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Nantes

France

Located on the Loire River, Nantes has been dubbed the cultural capital of western France. Considered by some as one of the best places to live in France, this city's redevelopment has transformed it into a buzzing centre of modern buildings, converted warehouses, and quirky art installations; a long way from its humble Provincial beginnings.

Original architecture is, however, still scattered through its streets, emphasising the impressive journey this city has taken from ancient to modern.

The Green Line

Contemporary art has (literally) taken over Nantes, particularly during the summer art festival Le Voyage à Nantes when artists from all over the world create installations in public spaces throughout the city. Although this is a summer festival, many of the pieces of art are left in place all year, making them a permanent fixture in Nantes' culture.

Follow the Green Line, an actual green stripe painted on the ground, which runs for seven miles through the city allowing visitors to take their own guided tour of the sights, including many alternative pieces of art. Things to look out for include Le Grand Éléphant, a 12-metre high mechanical elephant that forms part of Les Machines de L'île (The Machines of the Island) - a collection of wacky mechanical art. You can actually ride in the elephant on a 45 minute walk; a very alternative way to get around!

Les Anneaux (The Rings) are another installation to look out for on your trail through the city - a collection of 18 rings through which different frames of the riverscape can be admired. Artist Daniel Buren wanted the rings to represent the link between the city's maritime past and contemporary architectural present, which is pretty much Nantes in a nutshell.

Le Nid (The Nest) is another famous stop on the Green Line. A product of artist Jean Jullien's imagination, this 'nest' is on top of the Tour de Bretangne skyscraper, and is home to a bar and restaurant offering panoramic views of the city. You'll be joined, however by a huge statue of a sleepy bird, and chairs that look like eggs, an unexpected and different way to enjoy an evening drink.

Other things to see and do

Aside from an artistic tour of the city, Nantes has some other noteworthy attractions to visit, the first being the Château des Ducs de Bretagne. This large castle was once the centre of the province of Brittany and is located right on the banks of the river. Today, it is home to the Nantes History Museum, where visitors can learn about the city's past.

The Passage Pommeraye, a shopping arcade dating back to 1843, is another historical fragment of the city and a beautiful piece of Neo-Renaissance architecture. Do a spot of shopping in its luxury boutiques, or simply wander through admiring the building.

Other notable sights include Nantes Cathedral, the Jardin des plantes (Plant Garden), and the ancient Place de Bouffay square.

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