1852 and its iconic dome was inspired by the one on Les Invalides in Paris. The Passage Pommeraye, built in 1840–1843, is a multi-storey shopping arcade typical of the mid-19th century.
Industrial architecture includes several factories converted in leisure and business spaces. Most of them are to be found on the Isle of Nantes. In the centre, the former Lefèvre-Utile factory is famous for its Tour Lu, a tower built in 1909 to serve a publicity purpose. The two cranes in the former harbour, dating from the 1950s and 1960s, have also become popular landmarks. Recent architecture is dominated by post-war concrete reconstructions, modernist buildings and some examples of contemporary architecture such as the courts of justice, designed by Jean Nouvel in 2000.
Nantes is home to several museums. The Fine Art Museum, set to reopen in 2017, is the largest museum in the city. Opened in 1900, it has a large collection of art ranging from Italian Renaissance painting to contemporary sculpture. It includes work by Tintoretto, Brueghel, Rubens, Georges de La Tour, Ingres, Monet, Picasso, Kandinsky and Anish Kapoor. The Historical Museum of Nantes, located in the castle, is dedicated to local history and gathers the municipal collections. Items include paintings, sculptures, photographs, maps and furniture, and they are displayed to show some major points of the history of Nantes, such as the Atlantic slave trade, industrialisation and the Second World War.
The Dobrée Museum, closed for repairs as of 2017, shelters the département archaeological and decorative arts collections. The building is a Romanesque Revival mansion facing a 15th-century manor. Collections include the golden reliquary made for Anne of Brittany's heart, a series of medieval statues and timber frames, coins, weapons, jewellery, manuscripts and many archaeological pieces. The Natural History Museum of Nantes is one of the largest of its kind in France. It has more than 1.6 million zoological specimens and several thousands of mineral samples. The Machines of the Isle of Nantes, opened in 2007, have become a major attraction. Set in the converted shipyards, they comprise several automatons and prototypes inspired by deep-sea creatures, and the iconic walking elephant, which is 12 m (39 ft) high. With 620,000 visitors in 2015, the Machines quickly established themselves as the most visited non-free site in Loire-Atlantique. Smaller museums include the Jules Verne Museum, dedicated to the famous writer who was born in Nantes, and the Planetarium. The HAB Galerie, located in a former banana warehouse along the Loire, is the largest art gallery in Nantes. It is owned by the city council and it is used for contemporary art exhibitions. The council manages four other exhibition spaces, and several private galleries also exist.
Le Zénith Nantes Métropole, an indoor arena located outside of the city, in Saint-Herblain, has a maximum capacity of 9,000 people. It is the biggest concert venue in France outside of Paris in terms of audience. Since its opening in 2006, many world-famous acts have performed on its stage, including Placebo, Supertramp, Snoop Dogg and Bob Dylan. In Nantes proper, the largest venue is La Cité, Nantes Events Center, which comprises a 2,000-seats auditorium. It hosts concerts, congresses and exhibitions and it is the main venue of the Pays de la Loire National Orchestra. The Graslin Theatre, built in 1788, is the main venue for opera and is home to Angers-Nantes Opéra. The former LU biscuit factory, facing the castle, has been converted into a cultural centre: Le Lieu unique. It includes a Turkish bath, a restaurant and a bookshop, and it organises art exhibitions, drama, music and dance performances. The Grand T, with 879 seats, is the theatre of the Loire-Atlantique département, while the Salle Vasse is managed by the city. Other theatres include the Théâtre universitaire and several private venues. La Fabrique, a cultural entity managed by the city, comprises three sites which include music studios and concert venues, the largest being Stereolux, specialised in rock concerts, experimental happenings, and other kinds of contemporary performances. Pannonica is a smaller venue of 140 seats specialised in jazz music and nearby Salle Paul-Fort (503 seats) is dedicated to contemporary French singers. Five cinemas exist in Nantes but many others can be found in other parts of the urban area.
The Royal de Luxe street theatre company moved to Nantes in 1989 and since then it has produced many shows in the city. The company has become world-famous for its giant marionettes, including the Giraffe, the Little Giant or the Sultan's Elephant. They have performed abroad many times, including in Lisbon, Berlin, London and Santiago. The Royal de Luxe former machine designer, François Delarozière, created the Machines of the Isle of Nantes and their giant walking elephant in 2007. The Machines organise many special events through the year, in spring, autumn and for Christmas. These include theatre, dance, concerts, ice sculpting shows and performances for children.
The Estuaire contemporary art biennale happened in 2007, 2009 and 2012 on many locations along the Loire estuary. It left several permanent works of art in Nantes, and it inspired the Voyage à Nantes which takes place every summer since 2012. The Voyage is a series of contemporary art exhibitions located in various places across the city. An itinerary with a green line painted on pavements help visitors make the Voyage between the exhibitions and the major landmarks of the city. Some works of art are permanent and reused each year, while some only last for a summer. Permanent sculptures include the Anneaux of Daniel Buren, a series of 18 rings located along the Loire and reminding of the Atlantic slave trade shackles, and works by François Morellet and Dan Graham.
La Folle Journée ("Follies of a Day") is a major classical music festival held every winter. Originally lasting for a day, it now spans on five days. Each year, the programme revolves around a main theme (exile, nature, Russia, Frédéric Chopin...) and mixes classics with less known and less performed works. The concept has been exported to Bilbao, Tokyo and Warsaw among others. It sold a record 154,000 tickets in 2015. In September, the Rendez-vous de l'Erdre are a jazz festival coupled with a pleasure-boating show on the river Erdre. The Rendez-vous aim at opening to a large public a music genre which is often considered elitist; all concerts are free. Each year, it has an attendance of around 150,000 people. The Three Continents Festival is an annual cinema festival dedicated to Asia, Africa and South America. Every year, a Mongolfière d'or ("Golden hot-air balloon") is awarded to the best film. The city also organises a smaller Spanish film festival, and Univerciné, festivals dedicated to films in English, Italian, Russian and German. The Scopitone festival is dedicated to numeric arts, while the Utopiales is an international science fiction festival.
Nantes has sometimes been described as the birthplace of surrealism, as it is where André Breton, leader of the movement, met Jacques Vaché in 1916. In Nadja (1928), André Breton wrote about Nantes: "perhaps with Paris the only city in France where I have the impression that something worthwhile may happen to me". Fellow surrealist Julien Gracq wrote a whole book about Nantes, The Shape of a City, published in 1985. Nantes has inspired several other writers, including Stendhal for Mémoires d'un touriste (1838), Gustave Flaubert for Par les champs et par les grèves (1881) in which he describes his journey through Brittany, Henry James for A Little Tour in France (1884), André Pieyre de Mandiargues for Le Musée noir (1946), and Paul-Louis Rossi for Nantes (1987).
Nantes has a privileged relationship with cinema as it is the hometown of Jacques Demy, a French New Wave film director. Two of his films were set and shot in Nantes, Lola (1964) and A Room in Town (1982). The Pommeraye Arcade also briefly appears in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Other films set or filmed in Nantes include God's Thunder by Denys de La Patellière (1965), The Married Couple of the Year Two by Jean-Paul Rappeneau (1971), Day Off by Pascal Thomas (2001) and Black Venus by Abdellatif Kechiche (2010). Keep Your Right Up by Jean-Luc Godard was filmed at the airport in 1987.
Nantes appears in a number of songs, the most famous to non-French audiences being "Nantes" by the American band Beirut, released in 2007. Songs in French include "Nantes" by Barbara (1964), and "Nantes" by Renan Luce (2009). Furthermore, there are around fifty folk songs in which Nantes does appear, making it the most sung city in France after Paris. "Dans les prisons de Nantes" is the most popular among these, and versions were recorded by Édith Piaf and Georges Brassens, and most notably by Breton band Tri Yann in 1973. Other popular folk songs include "Le pont de Nantes", of which Guy Béart and Nana Mouskouri recorded versions in 1967 and 1978 respectively, "Jean-François de Nantes", a sea shanty, and "De Nantes à Montaigu", a bawdy song.
British painter J. M. W. Turner visited Nantes in 1826 as part of a journey in the Loire valley. He later painted a watercolour showing a view of Nantes from the Feydeau Island. It was bought by the city in 1994 and is now on display at the Historical Museum in the castle. Turner also made two sketches of the city, now in the collections of the Tate Britain.
Nantes-born gastronome Charles Monselet praised in the 19th century the "special character" of the local "plebeian" cuisine, comprising buckwheat crepes, caillebotte fermented milk and fouace brioche. The Nantes region is renowned in France for market gardens and it is a major producer of corn salad, leek, radish and carrots. Nantes has its own wine-growing region, the Vignoble nantais, spreading mostly south of the Loire. It is the largest producer of dry white wines in France, chiefly Muscadet and Gros Plant, usually served with fish, langoustines and oysters.
Local fishing ports such as La Turballe and Le Croisic mainly offer shrimps and sardines, while elvers, lampreys, zanders and northern pikes can be caught in the Loire. Local vegetables and fish are widely available in the eighteen markets of the city, including the Talensac covered market, the largest and most famed. Local restaurants tend to serve simple and authentic dishes made with fresh local products, but exotic trends have become a major influence for many chefs in recent years.
Beurre blanc sauce is the most famous local speciality. Made with Muscadet wine, it was invented around 1900 in Saint-Julien-de-Concelles on the south bank of the Loire, and it has since become a very popular accompaniment for fish. Other iconic specialties are the LU and BN biscuits, including the Petit-beurre produced since 1886, berlingot (fr) sweets made with flavoured melted sugar, and similar rigolette (fr) sweets which have marmalade inside, the Gâteau nantais, a rum cake invented in 1820, the Curé nantais (fr) and Mâchecoulais cow-milk cheeses, and the fouace, a star-shaped brioche served with the new wine in autumn.
Nantes has one university, the University of Nantes. The University of Nantes was first founded in 1460 by Francis II, Duke of Brittany, but it failed to become a large institution during the Ancien régime. It disappeared in 1793 when all French universities were abolished. In the 19th century, when many of the former universities were reopened, Nantes was neglected and local students had to go to Rennes and Angers. It was only in 1961 that the University was recreated. As a consequence, Nantes has never established itself as a large university city. Its university had around 30,000 students in 2013-2014, and the urban unit had a total student population of 53,000 the same academic year. This is lower than in nearby Rennes (64,000), and Nantes is the ninth urban unit in France for the proportion of students. The university is today part of the EPSCP Bretagne-Loire Université which gathers seven universities in western France and aims to improve the academic and research potential of the region.
Outside of the university, Nantes has many colleges and higher education schools. Audencia, a private school of management, is regularly ranked as one of the best in the world by the Financial Times and The Economist. There are five engineering schools: Oniris (veterinary surgery and food safety), École centrale de Nantes (mechanics and civil engineering), Polytech Nantes (digital technologies, civil engineering), École des mines de Nantes (nuclear technologies, safety, energy) and the ICAM (research, logistics). Three other Grandes Écoles can be found in Nantes: the École supérieure du bois (fr) (forests and wood processing), the School of Design and Exi-Cesi (fr) (computing). Other further education establishments include a national merchant navy school, a fine arts school, a national architecture school, and Epitech and Supinfo (computing).
Nantes possesses several large sport facilities. The largest is the Beaujoire Stadium, built for the UEFA Euro 1984. It later hosted matches during the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the 2007 Rugby World Cup. It has a capacity of 37,473 seats. The second largest venue is the Hall XXL, an exhibition hall within the Beaujoire exhibition park. It can be converted into a 10,700-seat stadium and it was selected as a venue for the 2017 World Men's Handball Championship. Smaller infrastructure includes the Palais des Sports, an indoor venue of 4,700 seats, and one of the venues for the EuroBasket 1983. Further, the city has the nearby Mangin Beaulieu sports complex with 2,500 seats, and Pierre Quinon stadium, dedicated to athletics and with a capacity of 790 seats. A metropolitan indoor stadium is located in Rezé, within the urban unit. Called La Trocardière, it has 4,238 seats. The river Erdre comprises a marina and an activity centre for rowing, sailing and canoeing. The city also has six swimming pools.
Six clubs in Nantes play at a high national or international level. The most iconic is the FC Nantes football team, member of the Ligue 1 competition for the 2016–17 season. Since its creation in 1943, the club has captured 8 Championnat titles and 3 Coupes de France. FC Nantes holds several records in the history of French professional football, including most consecutive seasons in the elite (44), most wins in a season (26), season invincibility (32 games) and all-time home invincibility (92 games, nearly 5 years). In handball, volleyball and basketball both the men's and women's clubs play in the French first division. These clubs are HBC Nantes and Nantes Loire Atlantique Handball in handball, Nantes Rezé Métropole Volley (fr) and Volley-Ball Nantes (fr) in volleyball, and Hermine de Nantes Atlantique and Nantes Rezé Basket (fr) for basketball. The men's futsal team, Nantes Erdre Futsal (fr), plays in the Championnat de France de Futsal, while the main athletics team, Nantes Métropole Athlétisme, includes some of the best athletes in France.
Nantes is linked to Paris by the A11 motorway, which passes through Angers, Le Mans and Chartres. The city is also located on the Way of the Estuaries, a network of motorways connecting the North of France to the Spanish border in the South-West, without passing by Paris. This network serves many other cities, such as Rouen, Le Havre, Rennes, La Rochelle and Bordeaux. South of Nantes, the road corresponds to the A83 motorway, and north of the city, towards Rennes, it is the RN137, a free highway. These motorways form a ring road around Nantes, currently the second largest in France after the one in Bordeaux, with 43 kilometres (27 miles).
Nantes has a single central railway station, connected by TGV trains to Paris, Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg. Thanks to the LGV Atlantique high-speed railway, trains connect Nantes to Paris in 2:10 hours, in comparison to 4 hours by car. With almost 12 million passengers every year, Nantes train station is the 6th busiest in France outside of Paris. Besides TGV trains, Nantes is also connected by Intercités trains to several other towns in western France, including Rennes, Vannes, Quimper, Tours, Orléans, La Rochelle and Bordeaux. Local TER trains provide connections with smaller towns such as Pornic, Cholet or Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie.
Nantes has its own airport, Nantes Atlantique Airport, located in Bouguenais, 8 kilometres (5.0 miles) south-east of the centre. It provides flights to around 80 destinations in Europe, mostly in France, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and Greece, and it is also connected to some airports in Africa, the Caribbean and Canada. It experienced a strong traffic growth in recent years, with 2.6 million passengers in 2009, rising to 4.1 million in 2014. Its normal maximum capacity is estimated at 3.5 million passengers per year. Replacing the current airport with a larger one has been considered since the 1970s. The Aéroport du Grand Ouest would be located 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Nantes, in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, and would become a major hub, serving the whole north-western France. Its construction has always met a strong opposition and the issue is subject to a long debate both on local and national scale. Opponents are principally ecologist and anticapitalistic activists, and as of 2017, the future construction site is occupied. A local referendum held in June 2016 was won by the proponents of the construction, but the government has not yet evacuated the area to start works on the site.
Public transport in Nantes is monitored by Semitan, marketed as TAN. One of the first horsebus transit system of the world was created in Nantes in 1826. The city built its first compressed air tram network in 1879, and it was electrified in 1911. As with most of the European tram networks, the one in Nantes disappeared in the 1950s following the development of cars and buses. Nantes was however the first city in France to reintroduce trams, in 1985. Nowadays, the city has an extensive public transport network, comprising trams, buses and river shuttles. The Nantes tramway network comprises three lines totalising 43.5 kilometres (27.0 miles). The Semitan counted 132.6 million journeys in 2015, of which 72.3 million where made by tram. The river shuttles, called Navibus, comprise two lines, one on the Erdre and the other on the Loire. The latter sees 520,000 passengers each year and it succeeds the former Roquio service, which existed in the Loire between 1887 and the 1970s.
Nantes is trying to develop a tram-train system which would allow suburban trains to run on tramlines. Such a system already exists in Karlsruhe in Germany and in Mulhouse in eastern France. In Nantes, two tram-train lines already exist: Nantes-Clisson towards the south, and Nantes-Châteaubriant towards the north. None of them is yet connected to the existing tram network and as such they are more small suburban trains than proper tram-trains. Nantes also has a bicycle-sharing system called Bicloo, which comprises 880 bicycles shared between 103 stations.
The local press is dominated by the Ouest-France group, which owns the two main newspapers: Ouest-France and Presse-Océan. Ouest-France is based in Rennes and covers north-western France; it is the best-selling newspaper in France. Presse-Océan is based in Nantes and only covers Loire-Atlantique. The Ouest-France group also has shares in the French edition of 20 minutes, one of the two free newspapers distributed in Nantes. The other one is Direct Matin, which does not have its own local edition. The news agency Médias Côte Ouest publishes Wik and Kostar, two free magazines dedicated to the local cultural life. Nantes has its own satirical newspaper, La Lettre à Lulu, published every week. Nantes is home to several specialised magazines: Places publiques is dedicated to urbanism in Nantes and Saint-Nazaire, Brief focuses on public communication, Le Journal des Entreprises, targets directors and managers, Nouvel Ouest is for decision-makers in the West of France, and Idîle provides information on the local creative industry. Nantes is the seat of Millénaire Presse, the largest French publishing house dedicated to professional entertainers, which publishes several magazines such as La Scène. The city prints its own free monthly magazine, Nantes Passion, and is also responsible for five other free magazines dedicated to specific areas: Couleur locale for Les Dervallières, Ecrit de Bellevue, Malakocktail for Malakoff, Mosaïques for Nantes-Nord and Zest for the eastern neighbourhoods.
National radio stations FIP and Fun Radio maintain branches in Nantes; Virgin Radio has its local branch in nearby Basse-Goulaine, while Chérie FM and NRJ have theirs in Rezé. Nantes is the seat of France Bleu Loire-Océan, the local branch of the Radio France public group, and of several private local stations. These stations are Alternantes, dedicated to cultural diversity and tolerance, Euradionantes, a local and European news station, Fidélité, a Christian station, Hit West and SUN Radio, two music stations, Prun, dedicated to students, and Radio Atlantis, focused on the local economy.
Nantes is the headquarters of television channel France 3 Pays de la Loire, one of the 24 local branches of France Télévisions, the national public broadcaster. France 3 Pays de la Loire provides local news and programmes available throughout the region. Nantes is also the seat of Télénantes, a local private television channel founded in 2004. It is mainly a news channel and it is available in Loire-Atlantique and parts of neighbouring Vendée and Maine-et-Loire.
Nantes is notably the place of birth of the Duke of Brittany Arthur I, and of Duchess Anne of Brittany, who also became Queen consort of France twice. Nantes is also the hometown of naval officer Jacques Cassard, General Pierre Cambronne, science-fiction writer Jules Verne, statesmen Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau and Aristide Briand, the latter being co-laureate of the 1926 Nobel Peace Prize, automobile pioneer Jules-Albert de Dion, surrealist Claude Cahun, film directors Denys de La Patellière and Jean-Loup Hubert, cartoonist Claire Bretécher, yachtsmen Éric Tabarly and Loïck Peyron, singers Jeanne Cherhal and Christine and the Queens, writer François Bégaudeau, and DJs Madeon and C2C. Film director Jacques Demy spent his childhood in Nantes, and statesman Joseph Fouché was educated in the city. The oldest high-school, Lycée Georges-Clemenceau, founded in 1808, was attended by writers Jules Verne, Jules Vallès, Paul Nizan and Julien Gracq, composer Olivier Messiaen, and statesmen Georges Clemenceau and Robert Badinter. French surrealist André Breton studied medicine in Nantes.
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Prefectures of the regions of France
Celtic nations and their cultures