NANTES HAS DONE A REMARKABLE JOB OF CONVERTING ITS INDUSTRIAL SPACES INTO CATHEDRALS OF CULTURE. Quays which once resounded with the hustle and bustle of maritime trade, and later ship-building, now ring with the sounds of live music, street-performance and café culture. The city has invested big money in resurrecting its architectural heritage. Visit the Isle de Feydeau to admire immaculately-restored 18th century hotels particuliers. These were the sumptuous homes of merchants who grew rich on the proceeds of Atlantic trade in wool, textiles, and sugar.
Nantes prospered again, turning to manufacturing industry and ship-building. Over the last decade, architects from all over Europe have been commissioned to breathe new life into the old wharves. Modern buildings referencing the maritime and manufacturing past have sprung up, notably The School of Architecture and the Manny Build-
ing, both completed in 2009. This June, British architect Stanton Willliams’ €48.8 million transformation of the 19th Century Musee de Beaux Arts will throw open its doors.
With over 1000 hectares of green spaces, and miles of cycle paths, Nantes deserves is reputation as a lifestyle destination. It has also successfully branded itself as an art hub. Estuaire is an open-air museum on the Loire estuary displaying 30 contemporary international art installations, including a 120-metre long snake and a sinking house. Explore the exhibits on foot, by bike or by boat. Kids will love the 12-metre high mechanical elephant at the Machine de L’ile, built on the old ship-yards, where surrealist artworks are inspired by Nantes-native son Jules Vernes’, ‘Invented Worlds’.
The Nantes Art Museum will reopen in june 2017.
Town houses on Ile Feydeau.
The machines of the Isle, parc des chantiers.
Town houses in Nantes.
Stairs in Ile Feydeau.