The Grues Titan are an iconic part of the Nantes skyline. Much like the Tour Bretagne, the Machines de l’Île and the Île Feydeau, they make photos of Nantes instantly recognizable. They are both testament to the city’s industrial heritage and a symbol of its revival, with locals very fond of their giant cranes.
Yellow, grey and black: the history of Nantes’ three cranes
Nantes’ three cranes are generally referred to by their colors. The yellow and grey cranes are both “Titan” models and can be found on the Île de Nantes. As for the black crane, it’s more slender than its two cousins and faces them from the Chantenay neighborhood on the northern bank of the river.
These historic cranes were in use back when Nantes still had its dockyards (today, shipbuilding has transferred to the nearby town of Saint-Nazaire) to lift the heavy parts used to construct ships.
Built during the 50s and 60s, the Titan cranes are 40 meters high and weigh 400 tons. So they’re a pretty impressive sight! The black crane was built in the 40s but destroyed twice (once during the war, and once due to a storm) and rebuilt each time.
The crane walk
There’s an easy way that lets you reach all three cranes that you simply shouldn’t miss. Anyone who’s done it would definitely recommend it. You start on the Île de Nantes near the Machines de l’Île and follow the green Voyage à Nantes line to the end of the island. This will take you right under the yellow crane, which is the easiest way to photograph from every angle. It’s particularly stunning against a clear blue sky and when lit up at night.
As you walk along, you’ll pass Daniel Buren’s Anneaux on the Quai des Antilles before reaching the grey crane at the end of the island. Once there, you’ll have a great, although slightly distant, view of the black crane across the river. Another way of viewing the black crane is to take the Navibus water bus to Trentemoult!
For us, the cranes are like our own version of the Eiffel Tower; no matter how many times we see them, we still love them.