Nancy – Lorraine largest city and former capital of the Dukes of Lorraine – has a great number of listed historic monuments. Since 1983, three of its squares have been listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco: Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière and Place d’Alliance. Here is my list of 10 things to see in Nancy, Lorraine.
Top 10 Things to See in Nancy
Nancy is a city located in northeastern France, not far from Metz and Strasbourg. It is easily accessible from Paris with TGV trains running from Gare de l’Est. It takes the high-speed train 1hrs30 to reach the railway station of Nancy, making it a very nice 2-3 day excursion outside Paris.
As you can guess there are definitely more than 10 things to see in Nancy but I choose to list what I think a visitor should absolutely see when visiting the Lorraine city.
Things to see in Nancy #1. Place Stanislas
Place Stanislas is a good example of a square laid out in a French classicism style, similar to Place de la Concorde in Paris and Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux. The pavilions were built by Emmanuel Héré, and the wrought-iron railings are the work of Jean Lamour. These have made the city famous: finely decorated with gold leaves, occasionally surrounding majestic fountains designed by Barthélemy Guibal.
The square was commissioned by the former King of Poland Stanislas Leszczyński in 1751 in honour of his son-in-law Louis XV. It was formerly known as Place Royale.
Find out more about Place Stanislas.
Things to see in Nancy #2. Place de la Carrière
If Place Stanislas is the image of Nancy that is most often conveyed to the world, it should not overshadow the delightful Place de la Carrière situated on the other side of the triumphal arch. The discreet square is part of the architectural ensemble of the 18th century wanted by Stanisław I Leszczyński, former King of Poland and father-in-law to King Louis XV of France. Place de la Carrière, along with Place Stanislas and Place d’Alliance have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
Find out more about Place de la Carrière.
Things to see in Nancy #3. Place d’Alliance
The Place d’Alliance is certainly the smallest, however the most intimate square of Nancy. It is located just a stone’s throw from the Place Stanislas. It was listed by the UNESCO as a work of art, of peace and refinement alongside the adjacent Place Stanislas and Place de la Carrière.
Find out more about Place d’Alliance.
Things to see in Nancy #4. Ducal Palace
The epicentre of the Lorraine of the Dukes, today the Palace shows but a pale reflection of its prestigious past. For when the Dukes and their Courts inhabited it, Lorraine was an independent Duchy of significant importance, nestled between two worlds: the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire of the Habsburg. Like the Louvre in Paris, the Palace became a museum. Since 1848, it has displayed the history of Lorraine. (Please note: the Historic Museum is currently closed for renovation)
Find out more about the Ducal Palace.
Things to see in Nancy #5. The medieval gates and triumphal archs
Nancy houses a few gates and arches that were built in the Middle-Ages and in the 18th century. Of all the extensive fortifications edified around the Old Town until the 16th century, only a very few parts of them remain today. The best example is the impressive Craffe Gate built in the 14th century. It remains the oldest and the most remarkable part of the city’s walls and housed a sinister prison from the 15th century. Its twin towers were built in 1463 and have walls three metres thick whose windows were opened in order to let soldiers firing in all directions to their enemies.
Other gates from the 14th to the 16th centuries include Porte Saint-Nicolas, Porte de la Citadelle and Porte Saint-Georges.
Many arches were erected in the 18th century as triumphal monuments: Arc de Triomphe Héré between Place Stanislas and Place de la Carrière, Porte Sainte-Catherine and its counterpart Porte Stanislas, and Porte Désilles on Cours Léopold.
Things to see in Nancy #6. Pépinière Park
The Pépinière Park is adjacent to the Place Stanislas, which can be reached through the golden arches of the fountain of Amphritite. Covering 21 hectares, the park is located in the centre of Nancy. It is often described as being the lungs of the city, whose locals affectuously call it “la Pep”.
Find out more about the Pépinière Park.
Things to see in Nancy #7. Nancy Cathedral
The Cathedral of Nancy is part of the grand 18th century district which was completed by Duke Stanislas. The sanctuary is an interesting mixture of neo-classical and baroque styles, echoing the neighbouring Place Stanislas.
Find out more about the Cathedral of Nancy.
Things to see in Nancy #8. Fine Arts Museum
The Fine Arts Museum in Nancy is Lorraine’s most visited museums after the Pompidou Centre in Metz with over 100,000 visitors each year. The works of art are brillantly displayed in a beautiful 18th century pavilion ideally located on the famous Place Stanislas.
The collections of the Fine Arts Museum are displayed with subtle use of light effects on a total surface of 9,000 m2.
On display are works representing every European school of art, spanning a period from the 14th to the 21st centuries. The museum’s painting collections include a series of works by Perugino, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Rubens, Eugène Delacroix, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Modigliani, Raoul Dufy, Picasso, Jan Brueghel the Younger… to name but a few. A visit to the museum progressively takes you towards works by contemporary French and foreign artists.
Find out more about Nancy’s Fine Arts Museum.
Things to see in Nancy #9. School of Nancy Museum
The museum of the École de Nancy is located in the villa of Eugène Corbin and display the diversity of the creative techniques practiced by artists of the “School of Nancy” (furniture, art objects, glassware, stained-glass, leather, ceramics, textiles…) hence restoring the atmosphere of the period.
Other unique and prestigious pieces are displayed, such as Eugène Vallin’s dining room (salle à manger Masson), Emile Gallé’s bed “Dawn and Dusk” (Aube et Crépuscule) and table “Rhine River” (Le Rhin), as well as Louis Majorelle’s Villa Majorelle bedroom and piano “Death of the Swan” (La mort du Cygne).
An exceptional set of glassware designed by Emile Gallé exemplifies the outstanding technical skills and the naturalist influence of this artistic movement.
Find out more about Art Nouveau in Nancy.
Things to see in Nancy #10. Excelsior Brasserie
The construction of this emblematic restaurant was entrusted to architects Lucien Weissenburger and Alexandre Mienville in 1910 opposite the railway station, across Place Thiers.
The sober exterior façade of the building contrasts with the stunning interior decorated with vegetation and exotic themes. The restaurant is still operating today and has become an institution for locals and tourists alike.
Find out more about Art Nouveau buildings in Nancy.
There is a lot more to discover in Nancy and its surroundings. Situated some 55 km North of Nancy, the city of Metz should not be missed. It offers to its visitors one of France’s premier museums (Centre Pompidou Metz), a beautiful old town and a fine Gothic cathedral. In the region of Lorraine are found other attractive tourist sites: Verdun, the Natural Park of Lorraine, and the Vosges.
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Check out the website of the Tourist Information Centre for more info about Nancy.