385km (239 miles) W of Paris; 325km (202 miles) N of Bordeaux
Nantes is Brittany's largest town, although in spirit it seems closer to the Loire Valley's château country. The mouth of the Loire is 48km (30 miles) away, and here it divides into several branches. Nantes is a busy port that suffered great damage in World War II. It's best known for the Edict of Nantes, issued by Henri IV in 1598, which guaranteed religious freedom to Protestants (it was later revoked). Many famous people, from Molière to Stendhal, have lived here. But Nantes hardly rests on its illustrious past. Now home to high-tech industries, it has some 30,000 college students and a population of half a million.
Built on the largest of three islands in the Loire, the city expanded in the Middle Ages to the northern edge of the river, where its center lies today. The most prominent building, the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, rises high above the wide boulevard quai de la Fosse, and regrettably will be closed for renovations throughout the life of this edition. Only the exterior can be viewed, except during temporary exhibitions. At one end of this boulevard is the train station; at the other are the promenades beside the Loire.