What impresses foreigners about Nantes (this awesome city on the West of France) is the natural way with which it takes on its role as an evolved city. Gardens, impossible machines, more cyclists than China, a historical heritage that indicates how much and how happy this territory has always been and, in general, a whole city designed and managed for and by the neighbors.
The formula for the perfect city right here, can be summarized like this: contemporary culture + green culture + tourism = Nantes. All damn modern. All the hipster spirit is condensed in a handful of examples of cool things that Nantes exhibits without making a big deal. Visitors will discover here that urban projects can be done quite differently than what most of us are used to.
City of Students = A Lot of Bars
Where there are students there are bars, this is an unwritten law. Nantes has very vibrant places so that a traveler can find many interesting options. Also, the nightlife and the electronic music scene are amazing. Nantes is home to theaters, circus, art exhibitions, concerts and, above all, dance. The city has a mixed and creative electronic music programming. In other words, one day you’ll find a theatrical performance with techno bases and another one with break dancers.
Everything’s so Green
This city is wholly vegetal. 100 gardens with more than 1,000 hectares are distributed around it. Any inhabitant of Nantes has a natural space less than 300 meters from home. If the WHO recommends 9 square meters of green per inhabitant, the capital has 57, between 2 and 5 times more than any other French city.
There are thematic green areas (such as a Korean and Japanese garden), floating gardens of local plants in the middle of the rivers and large spaces where everything fits, such as the Garden of Plants.
Part of the 300 municipal gardeners are dedicated to caring for urban gardens. Fruits and vegetables such as strawberries growing beside the Chateau del Duc are for the public, so you can take it and enjoy a municipal salad.
The bikes rules in Nantes. It’s a flat city crossed by bike lanes where it is almost easier to pedal than it is to drive. Bikes can be rented at the tourist offices and they even encourage the visitors to hit the route along the Loire, that has more than 100 stops.
Machines from Another Future
The Gallery of Machines is a playground in which you’ll find a 12 meters tall dreamlike elephant mechanical that you can climb. Beside it, the Carousel of the marine worlds is a 25 meters tall merry-go-round with retrofuturist fish wagons. Both are conceived in the style of Victorian lucubrations inspired by the future described, for example, by Alan Moore in The League of Extraordinary Men.
It’s the Island of Architects
Renowned architects like Jean Nouvel, Daniel Buren, Jean Prouvé, Christian de Portzamparc, and others are transforming the industrial zones. Some of the ideas implemented in this city include social housing in new buildings where penthouses are reserved for sale, thus achieving two things: social integration and project financing. And, a third one: that visitors discover that the urban projects can be done in another way, one that works.