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More than being a beautiful and historical city, Nantes is a spirited and innovative industrial center. It has been packing a punch since it became France’s foremost port in the 18th century, delivered the world’s first public transportation system in 1826 and became the nation’s 2nd most successful city in terms of economic growth. Nantes is now a thriving hub for workers and students alike.

Art and culture: The architecturally eclectic Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes houses a veritable history of western painting which spans primitive to contemporary works, with highlights from Delacroix, Delaunay and Picasso. Alternatively, the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle is a great day out for fans of zoology, paleontology and ethnography – or those who just wish to marvel at giant dinosaur skeletons.

Historical sites: Nantes Cathedral took over 400 years to construct, so it seems only right to pay it a visit. The monument is a flamboyant Gothic church housing the masterful Renaissance Tomb of Francis II.  Another must-see in Nantes is the Château des Ducs de Bretagne – this 13th century castle contains multimedia-rich exhibits chronicling the city’s history and is surrounded by impeccably pruned gardens to meander through at your leisure.

Entertainment: Passage Pommeraye is an 1843 shopping arcade featuring fluted columns, open-worked balustrades and neo-renaissance statues – a perfectly kitsch companion to the elegant clothing, perfume and chocolate boutiques within. For something totally different, Les Machines de l'île is a land of animatronic, interactive creatures born from the fanciful writings of Jules Verne and the invented universe of Leonardo da Vinci.

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