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The northwest French city of Nantes may have a long history as the capital of Brittany, but today, this Loire River port is actually the capital of the neighbouring Pays de la Loire region. Car hire in Nantes is a good way not only to explore the city's own numerous green spaces and historic attractions, but all the other nearby beaches and wine growing areas throughout this scenic part of northwest France. Nantes Atlantique Airport lies less than 10 kilometres southwest of the well preserved 15th century Château des Ducs de Bretagne in the heart of the city.
Who to Book With
Most Nantes car hire companies are situated either within the city centre or on the esplanade next to the Nantes Atlantique Airport car park for rented vehicles. The airport alone includes five different internationally known companies, including Sixt, National and Avis. Marguerite and Loc Eco are the two best-known independent companies. Although on-the-spot car rentals are available at most of these places, online booking is still the best way to secure the vehicle of your choice.
Best Time to go
Raincoats and umbrellas are required at all times of the year in Nantes, a city whose weather is typically damp and mild, even in winter. Summer, however, is the city's busiest, driest and most expensive season. Spring and autumn bring slightly cheaper vehicle and hotel rates, but weather remains nearly as warm as in summer.
Need to Know Essentials
Here are the mandatory documents for collecting your car rental:
- Proof that the motorist is 18 or older
- Proof of insurance
- A valid passport or other photo identification
- A valid driver’s license
Porte de Grand-Lieu is the main interchange linking the outskirts of Nantes to the city's main N844 ring road. The two main roads to Nantes Atlantique Airport are named D-85 and D-844. Although Nantes is generally an easy city to drive in, many of the region's most unforgettable scenic road trips lie along the city's surrounding countryside.
Although driving is usually easy to do in Nantes, visitors also have a fair number of public transportation choices during their stay. These include a high speed rail station, taxis, three tram lines, several bus lines and even a public boat network known as Navibus. The same tickets are valid for up to an hour aboard any of the city's navibuses, buses or trams. Cyclists can also rent bicycles from Nantes Métropole or the city's Bicloo self service bicycle networks before pedalling towards the bicycle lands along most of the city's major streets.
The city's main rail station, Gare de Nantes, contains two separate entrances called Gare Sud and Gare Nord. A pedestrian subway connects both entrances to one another and to all of the station platforms. High-speed TGV rail journeys between Nantes and Paris typically last slightly over two hours with stops at Angers and Le Mans along the way.
Transports de l'Agglomération Nantaise operates the city's bus, tram, busway, and Navibus public boat lines. One-way tickets aboard any of these forms of public transportation cost about £1.50 each and are valid for 60 minutes with unlimited transfers. Bulk tickets cost £10.66 for 10 tickets, while 24-hour tickets cost about £3.50 each. Shuttle bus service is also available between the Nantes rail station and airport.
Nantes Agglo Taxis is the city's main taxi provider with designated waiting spots close to the rail station, airport and Place du Commerce. Reservations can be made 24 hours a day and drivers are fluent in French, Spanish and English. One-way fares between Nantes Atlantique Airport and the city centre range from £20 to £25.
The famous Château des Ducs de Bretagne remains in much the same condition as when it was first built in the 15th century and now contains the Nantes History Museum. Next door to the château stand the two crypts of the St Pierre Cathedral. However, Nantes is also a short drive away from some of northwest France's most beautiful beaches, including the popular La Baule-Escoublac resort and the lesser-known seaside community of Pornic. Harvested Breton sea salt is the most common export in the nearby community of Guérande.
La Baule-Escoublac - With nearly five miles worth of beach La Baule-Escoublac is ranked among the most beautiful in Europe. The waters are calm and shallow, while the sand is fine and white. Visitors can wade in knee deep water for over 30 minutes during low tide or dine at any of the resort's numerous crêperies and seafood restaurants.
Pornic - This peaceful beach provides a less crowded alternative to La Baule-Escoublac for sunbathers searching for a strip of beach entirely to themselves. The centrepiece of this lovely town is the restored Château de Pornic, whose history dates from the 10th century and which once belonged to French army leader Gilles de Retz.
Guérande - The fortified wall around this medieval community extends more than 1,300m (4,400ft). The contrasting landscapes of the surrounding peninsula are the Brière peat bog known as the Black Land and the salt marshes known as the White Land. The Guérande peninsula contains nearly half of Loire Atlantique's surviving megalithic monuments.