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Nantes is located in the Loire-Atlantique department, in the Pays de la Loire region. It is the sixth largest city in France, located about 342km south-west of Paris and 340km north of Bordeaux. It is close to the Atlantic Ocean, lying on the Loire River estuary, the Erdre River and the Sèvre River. Its metropolitan area is populated by 282,000 people, spread out through 24 communes and across 23km2 of land. Nantes’ climate is rather mild.
Having been an important port city during the Iron Age, Nantes became the capitol of the Gallo-Roman Namnètes settlement, the headquarters of a 5th-century diocese and then the headquarters of a famous Frankish military leader known as Roland, known for his perilous fights to protect the Frank territory from the Bretons. The city was nevertheless conquered by the Bretons in 851, who built a castle and made it the principal residence of their duchess in the 15th century. Nantes lost its political Breton prominence with the development of Rennes during the 16th century, but during the following three centuries it gradually became a major international commerce hub. It played an important role during the French Revolution, and afterwards exploded throughout the Industrial Revolution. Since the 1960’s, Nantes has been primarily a university city, but still remains one of France’s major port cities.