14 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in Lorraine
Elegant historic cities and peaceful bucolic scenery await visitors to this undiscovered region in eastern France. The Lorraine is an idyllic landscape of prairies, forests, rolling hills, lakes, rivers, and mineral springs. Beautiful nature sites, vacation retreats in the Vosges Mountains, and Belle Epoque spa resorts create the perfect setting for a relaxing holiday.
For those who appreciate art and culture, the architectural treasures and museums of Nancy, Bar-le-Duc, and Sarrebourg are must-see sights. History buffs will also find plenty to discover in the old citadel towns of Metz, Toul, and Verdun. Plan your trip to this scenic region with our list of the best places to visit in Lorraine.
See also: Where to Stay in Lorraine
The old capital of Lorraine, Nancy is renowned for its magnificent 18th-century Baroque architecture. One of Europe's most exquisite squares, the UNESCO-listed Place Stanislas is lined with impressive palaces featuring ornate balconies. Another way to appreciate the city's cultural heritage is by visiting the museums.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts has a noteworthy collection of European paintings from the 14th to 20th centuries. The Palais des Ducs de Lorraine houses the Musée Lorrain's collection of archaeological, art, and historical objects. Another unique collection is found at the Musée de l'Ecole de Nancy, which displays Art Nouveau ceramics, glass, furniture, and jewelry.
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- Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nancy
Metz wows visitors with its culture and architecture and charms with its cobblestone streets, narrow lanes, and quaint old houses. Tourists are sure to be dazzled by the Cathédrale Saint-Etienne. This immense Gothic cathedral is known as "La Lanterne du bon Dieu" ("The Lantern of God") because of its amazing luminosity. In fact, the cathedral has 6,500-square meters of stained-glass windows, which illuminate the sanctuary with an ethereal brilliance. Three windows by Marc Chagall decorate the North transept.
The city's finest museum is the Musée de La Cour d'Or, which displays a collection of archaeology, medieval art, everyday objects, and fine arts.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Metz
Because of its strategic location, Toul was fortified in the 17th century. Defensive walls with four gates (including the Porte de Metz designed by Vauban) still surround the town. An equally important religious heritage is revealed at the Cathédrale Saint-Etienne. This splendid Gothic cathedral features a facade with detailed decor resembling lacework.
Also not-to-be-missed, the Eglise Saint-Gengoult has one of the most beautiful 15th-century Flamboyant Gothic cloisters in existence. On the Rue Général-Gengoult, there are a number of historic houses dating back to the medieval era, such as the Hôtel des Chevaliers de Malte (which belonged to the Knights of Malta).
Verdun has endured a turbulent past. The medieval walled town defended itself from invaders with an impressive system of ramparts (remnants include the 12th-century Porte Châtel and the 14th-century Porte Chaussée). Verdun played an important role during the Franco-Prussian War (a sculpture by Rodin at the Frères Boulhaut Promenade commemorates the battle of 1870), as well as during the First World War (most notably, the famous Battle of Verdun in 1916). Those interested in the history can learn more at the Citadelle Souterraine de Verdun, a subterranean citadel used in WWI that now presents audio-visual documents about the Battle of Verdun.
In the hills outside of Verdun are the sites of First World War battlefields, where the marks of shells are still visible. Standing amid the historic battlefields is the Mémorial de Verdun Champ de Bataille, one of the best places to visit in France to learn about WWI history. The memorial was built by survivors of the Battle of Verdun to honor their fallen comrades. The museum's collection displays over 2,000 items found at the battlefields, including equipment, weapons, and everyday objects, as well as archives of old newspapers, propaganda materials, posters, photo albums, and military records.
Brimming with cultural attractions and renowned for its annual Renaissance Festival in July, this historical capital of the Duchy of Bar is classified as a "Ville d'Art et d'Histoire" ("City of Art and History"). Perched on a hilltop, the Ville Haute (Upper Town) boasts important landmarks from the medieval and Renaissance eras, including the Flamboyant Gothic Eglise Saint-Etienne and the Château des Ducs de Bar that houses the Musée Barrais (a museum dedicated to local history).
In the Ville Basse (Lower Town) are more modern monuments, such as the Eglise Saint-Jean, which exemplifies a blend of Neo-Gothic, Neo-Romanesque and Neo-Byzantine architectural styles.
The popular holiday resort of Gérardmer enjoys a picturesque setting in the lake district of the Vosges Mountains. Gérardmer's pristine alpine setting and excellent tourist facilities attract nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts throughout the year. During summer, the Lac de Gérardmer is a bustling scene of water sports such as sailing and canoeing. The area also has well-groomed walking, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails. The Station de Trail provides detailed trail maps.
In winter, Gérardmer is a destination for downhill and cross-country skiing. In the surrounding area nearby are the lakes of Longemer and Retournemer.
Tucked away in the Vosges Mountains by the Sarre River, this historic town has a remarkable 13th-century church, the Chapelle des Cordeliers. Spectacular stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall adorn the chapel including his masterpiece titled La Paix ("Peace") that illuminates the choir. Visitors will also enjoy the chapel's educational content about the life and work of Marc Chagall, as well as the Chagall Garden featuring broadcasts of interview excerpts with Chagall.
Another exceptional cultural attraction is the Musée du Pays de Sarrebourg, which displays a collection of porcelain and interesting archeological finds from the surrounding area.
Vittel has been a prestigious spa resort since the 19th century, when its mineral waters were discovered to have healing properties. Several thermal spas offer hydrotherapy treatments said to improve certain health conditions. The town's gorgeous gardens and parklands also provide relaxation benefits.
Vittel is a good base to begin an exploration of other nature sites in the surrounding area. About a 45-minute-drive away from Vittel is another famous spa town, Bains-les-Bains, which has thermal springs that have been used since Roman times.
The sculptor Ligier Richier (c.1500-1567) was born in Saint-Mihiel, and some of his works can be seen in the local churches. One of Richier's finest works, the Pâmoison de la Vierge (the "Virgin Fainting"), is in the 12th-century Eglise Saint-Michel. Another Richier masterpiece of sculpture, the Entombment, is in the 16th-century Church of Saint-Etienne. For more insight into the town's artistic and religious heritage, tourists should visit the Musée d'Art Sacré (Museum of Sacred Art) which presents artworks dating from the medieval era to the 20th-century with commentary about the transformation of liturgy through the ages.
10. Château de Lunéville
The Château de Lunéville is known as the "Petit Versailles Lorrain" because it resembles the Palace of Versailles. In fact, the castle was created by architect Germain Boffrand, a pupil of the renowned architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart who designed the Château de Versailles. Constructed between 1701 and 1723, the Château de Lunéville became the official residence of the Dukes of Lorraine in the 18th century.
The expansive grounds include formal French gardens featuring symmetrical flower beds, decorative pools, fountains, and perfectly manicured hedges. Tourists may visit the Château de Lunéville year-round (every day except Tuesdays), and guided tours are available.
Épinal is nestled in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, surrounded by forests. The town's claim to fame is a special type of colorful illustrations known as "images d'Épinal" originally created in the late 18th century. Examples of these images can be seen at the Musée de l'Image (42 Quai de Dogneville), which displays a collection of over 100,000 "images d'Épinal." At the same location is a printing house found in 1796, the Maison Images d'Epinal, which has a boutique that sells wallpaper, stationary, books, and posters inspired by vintage prints. Another must-see sight is the Basilique Saint-Maurice, a Romanesque church dating to the 11th century.
Outside of Épinal in Dinozé, the Epinal American Cemetery contains over 5,000 graves of soldiers who lost their lives during World War Two. Also near Épinal are many hiking trails and peaceful lakes.
In a picturesque location along the Moselle River, the small town of Thillot is a popular vacation destination year-round. The town is surrounded by the rolling hills and forests of the Vosges Mountains. Ideal for summer and winter holidays, Thillot is close to hiking trails and ski resorts. In the town, the Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste is worth visiting to see its serene interior and exquisite stained-glass windows.
13. Parc Regional de Lorraine
This pristine nature reserve encompasses forests, lakes, grasslands, farms, orchards, and prairies that bloom with wildflowers. The park has a variety of scenic trails, allowing visitors to choose from easy walks to more challenging hikes. Other things to do include visiting an astronomical observatory (in Viéville-sous-les-Côtes) and bird-watching (288 bird species have been identified in the park). Bird lovers can take advantage of seven bird-watching observatories and three trails used to view migratory birds.
Phalsbourg was built around 1570 as a fortified town and was an important stronghold in the Duchy of Lorraine. The town fell to France in 1662, and its defenses were considerably strengthened by Vauban in 1680. The Porte de France and Porte d'Allemagne are remains of the old Vauban fortifications. A museum of the town's history is found at the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall).
Phalsbourg has a strong Catholic heritage and previously was home to a small Jewish community. The town's Neo-Gothic Catholic church was rebuilt after the Siege of 1870, and the synagogue dates to 1857. Nearby is the Parc Naturel Régional des Vosges du Nord, a great place for hiking and nature walks.
Where to Stay in Lorraine for Sightseeing
We recommend these highly rated Lorraine hotels in charming towns like Nancy, Metz, and Verdun:
- Hotel La Citadelle Metz - MGallery by Sofitel: 4-star luxury, 16th-century historic building, contemporary room decor, Michelin-starred chef.
- Hotel de Montaulbain: 3-star Verdun hotel, central location, helpful hosts, cozy lounge.
- Maison de Myon: mid-range Nancy B&B, 18th-century stone building, quiet street, eclectic decor, individually-decorated rooms.
- Ibis Budget Nancy Centre: budget hotel, sleek decor, multilingual staff.