Saint‑Nazaire An industrial city
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Saint‑Nazaire

While it’s not one of France’s most attractive cities, St-Nazaire makes a fascinating destination for boat and plane enthusiasts as well as fans of World War II history. The beaches along its coastline are some of the best in the Loire-Atlantique department; one was immortalised on film.

An industrial city

Ships of all shapes and sizes

Saint-Nazaire is best known for its shipbuilding industry, which began in the 19th century. In 1862 the port became the departure and arrival point for France’s first transatlantic crossings to South America thus, Saint-Nazaire became a centre for building ocean liners; the Queen Mary II was built here in 2003. To find out more about this fascinating industry, head to Escal’Atlantic, where you can travel around the world in 90 minutes on board a life-size reconstruction of one of these magnificent ships.

Submerged in history

Escal’Atlantic is housed in the impenetrable German submarine base, which was built during the Occupation and became the French HQ for the German navy, the Kriegsmarine. As a result, Saint-Nazaire became a major target for the Allies who destroyed the shipyards during Operation Chariot in 1942 followed by the rest of the city via a bombing raid in 1943. You can explore a real submarine, L’Espadon, which was used by the French navy from 1960-85; there are audio-guides in English. Guided tours are also available of the shipyards and the port terminals, although English-language tours are only available to groups of 20 or more. Visitors can learn about the history of the city, its port and industries at the Écomusée.

Taking off

Saint-Nazaire is home to one of Europe’s Airbus factories; it’s here that the main fuselage sections are assembled and tested for all the company’s planes including the new A380 – the world’s largest civilian aircraft. French-speakers can join a guided visit where they might be lucky enough to see La Beluga, the giant cargo plane.

Beaches

The coast around Saint-Nazaire has some lovely beaches – take the old customs officer’s path, lined with Mediterranean flora, to Les Jaunais. The resort of Saint-Marc-sur-Mer is where Jacques Tati filmed Mr Hulot’s Holiday in 1951.

The Queen Mary II was built here in 2003

Did you know ?

Of the 611 British soldiers who took part in Operation Chariot, only 224 made it back to Britain.

Plan your holiday

Getting there

Getting to Saint-Nazaire

There are direct flights from Gatwick and Stansted to Nantes-Atlantique Airport, located about 60 km from Saint-Nazaire, with transport from the airport on the TER regional transport network or by bus. By train, Eurostar takes 2 hours and 16 minutes from London to Paris, then there are 13 TGV intercity services each day from Paris-Montparnasse to Saint-Nazaire, taking 2 hours 34 minutes. By car, Saint-Nazaire is 195 km from the ferry port at St Malo, 301 km from Roscoff ferry terminal, 412 km from Bordeaux and 441 km from Paris.

Travelling in and around Saint-Nazaire

It’s very pleasant to stroll through Saint-Nazaire, enjoying the sea front and watching boats and liners sailing out of the port. Saint-Nazaire is also very well served by the Stran bus network. Another way to get around is to use the Vélycéo cycle hire service – classic or electrically-assisted bikes are available to rent by the half-day. The Lila bus network and the TER regional transport network allow you to explore the Loire Ocean area and the rest of Brittany effortlessly.

 

Official website of tourism in Brittany
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