Nantes’s ‘Machines of the Island’ is a mechanical menagerie that recalls the fantasies of Jules Verne, who was a native of the city

Including adventures with historical characters and animals – both real and fantastical

Related articles: Riverside Travels in the Pays de la Loire
12 Must-See Attractions of the Pays de la Loire Region

Val de Loire Wine Route

You simply can’t visit the Loire Valley and not sample the wine. Wine is what this region has built its name on. Covering 40,000 hectares of vineyards sprawling out along the river, the Val de Loire Wine Route is the only way to discover the region and the UNESCO World Heritage Site between Chalonnes and Sully. www.vinsvaldeloire.fr

Muscadet

Nantes is famed for Muscadet wine, with vineyards stretching over 10,000 hectares between the outskirts of Nantes and Clisson. Known and enjoyed the world over, this excellent white wine carries the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée label. Take a trip out into the vineyards and learn more about the winemaking process. www.nantes-tourisme.com

Cointreau distillery

Of course, in the world of drink, it’s not just wine that this region is famous for. The premium triple-sec liqueur Cointreau also hails from the Pays de la Loire, and has been distilled at Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou since 1875. Here you can explore the distillery and learn how this popular digestif is concocted, and maybe enjoy a snifter or two. www.cointreau.com

Nantes and its Château des Ducs de Bretagne. Photo: Fotolia

CULTURAL SITES

Grand Moulin, Sainte-Suzanne

Based at the bottom of this hilltop village, this working watermill still turns on its 19th-century mechanism. Guided tours will show you how our was made here – and paper still is. www.mayenne-tourisme.com

Musée de L’Auditoire, Sainte-Suzanne

The oldest suit of armour on display anywhere in France can be seen in this museum recounting the history of this Most Beautiful Village. www.ste-suzanne.fr

Archaeological Site and Museum at Jublains

Jublains was already an important settlement by the time of the Roman occupation. Guided tours of the remains of a Roman fortress, temple, thermal baths and theatre tell the ancient history of the town. www.museedejublains.fr

Machines de L’Île, Nantes

The disused former shipyards of Nantes have been transformed into an otherworldly kingdom featuring a giant mechanical elephant (which you can ride), a three-storey undersea carousel and enormous kinetic insects. A heron tree of epic proportions is now under construction after the site marked its tenth anniversary last year. www.lesmachines-nantes.fr

Château des ducs de Bretagne, Nantes

Embodying the concept of past-meets-present that goes to the very core of this thoroughly modern city is the Musée d’histoire de Nantes v.2.0, with additions to the museum covering recent history from the 20th century to the present. www.chateaunantes.fr

Voyage à Nantes

A sculpture trail using the city itself as a canvas, it was first conceived in 2012. A permanent trail of some 40 exhibits is available all year round, but it really comes alive in the summer with innovative temporary installations. www.levoyageanantes.fr

The Botanic Garden, Nantes

Seven hectares of lush, green gardens in the heart of the city are home to 10,000 different species of plants and more than 5,000 flowers. One of the leading botanical gardens in the country, it has been presented with the Remarkable Garden award. www.jardins.nantes.fr

Estuaire

An exhibition of sculptures along the course of the River Loire all the way from Nantes to Saint-Nazaire, it features everything from a giant sea serpent to a super-sized tape measure and a melting sailing ship. www.estuaire.info

Puy du Fou is regarded by many as being the best theme park in the world\

FAMILY FUN

Puy du Fou

Taking you back to the early days of civilisation, Puy du Fou achieved cult status among theme park fans and families many years ago. Roman chariot racing, gladiators battling in the amphitheatre and marauding Vikings make this a great day out. It’s not your traditional theme park, so don’t expect high-octane rides, but that certainly doesn’t limit the fun. www.puydufou.com

Saint-Nazaire shipyards

The shipyards of Saint-Nazaire have built some of the most famous ships traversing the oceans today. A number of tours are offered of the shipyard, showcasing all aspects of shipbuilding and highlighting the growing drive towards renewable energy. www.visit-saint-nazaire.com

Pornic Aventure

There are more than 900 metres of ziplines to slide around on at this treetop park set in acres of green countryside at Étang du Val Saint-Martin. They even have a spider bike. www.pornic-aventure.com

Planète Sauvage

This 10km safari features everything you would expect to see on the plains of Africa, and allows you to get up close and see these magnificent creatures without the bars of a cage. New areas have been added since the park opened 25 years ago that now transport you to Asia and South America too. www.planetesauvage.com

From France Today magazine

Journey to Africa at Planète Sauvage, a safari park just 15 minutes from Nantes
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