10 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Nancy
Renowned for its 18th-century Baroque architecture, Nancy has a refined and aristocratic air. The UNESCO-listed Place Stanislaus exemplifies the elegance of the city. Other magnificent squares, exquisite churches, and sumptuous palaces attest to the city's regal past.
Nancy became the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine in the 12th century and was a very prosperous town during the 16th century. In the 17th century, the Duke of Lorraine, Charles the Great, developed the Ville Neuve (New Town), but it wasn't until the 18th century that palatial monuments were built, giving Nancy its splendid Rococo aspect.
Another interesting area in Nancy is the medieval quarter, the Ville Vieille (Old Town). This trendy neighborhood is full of historic landmarks and is also brimming with boutiques, restaurants, and outdoor cafés.
Discover the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Nancy.
See also: Where to Stay in Nancy
1. Place Stanislas
At the heart of Nancy's Ville Neuve, the UNESCO-listed Place Stanislas is one of the most striking squares in Europe. Originally called the Place Royale, the Place Stanislas was mainly built by Emmanuel Héré between 1752 and 1760. The pedestrian-only square is encircled by five elegant palaces, designed in classical French style, with opulent balconies and balustrades.
The largest of the palaces is the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), with banisters by Jean Lamour on the staircase. The gilded wrought-iron railings at the ends of the streets and around the Fountains of Neptune and Amphitrite are the work of Lamour, and the fountains were created by Barthélemy Guibal.
Along the north side of the square are graceful single-story galleried buildings, which continue along Rue Héré. Many restaurants are found here, as well as on the nearby Rue des Maréchaux.
Because of its central location and lively ambience, the area around the Place Stanislas is a great place to stay while visiting Nancy.
2. Palais des Ducs de Lorraine (Musée Lorrain)
Just steps away from the Place Stanislas in the Ville Vieille is the former Palais des Ducs de Lorraine (Ducal Palace), dating to the end of the 15th century (the Late Gothic to early Renaissance period). This grandiose palace exemplifies richly decorated Flamboyant style with its ornate balconies and doorway.
The Ducal Palace now houses the Musée Lorrain (Lorraine Museum), which contains art, antiquities, and historic objects from the Lorraine region. The museum also displays exhibits within the adjacent Eglise des Cordeliers, a former Franciscan church.
The Lorraine Museum's permanent collections are closed until 2023 while the buildings are renovated. During this time, the Eglise des Cordeliers will be presenting some of the Lorraine Museum's most emblematic pieces in an exhibit that illustrates the history of the Dukes of Lorraine.
Address: Palais des Ducs de Lorraine, 64 Grande Rue, Nancy
3. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy
On the Place Stanislas, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy presents a superb collection of European paintings from the 14th to the 21st centuries. The museum was created in 1793 during the French Revolution, when the church property of France was confiscated. Therefore artworks seized from France's churches formed the museum's early collection.
The museum has an exceptional European Painting collection, with masterpieces by Caravaggio, Fragonard, Delacroix, Pérugin, and Rubens.
Unique to this museum is the assortment of paintings by Lorraine artists: Claude le Lorrain, Emile Friant, Etienne Cournault, Jules Bastien Lepage, and Victor Pouvé.
For a totally different perspective, the Modern Art assortment includes avant-garde works by Bonnard, Matisse, Modigliani, and Picasso among others.
The Sculpture collection also dazzles visitors with pieces by Auguste Rodin, Domenico Guidi, César Baldaccini, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, and other 20th-century masters.
One of the highlights of this museum is the Daum collection of Art Deco glassworks. These decorative crystal pieces are appreciated for their aesthetic quality and historical value. The museum also presents temporary exhibits throughout the year.
Address: 3 Place Stanislas, Nancy
4. Musée de l'Ecole de Nancy
The Musée de l'Ecole de Nancy is a one-of-a-kind museum housed in the Villa Majorelle, a lovely house built in the early 1900s for the artist Louis Majorelle. Listed as a Historic Monument, the Villa Majorelle was the first example of an Art Nouveau house in Nancy.
The museum is devoted to the group of artists who established the Art Nouveau movement in Lorraine around the beginning of the 20th century. The collection features Art Nouveau ceramics, glass, furniture, objects d'art, textiles, and jewelry.
The museum also has a delightful garden with lush plants, colorful flowerbeds, and flowing fountains. An inspiration to the Ecole de Nancy artists, the garden's landscaping was designed by Nancy horticulturalists during the Art Nouveau period.
Address: 36-38 Rue du Sergent Blandan, Nancy
5. Ville Vieille (Old Town)
The quaint Old Town (Ville Vieille) of Nancy is north of the Ville Neuve (New Town) roughly bordered by the town's three main traffic arteries: Rue Saint-Dizier, Rue Saint-Georges, and Rue Saint-Jean.
On the Rue Saint-Georges, the city's 18th-century Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Annonciation has a gorgeous domed Baroque interior. Claude Jacquart, a renowned artist from Nancy, painted the magnificent fresco on the dome's cupola.
At the end of the Rue Saint-Georges is the Porte Saint-Georges. Classified as a Historic Monument, this impressive Renaissance-era city gate was built between 1606 and 1619, when Nancy's Ville Neuve was being developed. The gate depicts an equestrian statue of Saint George (the town's patron saint) slaying a dragon.
The labyrinth of narrow, winding cobblestone streets gives the Ville Vieille a special old-world character, which distinguishes it from the orderly 18th-century Ville Neuve quarter. This medieval and Renaissance quarter is an enchanting place to explore at leisure. Wandering the pedestrian lanes leads to discoveries of stately old buildings, intimate squares, and small courtyards.
Tourists will enjoy strolling along the Grande Rue, which is lined with historic houses and important monuments, including the ancient Eglise des Cordeliers (at the Rue Jacquot) and the 14th-century Porte de la Craffe (at the Rue de la Craffe), a fortified town gate with a pair of immense round towers. The Porte de la Craffe was used as a prison until the French Revolution.
The charm and bustling ambience of the Ville Vieille make it a favorite area for locals to live. It's also a spot where city dwellers like to dine out, socialize, and shop at the flea markets. This atmospheric quarter is packed with enticing boutiques, trendy restaurants, and cafés with outdoor terraces.
Locals and tourists alike appreciate the Marché de la Ville Vieille, a traditional open-air market that brings together dozens of local vendors selling specialty foods. The market is held near the Palais des Ducs de Lorraine on Sundays from 8am to 1pm.
6. Eglise des Cordeliers
In the Ville Vieille just beyond the Ducal Palace is the 15th-century Eglise des Cordeliers. It takes its name from the Franciscan Order, which required monks to wear a cord around their waist.
Created for Duke René II after the Battle of Nancy, the church contains the tombs of the ducal house of Lorraine including Duke René II, his wife Philippa of Guelders, and the Cardinal de Vaudémont. There are also tombs of famous kings of France.
The Dukes of the Baroque period are buried in the 17th-century Chapelle Ducale, which is considered a gem of Renaissance architecture. This delicate circular-shaped chapel, built by King Charles III, was inspired by the Medici Chapel in Florence.
The Eglise des Cordeliers currently presents an assortment of artworks from the Musée Lorrain collection.
Address: 66 Grande Rue, Nancy
7. Place de la Carrière and Place d'Alliance
Along with the Place Stanislas, both the Place de la Carrière and Place d'Alliance are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These public squares epitomize the elegance and refinement that distinguishes Nancy.
The Arc de Triomphe (triumphal arch) in honor of King Louis XV leads into the Place de la Carrière, which is enclosed at the other end by the Palais du Gouvernement (Government Palace). The Place de la Carrière was created in the 16th century as a square for jousting tournaments and equestrian games.
The Place d'Alliance is an exquisite small square within easy walking distance of the Place de la Carrière. With its meticulously manicured central garden, the Place d'Alliance resembles the Place des Vosges, one of the most beautiful squares in Paris.
The Place de la Carrière and the Place d'Alliance provide passersby with an oasis of calm in the heart of the city. Both squares have a harmonious feel, thanks to the uniformity of architectural style and the open space planted with leafy trees.
8. Basilique Saint-Epvre
Another interesting site in the Ville Vieille, the Basilique Saint-Epvre is a Gothic Revival church built in the 19th century. Napoleon III, Pope Pius, Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria, and King Ludwig II of Bavaria endowed the church with its riches, including vibrant stained-glass windows and paving in the choir made of stones that came from the Appian Way (the ancient road that runs from Rome to Italy's Campania region).
Artists from several European countries contributed to the church's collection of paintings. The church, with its soaring 87-meter-high tower, stands on one of the busiest squares in Nancy, the Place Saint-Epvre. Tourists should take a moment to admire the square's majestic statue of Duke Rene II.
Address: Place Saint-Epvre, Nancy
9. Parc de la Pépinière
Pépinière Park was created on the site of the historic Dukes' gardens and has strong ties to the city's heritage. The park is just a few steps away from Nancy's UNESCO-listed squares, the Place Stanislas and the Place de la Carrière.
This shaded English-style park features a rose garden and tree-lined walking paths, as well as open grassy areas. As the largest green space in the city, the 21-hectare Pépinière Park is the perfect place to relax on a sunny day, take a leisurely stroll, or simply admire the flowers and birds.
Children will have fun at the park's playground, visiting animals at the "Espace Animalier" (mini zoo), playing a round at the Mini Golf course, or attending a puppet show at the Théâtre de Marionnettes (Marionette Theater).
Tourists can take part in the local custom of picnicking in the park, by bringing a typical spread of baguette, cheese, and fresh fruit. For those who prefer restaurant dining, the park has a casual cafeteria-style restaurant, the Brasserie de la Pépinière, with pleasant outdoor seating on garden terraces. Other culinary highlights include snack stands that sell treats such as ice cream and waffles.
10. Eglise Notre-Dame de Bonsecours
This small but richly decorated church is a veritable jewel box. The lavish Baroque interior contains the tomb of Stanislas Leszczynàski and the mausoleum of his wife Catharina Opalinska.
Also called the Church of Our Lady of Victory and the Kings, the Eglise Notre-Dame de Bonsecours was used as a burial site after the Battle of Nancy in 1477.
Address: 256 Avenue de Strasbourg, Nancy
Where to Stay in Nancy for Sightseeing
The best places to stay in Nancy are within the historic center in either the Ville Neuve (New Town) or the Ville Vieille (Old Town). We recommend these highly rated hotels in Nancy near top attractions like Place Stanislas and the Musée des Beaux-Arts:
- On the Place Stanislas, the luxurious four-star Grand Hôtel de la Reine offers refined accommodations and old-world charm. Being part of the UNESCO-listed monuments of the Place Stanislas, the hotel is a masterpiece of 18th-century architecture featuring a sophisticated Louis XV interior with Belle Epoque influences. Amenities include a gourmet restaurant, tearoom, and spa.
- Elegant and inviting accommodations are found at the Hôtel d'Haussonville, in the Ville Vieille near many restaurants on the Grand Rue. This boutique hotel offers a chance to spend the night in a 16th-century hôtel particulier (mansion) listed as a Historic Monument. The four-star lodging features plush guest rooms, a cozy lounge with a fireplace, and a delightful breakfast room.
- Tourists who choose to stay overnight in the Ville Vieille will feel fully immersed in the quarter's historic atmosphere. One hotel option just a few steps away from the Eglise des Cordeliers and the Porte de la Craffe is the Hôtel de Guise, a three-star hotel in a handsome 18th-century manor house. This recently renovated hotel provides stylish guest rooms, 24-hour front desk, and a continental breakfast.
- A short walk from the Place Stanislas, the Best Western Hotel Crystal offers sleek modern accommodations in the heart of the city. Guest rooms feature soundproofing and updated contemporary decor. This three-star hotel has excellent amenities, including a 24-hour front desk and airport transportation service. A buffet breakfast is available.
- The Hotel Stanley by HappyCulture is an excellent choice near the Place Stanislas. This affordable three-star hotel has comfortable guest rooms decorated with fashionable floral-print wallpaper. Accommodations include concierge services and a complimentary buffet breakfast.
- About a 10-minute walk from the Place Stanislas, the ibis budget Nancy Centre provides basic accommodations at affordable rates. The guest rooms are bright, clean, and minimalistic in style. The triple rooms have a dormitory feel and are ideal for backpackers or students. A breakfast buffet is available.
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Nearby Places to Visit in the Lorraine Region: The countryside and historic towns of the Lorraine region has many cultural attractions. The city of Metz (55 kilometers away) boasts a breathtaking cathedral, dazzling opera house, superb art museums, and ancient churches. Just outside of Nancy (24 kilometers away) is the medieval town of Toul and a splendid 18th-century château in Lunéville (37 kilometers away).
Charming Alsatian Villages and Historic Towns: The neighboring region of Alsace is a lovely rural landscape sandwiched between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River plain, dotted with storybook Alsatian villages and historic towns. The charming town of Colmar (about a two-hour drive from Nancy) delights visitors with flower-bedecked half-timbered houses, a scenic canal area, and fascinating old churches.
For those who appreciate culture, Strasbourg is a must-see destination that's only one hour and 30 minutes away from Nancy by the rapid TGV train. As the Alsace region's most important city, Strasbourg has an awe-inspiring cathedral, top-notch museums, and captivating neighborhoods full of old-world ambience.
Other Beautiful Regions near Nancy: Lorraine borders the Champagne region, an idyllic countryside of vine-covered rolling hills. The Champagne region has an incredible wealth of historic monuments, such as the marvelous Gothic cathedral in the medieval city of Reims (about two hours and 45 minutes away by train or car) along with several other UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites.
Exploring the Burgundy Region: To the south of Nancy, the Burgundy region beckons visitors with serene pastoral scenery, pristine woodlands, picturesque villages, and interesting historic monuments. The cultural attractions of Dijon (about a two-hour-and 30-minute drive or TGV train ride from Nancy) make it an obligatory stop in Burgundy. Tourists will enjoy visiting the town's ducal palace, gothic churches, and fine arts museum, as well as savoring the delicious regional cuisine.