With brilliant art, cuisine, river islands and muscadet, the thriving city at the mouth of the Loire is ideal for a short break, and only six hours by rail from London

It must be hard for today’s visitors to imagine the Île de Nantes, in the middle of the Loire, as the industrial wasteland it became once shipbuilding finished in the 1980s. But from 2007, it has been transformed from virtual no-go area into cultural hub – giving the island back to the people and attracting tourists. The Machines de l’Ile – gigantic, surreal steampunk animals and insects lumbering through the old shipyards – have been a big hit. For summer days, La Cantine du Voyage is a huge open-air cafe on Quai des Antilles, serving healthy meals (from €11, reopens April 2020). A huge warehouse, Le Hangar à Bananes, where bananas were once brought to ripen, is now HAB, a brilliant contemporary art venue, while at night there are bars, concerts and clubbing.

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