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Visit in Nantes
Even though it is now in a different region, Nantes will always be the capital of Brittany. Until the Duchy of Brittany was with France in the 16th century, the Dukes of Brittany ruled their lands from here, and their former seat of power is still one of Nantes’ most commanding buildings. The Loire is Nantes’ lifeblood, bringing the world to its doorstep and allowing trade and industry to thrive. Ta
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1 Les Machines de l’Île
On the west side of the Île de Nantes, the painter François Delaroziere has transformed into whimsical robotic creatures inspired by Jules Verne’s texts and Leonardo da Vinci’s fanciful gizmos. The Grand Éléphant, for example, stands 12 metres tall and carries 52 passengers on its back for a walk in which you can feel the vibration of every step. The Carrousel des Mondes Marins is a massive carousel with moving marine creatures, and the Arbre aux Hérons is a climbable sculpture in the shape of a massive tree with ramps and stairways.
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2 Nantes Cathedral
The construction of the city’s cathedral began in 1434 and lasted over 400 years. Construction in the flamboyant gothic style continued into the 1600s, despite being long out of fashion by then because it matched the earlier work. He’d be for the next 20 years of his life. Make time to visit the Tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, which is a French Renaissance masterpiece. It was in 1507 and features haunting sculptures made of white Carrara marble.
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3 Mémorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage
It’s worth remembering that the slave trade was responsible for much of Nantes’ Ancien Régime splendour. Nantes was the first city in France to ship slaves on a large scale, and the majority of France’s slave ships departed from this port during the 18th century. So the memorial commemorating the abolition of slavery on Quai de la Fosse, next to the Loire, is especially poignant.
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4 Place du Bouffay
This square is in the heart of Bouffay, Nantes’s oldest district. Place names like “Place du Pilori” (pillory) and “Rue de la Juiverie” (Jewry) give you an idea of how old this district is. The square as it now dates from the 1700s, but there are some evocative relics from a more distant past: On the corner of Rue des Échevins, there’s a 15th-century gothic fireplace poking out of the wall.
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5 Jules Verne Museum
Jules Verne was born in Nantes in 1828 and spent most of his first 20 years there, though he didn’t hold the city in high regard after a woman he courted in his late teens was married off by her parents to one of Nantes’ wealthy landowners. The Jules Verne Museum is in a large bourgeois mansion from 1878, which has no connection to Verne but is not far from where his parents lived in Bas-Chantenay.
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