Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Lorraine
The present-day region of Lorraine, with its capital Nancy, lies in eastern France in the valleys of the upper Meuse and the Moselle, bounded on the west by Champagne and on the east by the Vosges and extending northward to the Ardennes and southward to the Langres plateau. It consists of the départements of Meurthe-et-Moselle (chief town Nancy), Moselle (Metz), Meuse (Bar-le-Duc) and Vosges (Epinal) - though the eastern part of the Vosges département is in Alsace. Outside the larger towns and industrial areas Lorraine has preserved its natural beauty almost unspoiled, with the steeply scarped forest-covered hills of the Vosges, its beautiful upland regions, its quiet mountain lakes and attractive holiday resorts.
The spas along the fringes of the Vosges have a long tradition behind them, and, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, such resorts as Bains-les-Bains, Plombières, Vittel and Contrexéville were frequented by the fashionable world of Europe.
The population of Lorraine goes back to Celtic and Frankish origins, mixed with Alemannic (Germanic) blood. The region preserves some remains of German language and culture.
The treaty of Verdun in 843 brought about a division of the Frankish empire between the sons of Louis the Pious. Under the treaty the western part of the empire fell to Charles the Bald, the middle section to Lothair and the eastern part to Louis (Ludwig) the German. In 855 the central part was again divided, when Lothair I handed over his domains to his sons, Louis, Charles and Lothair II. The last named called his territory "Lotharii Regnum", from which the name Lorraine is derived. In 870, however, Lorraine also passed to Ludwig. In 959 the duchies of Upper and Lower Lorraine (Lotharingia) were created, the latter, with its capital at Nancy, becoming known as Lorraine tout court. In 1552 France acquired the towns of Metz, Toul and Verdun, and in 1776 the Duchy of Lorraine also became French. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 a large part of Lorraine, mainly German-speaking, including in particular Metz and the surrounding area, was incorporated in the newly established German Empire, becoming part of the province of Alsace- Lorraine. After the First World War it returned to France, and has since then remained French except for a brief interruption in 1940-1944.
In addition to its productive agriculture and forestry Lorraine possesses minerals (coal, iron ore) which are important to its industries. A variety of causes (quality of raw materials, competition from cheaper and better foreign products) led to economic stagnation in the region, particularly in heavy industry, and since the early 1960s special efforts have been made to promote development in Lorraine.
Another important sector is the textile industry, which was brought into Lorraine from Alsace.
Lorraine's rivers and lakes offer facilities for a variety of water sports (diving, sailing, fishing, etc.).
There are golf-courses at Nancy, Combles (near Bar-le-Duc), Vittel and Metz.
There is plenty of scope for walkers and cyclists, as well as for nature-lovers, in the Vosges Regional Park (area 185,000 hectares/457,000 acres). There is also a considerable network of waymarked footpaths and trails.
Toul (pop. 16,851), in the upper Moselle valley, was a place of considerable importance in the Middle Ages, the see of a bishop and (until 1648) a free imperial city. The town is still surrounded by its 17th C walls, with four gates. The Porte de Metz was designed by Vauban. The Cathedral of St-Etienne (13th-14th centuries) has a Late Gothic facade and two octagonal towers. The cloister, entered through a Renaissance doorway, dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) occupies the former Bishop's Palace.
Southwest of the cathedral is the church of St-Gengoult (13th-16th centuries), a smaller and simpler version of the cathedral. The choir has some fine remains of 13th C stained glass. On the south side of the church is a 16th C cloister, in a light and elegant Flamboyant style. There are a number of old houses, particularly in Rue Général-Gengoult, some of them dating from the 14th C.
Bar-le Duc, France
Bar-le-Duc - Upper Town
At the southeast end of the Boulevard de la Rochelle, in the lower town, is the handsome church of St-Jean, in neo-Romanesque/Byzantine style. The Pont Notre-Dame with its chapel leads to the church of Notre-Dame (13th-14th C, restored in 17th C), which contains a wooden figure of Christ by Ligier Richier, a pupil of Michelangelo, and a beautiful 15th C bas-relief. To the southeast, beyond the narrow Canal de l'Ornain, is the 14th C church of St-Antoine, with frescoes of the same period.
St Maurice sur Moselle, France
The Vosges are a range of mountains running parallel to the Rhine valley and the Black Forest on the far side of the Rhine from the borders of the German Palatinate in the north to the Belfort Gap in the south.
The Vosges and Alsace are the mirror image of Baden and the Black Forest on the German side of the Rhine, with which they share a common origin. Millions of years ago the Vosges and the Black Forest formed part of a single mountain range, the central section of which collapsed. Only the edges of the range, the Vosges to the west and the Black Forest to the east, remained along the borders of the 300km/185mi long rift valley of the Upper Rhine, which was gradually filled with deposits from the Rhine and its tributaries.
The Vosges extend for a distance of some 170km/105mi from north to south and up to 20km/12.5mi from east to west, rising to their greatest height in the Grand Ballon (1,423m/4,669ft) and the Ballon d'Alsace (1,250m/4,100ft), to the south. To the north they fall away gradually, rising to only 581m/1,906ft in the Grand Wintersberg. They fall steeply into the Rhine valley, but on the west slope gently down into the Lorraine uplands.
The main passes in the Southern Vosges are the Col de la Schlucht (1,139m/3,737ft), the Col du Bonhomme (949m/3,113ft) and the Col de Ste-Marie (763m/2,503ft).
In the higher Southern Vosges ancient rocks like granite and gneiss form sharply defined ridges, while the lower Northern Vosges consist mainly of variegated sandstones, frequently forming rugged crags, many of them crowned by medieval castles. There are a number of lakes formed by glacial action and numerous cross valleys which provided good sites for the building of castles, monasteries and churches.
The abundance of timber in the Vosges has promoted the development of woodworking and papermaking industries, while the plateaux, known as chaumes, provide pasture for large numbers of dairy cows, whose milk is used to produce a well-known cheese (Munster Géromé).
Although in recent years the Vosges have attracted increasing numbers of visitors, there is still plenty of lonely, unspoiled country for walkers and nature lovers.
There are three main long-distance trails through the Vosges: No. 1 (waymarked by a red rectangle) runs from Wissembourg to Masevaux (388km/ 241mi), No. 2 (blue rectangle) from Lembach to Masevaux (282km/ 175mi), No. 3 (yellow rectangle) from Obersteinbach to Masevaux (324km/201mi). There are also linking paths (red rectangle with white stripe) from railroad stations and villages to route No. 1.
The Vosges are increasingly being discovered by winter sports enthusiasts.
The numerous lakes provide opportunities for all kinds of water sports.
There are also tennis courts and facilities for riding.
There are a variety of folk events and traditional pilgrimages.
Of the various tourist routes which pass through the Vosges or run close to them the most important are the Route des Crêtes and the Route des Vosges. The Route des Crêtes (75km/47mi), constructed during World War I by the French army to facilitate the supply of ammunition, runs from the Col du Bonhomme by way of the Col de la Schlucht, the Markstein, the Grand Ballon and Hartmannswillerkopf to Mulhouse. The Route des Vosges runs from to Mont Ste-Odile and then continues by way of Le Hohwald and Andlau to Sélestat. The Route Joffre runs between the Thur and Doller valleys, at the south end of the Vosges, while the Route Verte runs through the central Vosges.
St Hippolyte - Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg
Champ du Feu
Ste Marie aux Mines
Lac Blanc et Lac Noir
St Die, France
The old episcopal city of St-Dié (pop. 23,699) was largely destroyed during World War II, and accordingly most of the town has a modern aspect. The first geographical work referring to the land discovered by Columbus as America was published in St-Dié in 1507. The Romanesque cathedral (12th-13th C.; rebuilt after suffering heavy damage in 1944) has a Gothic choir; the towers date only from 1711. There is a fine 14th C. cloister. The Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-de-Galilée is a fine example of 12th C. Rhineland architecture. The Municipal Museum displays archeological finds from the area, a collection of birds and mementos of Jules Ferry (1832-1893) and his family. In the north of the town is a hosiery factory designed by Le Corbusier.
La Bresse, France
Neufchâteau (pop. 7,533), situated above the Meuse, was a place of some consequence in the Middle Ages, a free city within the Duchy of Lorraine. It has two notable churches, St-Nicolas (12th-15th C.), which has a 15th C. "Entombment", and St-Christophe (13th-14th C.), and a Renaissance Town Hall with a fine staircase.