Saint-Nazaire, a town beside the sea Saint-Nazaire

Fresh sea and country air

Sea air or country air? In Saint-Nazaire you get both! Just a few minutes from the town centre and the sea front stretching more than 3 km, Saint-Nazaire enjoys excellent access to La Brière Regional Natural Park, a protected wild area.

Closer still, nature also has pride of place in the town thanks to its many gardens, the botanic garden and the landscape park – a huge space with trees around the lakes of Bois Joalland offering a paradise for joggers.

Shopping and strolling by the sea

Saint-Nazaire has made its town centre a strategic point in its development Saint-Nazaire town centre is an attraction experienced in many ways. Some people live there, particularly in the renovated and redeveloped 1950s buildings. Others work there in the many coworking spaces, doing creative jobs in amazing places or studying new technologies on the emerging Digital Campus. Finally, of course, you can go shopping there in the many chain stores and local shops before taking the five-minute walk back to the sea front for a drink with friends.

Move to Saint-Nazaire: where getting around is a pleasure

For a long time Saint-Nazaire was organised around the car, but getting around the town today is a pleasure.

The town has established a very efficient range of buses with a high level of service and has reviewed its road markings to make everyone’s life easier. Traffic has been calmed... making proper room for pedestrians and cyclists. On top of that, you can now rent an e-bike all year round... and it won’t cost the earth!

Health: it’s not worth running off anywhere else

n Saint-Nazaire, the range of quality medical services is easily accessible.

The brand new Georges-Charpak Hospital has a wide range of services: surgery; gynaecology/obstetrics; follow-up and rehabilitation care; accident and emergency; reanimation and intensive care heart units; mental health care and care and accommodation for elderly people; long-term care; accommodation for people affected by Alzheimer’s disease or similar disorders, etc.

Leisure: boating comes out on top

Keeping busy, enjoying yourself, having fun... it’s quite a simple thing. In Saint-Nazaire, there is an embarrassment of cultural riches: multiplex, art house and experimental cinemas catering for everyone; a festival of music from all over the world; contemporary art exhibitions at the LiFE or the Grand Café national contemporary art centre; modern music concerts at the VIP; the Grande Marée Street Arts Festival; a film festival; December fairs and more. It’s a long list.

In a coastal town, however, the main activity is boating. The town encourages children to take up water sports and activities from a very young age. There are many events to brighten up the sea front all year round: the Women’s Cup (biggest 100% female national competition); the French Open Match Racing Championship (the 12 best French competitors); the Atlantic Grand Prix; the 100% Nautic; the SNSM Record, etc. And in July and August, Saint-Nazaire Côté Plages offers hundreds of coastal activities aimed at the general public.

The Bridge, the centenary race

A first! The Bridge was the sailing event of the century. The transatlantic liner Queen Mary 2 returned to her birthplace in June 2017 to start a brand new race pitting a fleet of giant trimarans against one another between Saint-Nazaire bridge and Verrazano bridge in New York. The widely followed event formed part of Saint-Nazaire’s American Year (exhibitions, lectures, entertainment and concerts), attracting more than 300,000 people.

Saint-Nazaire, a town reinventing itself

Urban phoenix

A 19th-century new town, Saint-Nazaire underwent urban and population expansion like nowhere else in France before it was buried beneath the rubble of Second World War bombing and then rebuilt in the 1950s under modernist principles. This is the image that often remains in the memory. Everything changed, but did the reconstruction turn its back on the sea? Since the end of the nineties, priority has been given to the port area and seafront, with a desire to turn the town’s face back towards the sea.

For more than 20 years, architects and town planners have been redesigning a new urban landscape with pure lines and pale colours inspired by industrial activity and maritime architecture. Now, the town is being reborn around the sea front, the beaches and the harbour, with development and entertainment choices offering a good way of life.

Dive into 20th-century architecture

“La Soucoupe” (the saucer), a sports centre that looks better suited to intergalactic journeys; the grand Town Hall; the disconcerting Moulin du Pé water tower; the impressive submarine base and great Joubert dry dock and lock, imposing its rhythm on the giants of the seas... There are many notable monuments in Saint-Nazaire that have been classed as 20th Century Heritage either for their original architecture or remarkable technical achievement involved in building them. Saint-Nazaire has also been awarded the status of Town of Art and History. A new town shot through with history, Saint-Nazaire is also a town of heritage.

The Port: a cultural base for Saint-Nazaire

This is THE project that tells the story of Saint-Nazaire today. The development that has recreated the relationship between the town and its port was drawn up under the code name "Ville-Port", with culture and leisure as the theme.

The submarine base has become the cultural and tourism focus of the town, including a museum, exhibition hall (the LiFE) and concert hall (the VIP, with an audience of 15,000 a year) and, soon, a hall for very big events.

Very nearby are the multiplex Cinéville and the Theatre – a branch of the national theatre in a building with notable contemporary embossed concrete architecture (an audience of 30,000 people a year).

And, finally, towards the sea, there is the Petit Maroc district which, every summer, welcomes the 40,000 Les Escales festival-goers. It also has a large exhibition hall, the Ecomuseum, the submarine Espadon, and a panoramic terrace overlooking the harbour basins which will soon become a marina.

A blossoming seaside town once again

Since the mid-2000s, Saint-Nazaire has once again become the seaside town it used to be. Between the 19th century and the Second World War, its beaches were famous. Today, thanks to new facilities and developments, the beaches have become attractive once more.

First came the sea front. This elegant 3-km promenade with its discreet, modern facilities welcomes pedestrians and cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers. In couples, families or groups of friends, they feel the benefit of the shade of the trees and the facades of stylish Belle Epoque houses that still remain intact.

In the spring of 2018, La Place du Commando will complete the scheme to open the town to the harbour, the estuary and the sea. A place for having fun and enjoying the seaside, this square will have bars, ice-cream parlours and restaurants as well as entertainment and big events. A place connected directly to the town centre.

Projects on every street corner

Beyond the Place du Commando project, the town is on the move and its heart is full of life. Many projects are under way or will begin to appear in the coming years:

  • A more pleasant, redesigned entrance to the town, with more plants (2019)
  • A new events venue at the submarine base, very near the town centre (2018)
  • The renovation of one of the town centre shopping centres, “Le Paquebot” (2018)
  • The modernisation and restructuring of the railway station at the entrance to the town centre (2018)
  • The construction of almost 200 new homes in the town centre (handover: 2020-2021)
  • A big aid programme to renovate co-owned buildings in the town centre: €1.8 million in aid (2017-2020)
  • The creation of a centre for young people in the middle of the town (2018)
  • The establishment of a digital campus in the heart of the town (2020)
Photos 1 et 2 : Aquatic centre. | Photo 3 : Sea drago. A huge construction intended to provide opportunities for fun for families walking in the town centre (2018) | Photo 4 : The construction of a marina very near the town centre (study in progress/2023)

Cultures of the world in the mix

Its unusual, eventful modern history; atypical heritage; and evolving industrial economy make Saint-Nazaire a town that gives artists plenty of scope to investigate.

And the town serves them well, placing contemporary creativity at the heart of its cultural policy, particularly with the “Estuaire” contemporary art route in the Nantes/Saint-Nazaire metropolitan area including some imposing works and sculptures (Felice Varini, Gilles Clément and Philippe Cazale), without forgetting the harbour lighting by Yann Kersalé.

Le Grand Café, centre d'art contemporain

The contemporary art centre – the Grand Café with its well-known programme – and the LiFE, a multi-disciplinary centre devoted to contemporary creativity, offering works imagined in situ (Simone Decker, the Chapuisat brothers, Jeppe Hein, etc.) should also not be missed. In just a few years, the LiFE has made its mark as no less than one of the top exhibition centres in Europe.

Finally, openness to all cultures is shown every year in major seasonal events: Les Escales, a music festival bringing together more than 40,000 people and Meeting, an international literary event.

Art all around

A town on a clearly social and human scale, Saint-Nazaire is keen to make culture accessible to everyone. Artistic education for everyone is at the heart of the town’s cultural policy, making Saint-Nazaire a town notable for the amount of artistic work going on.

Le conservatoire à rayonnement départemental

Work in schools, support for amateur groups, an adjusted charging policy and successful institutions – the conservatory of music and dance, the art school, the Théâtre Athénor school and the media library allow anyone of any age to express themselves through culture. In 2018, the Nantes/Saint-Nazaire School of Fine Arts will replace the current art school, offering residents even more specialised and diversified education.

La salle des clics à la bibliothèque Anne Franck

Saint-Nazaire, a fashionable destination

La plage de Saint-Marc-sur-mer

Tourists in Saint-Nazaire: it’s an idea that would have raised a smile a few years ago. Today, it doesn’t sound strange at all. Not only does its renovated sea front make it one of the top seaside towns in the district, its urban area also makes it a busy destination. Saint-Nazaire is a real town standing beside the sea, allowing 360º tourism. Beaches, shopping, culture and events, nature leisure, themed tours – a very wide selection of activities is offered to visitors and residents.

Since 2014, the number of visits to the Port of all journeys has constantly increased, reaching 262,000 visitors in 2017.

Saint-Nazaire raises the blue flag

A symbol of exemplary environmental quality, the blue flag is a reference for tourism, the environment and sustainable development. In 2017, Saint-Nazaire was awarded the blue flag for three of its busiest tourist beaches for the second consecutive year: Monsieur Hulot beach, La Courance and Les Jaunais.

The Port for all journeys

The Port for all journeys is a concept but above all it is a route. It is an urban and harbour theme park where each visit forms an element of a fictional or real “journey”. It is also a way of stressing the very strong links between the different sites under the common theme of a journey, an essential factor in the history of the town: port activities, the transatlantic terminal, the construction of big “machines for travel” (liners and aeroplanes), opening up to the imagination and stories, and so on.

This unusual range of tourist activities is closely linked to the town’s history. It includes:

A liner journey: tours of Escal’Atlantic telling the story of the legendary transatlantic liners and the dockyard where the biggest liners in the world are built.

A submarine journey: a tour of the Espadon, a legendary submarine that has been round the world 17 times.

A plane journey: a tour of the Airbus factory, where sections of the A320 and A380 are assembled.

A journey on the estuary: a tour of the Nantes Saint-Nazaire Port terminals, in cruise boats.

A journey in the town: a visit to the Ecomuseum, telling the story of the region of Saint-Nazaire, its port and its great industries.

Since it was set up 15 years ago, more than four million visitors have had the experience of the Port of all Journeys

Fun for cruise passengers!

Escale du paquebot BRAEMAR en 2017.

Cruise liner visits to Nantes and Saint-Nazaire have increased dramatically in recent years. In Saint-Nazaire more than 10,000 cruise passengers disembark every year to visit the town or set off on excursions around the region. In order to develop opportunities to welcome cruise ships and allow passengers to disembark close to the town centre, the creation of a 300-metre-long floating pontoon is currently under study.

A journey going nowhere

The development of the sea front has given it new visibility. Fishing huts have stood in the Sautron district beside the estuary since the 19th century. When the fishing is good, their owners can expect to find bass, sole, mullet and smelt in their liftnets – the large square nets suspended from these romantic wooden huts. The fishing huts have been associated with the Saint-Nazaire area for a long time and it is now even possible to rent one for a few hours. An unusual place, completely out of time, offering a real change of scene but going nowhere at all. Here it is the sea that does all the moving, shifting between one tide and another.

Moving to Saint-Nazaire: a new but growing trend

Tourists are not the only ones to see the charm in what used to be nicknamed the Breton “Little California”. Every year, the town welcomes even more residents (at least 1,600 arrived between 2008 and 2013). Every year for the last four years, new classes have had to be opened in the schools and more than 450 planning applications are being submitted annually.

This progress makes Saint-Nazaire one of the most dynamic French towns of its kind. With more than 71,000 inhabitants today, the town has set itself the target of reaching 80,000 inhabitants in the next few years. That is why it is going to devote more than 10 million euros to housing over the next nine years, in particular to build 550 new homes every year.

Saint-Nazaire : new brand

ts attractiveness as a key component of the expanding Nantes/Saint-Nazaire metropolitan area is a sign of the increasingly clear recognition of the resources of Saint-Nazaire and, above all, its unusual feel, somewhere between a seaside town and a truly dynamic urban area.


Copyrights : Ville de Saint-Nazaire : Christian Robert, Martin Launay, Hélène Defoy, Blandine Bouillon, Nicolas Dumez, Bruno Bouvry Imagine Air | Saint-Nazaire agglomération tourisme

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