The Venice of the West
A former stronghold of Brittany, the Loire-Atlantique prefecture appears to make a habit of having happy residents.
The heart of the biggest metropolis in western France (500,000 residents including Saint-Nazaire), modern day Nantes is keen to advance its status as capital of the Loire region But there's no getting away from its older links to Brittany. The 'Venice of the West' - so called because it sits on the confluence of the Loire, Erdre, Sèvre, Chézine and Cens rivers - housed the Dukes of Brittany and notably the duchesse Anne of Brittany before the region became part of France in 1532. One other notable point in its history was the signing of the Nantes Edict by Henri IV in 1598, giving Protestants their religious freedom and putting an end to the wars of religion.
Dukes of mecatronics
Today Nantes is one of France’s most attractive cities thanks to its quality of life. The city was first to restore its tramway and, aside from its architectural and historical heritage, is an industrial forum of learning and research. The Atlanpole scientific community created in 1987 helps create and develop new business ventures centred on food-processing, mecatronics (combining mechanical and electrical engineering with software engineering), health services and building materials. The city also has a student intake of 30,000 in its dozen 'grandes ecoles'.
Facing the Atlantic and the pull of the ocean, adventure seems to beckon here and it's easy to see where Jules Verne - one of the most translated of French authors - found his inspiration. The late world-famous yachtsman Eric Tabarly is another hometown boy who dared to take the plunge. Now it’s up to rugby’s heroes to do the same.
30,000 students at a dozen grandes ecoles
Region: Pays de la Loire