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For a place in Brazil, see Nantes, Brazil

Nantes (Breton: Naoned) is a city in western France, near the Atlantic coast. Nantes is the capital of the Pays de la Loire région, as well as the préfecture of the Loire-Atlantique département.



First a town founded by the Celtic tribe named the Namnetes around 70 BC, it was conquered by Julius Caesar in 56 BC and named Portus Namnetus. Christianised in the 3rd century, Nantes is successively invaded by the Saxons (around 285), the Franks (around 500), the Britons (in the 6th and 7th centuries) and the Normans (in 843). In 937, Alain Barbe-Torte, grandson of the last king of Brittany who was expelled by the Normans, drove them away and founded the duchy of Brittany.

When the duchy of Brittany was annexed by the kingdom of France in 1532, Nantes kept the parliament of Brittany for a few years, before it was moved to Rennes. In 1598, King Henry IV of France signed here the Edict of Nantes which granted Protestants rights to their religion.

During the 18th century, prior to abolition of slavery, Nantes was the slave trade capital of France. This kind of trade caused Nantes to become the first port in France and a wealthy city. When the French Revolution broke out, Nantes chose to be part of it, although the whole surrounding region soon degenerated in an open civil war against the new republic. Excesses led to thousands of summary executions, mainly by drowning in the Loire river. In the 19th century, Nantes became an industrial city. The first public transport anywhere may have been the omnibus service initiated in Nantes in 1826. Soon it was being imitated in Paris, London and New York. First railroads are built in 1851 and many industries were created.

In 1940, the city was occupied by the German troops. In 1941, the murder of a German colonel caused the retaliatory execution of 48 hostages. In 1943, the city was bombed twice by British and American airplanes. Nantes was freed by the Americans in 1944. After World War II, the city slowly lost its industries. The harbour is moved at the very mouth of the Loire river, in Saint-Nazaire. It is only in the last 15 years of the 20th century that the city was able to move into a more modern economy.

Sites of Interest

  • Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
  • Cathedral Saint-Peter Saint-Paul
  • Passage Pommeraye
  • the new Palais de Justice, on the Île de Nantes , built in 2000, designed by Jean Nouvel


The city has a total area of 65.19 km² (25.18 mi²)

Nantes is located on the banks of the Loire river, at the confluence with the Erdre and the Sèvre Nantaise, near the mouth, 55 km (35 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean. The city used to be built in a place where many branches of the Loire river created several islands, but most of those branches were filled in at the beginning of the 20th century (and the confluence with the Erdre river diverted and covered) due to the increasing car traffic.

Nantes is divided in 11 neighborhoods, 9 on the right bank of the Loire, 1 on the left bank and 1 on the Ile-de-Nantes island.

Nantes is bordered by the cities of Basse-Goulaine , Bouguenais , Carquefou , La Chapelle-sur-Erdre , Couëron , Indre , La Montagne , Orvault , Rezé , Saint-Herblain , Sainte-Luce-sur-Loire , Saint-Sébastien-sur-Loire and Vertou .


As of 1999 census, there were 270,251 inhabitants in the city (commune) of Nantes. The population density was 4260/km². There were 711,120 inhabitants in the metropolitan area (aire urbaine).

As of February 2004 estimates, the population of the city of Nantes reached 276,200 inhabitants.


Formerly the capital of Brittany, Nantes was separated from the region by the Vichy government in June 1941. Even though the city is part of the Pays de la Loire région since 1971, the feeling that Nantes belongs to Brittany is still solid nowadays. For cultural reasons, many people are still willing to rally back to Brittany.

The local football team is the FC Nantes Atlantique.

The celtic band Tri Yann was originally known as Tri Yann an Naoned (the three Johns from Nantes).


Nantes was the birthplace of:

Colleges and Universities


The omnibus, the first organized public transit system within a city, appears to have been originated in Nantes in 1826.

A tram line was opened in Nantes in 1985.

See also

External links

Last updated: 06-01-2005 19:26:17
Last updated: 08-25-2005 15:55:53