10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions 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). Nancy was further beautified in the 18th century when King Louis XV (who conquered the Duchy of Lorraine in 1736) appointed Stanislas Leszczynàski, the deposed King of Poland, to govern the Duchy. During this period, palatial monuments were built, giving Nancy its splendid Rococo aspect. The town also has a charming medieval quarter, the Ville Vieille, which is a trendy neighborhood full of important landmarks. Discover more about the area with our list of attractions and things to do in Nancy.
See also: Where to Stay in Nancy
1. Place Stanislas
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.
Because of its central location and lively ambience, this area is a great place to stay while visiting Nancy. Right on the Place Stanislas is the luxurious 4-star Grand Hotel De La Reine. 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. Another option nearby (about a 10-minute walk away) is the 3-star Hôtel des Prélats, housed in a refurbished 17th-century palace with spacious rooms and a pleasant garden.
2. Palais des Ducs de Lorraine (Musée Lorrain)
Just steps away from the Place Stanislas in the Ville Vieille is the former Ducal Palace, dating to the end of the 15th century (the Late Gothic to early Renaissance period). A symbol of the Dukes' power, this grandiose palace is one of the architectural highlights of the Lorraine region. The building exemplifies richly decorated Flamboyant style with its ornate balconies and doorway. The Ducal Palace now houses the Lorraine Museum, which has a remarkable collection of art works, antiquities, and historic objects.
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: 64 Grande Rue, Nancy
3. Musée des Beaux-Arts
On the Place Stanislas, the Musée des Beaux-Arts was created in 1793 and brings together superb collections of European paintings from the 14th to the 21st centuries. The museum has an exceptional collection of European paintings, 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 avant-garde modern art collection includes 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 spectacular Art Nouveau villa that was owned by Eugène Corbin (a leading patron of the arts). 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 cathedral is worth a visit to see its decorative Baroque interior featuring a gorgeous fresco on the dome's cupola painted by Claude Jacquart. At the end of the street is the 17th-century Porte Saint-Georges. The narrow, winding cobblestone streets; intimate squares and small courtyards; and stately old buildings of the Ville Vieille give the area 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 discover. 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 Ville Vieille may be steeped in history, but it has a compelling allure thanks to the array of enticing boutiques, trendy restaurants, and cafés with outdoor terraces. 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. Locals and tourists alike appreciate the traditional market (on Sundays from 9am to 1pm), which brings together dozens of local vendors selling specialty foods.
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 3-star hotel in a renovated 18th-century manor house. Another recommendation is the Hotel D'Haussonville near many restaurants on the Grand Rue. A rare chance to spend the night in a 16th-century hôtel particulier (mansion), this 4-star hotel features plush guest rooms, a salon with a fireplace, and a lovely breakfast room.
6. Eglise des Cordeliers (Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires de Nancy)
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. The Dukes of the Baroque period are buried in the 17th-century Chapelle Ducale, designed in a circular shape. This delicate chapel, built by King Charles III, was inspired by the Medici Chapel in Florence. The Eglise des Cordeliers also houses the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires de Nancy, a unique museum with a collection focused on traditional folkloric costumes, crafts, and furniture of the region.
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. 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 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, a beautiful Parisian landmark in Paris. The Place de la Carrière and the Place d'Alliance provide passersby with an oasis of calm in a picturesque environment. Both squares have a harmonious feel, thanks to the uniformity of architectural style and the open space planted with leafy trees. These public squares epitomize the elegance and refinement that distinguishes Nancy.
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. The 23-hectare English-style park features a rose garden, tree-lined walking paths, plenty of shade, as well as open grassy areas, and sports terrain for basketball, soccer, and other games. 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).
As the largest green space in the city, Pépinière Park is the perfect escape on a sunny day. It's one of the best places in Nancy to take a leisurely stroll or to simply admire the flowers and birds. 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 brasserie with a selection of classic French dishes. There are also several other snack stands within the park.
10. Eglise Notre-Dame de Bonsecours
This small but richly decorated church is a veritable jewel box. The lavish interior exemplifies the Baroque style. The church was used as a burial site after the Battle of Nancy and is also called the Church of Our Lady of Victory and the Kings. The interior holds the tomb of Stanislas Leszczynàski and the mausoleum of his wife Catharina Opalinska.
Address: 256 Avenue de Strasbourg, Nancy
Where to Stay in Nancy for Sightseeing
We recommend these highly rated hotels in Nancy near top attractions like Place Stanislas and the Musée des Beaux-Arts:
- Hotel d'Haussonville: luxury boutique hotel, old town location, historic 16th-century town house, old-world style, excellent breakfast.
- Best Western Hotel Crystal: mid-range pricing, short stroll to Place Stanislas, cozy lounge, double-glazed windows.
- Coeur de City Hotel Nancy Stanislas by HappyCulture: affordable rates, great-value, convenient location, bold modern decor, free candy bar.
- Ibis Budget Nancy Centre: budget hotel, bright decor, clean rooms, multilingual staff.
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Nearby Places to Visit in the Lorraine Region: For travelers who have the time, it's worth exploring the countryside and historic towns of the Lorraine region surrounding Nancy. The city of Metz (55 kilometers away) has earned a place on the tourist map because of its breathtaking cathedral, dazzling opera house, superb art museums, and ancient churches. Just outside of Nancy (24 kilometers away), the medieval town of Toul also boasts an impressive medieval cathedral and houses dating to the 14th century. Another nearby point of interest in Lorraine is Lunéville (37 kilometers away), which has a resplendent 18th-century château.
Charming Alsatian Villages and Historic Towns: The neighboring region of Alsace abounds with tourist attractions, including the UNESCO-listed Regional Natural Park of the Northern Vosges. A lovely rural landscape sandwiched between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River plain, the area is dotted with storybook Alsatian villages and historic towns. One of the best places to visit in the Alsace region is Colmar (about a two-hour drive from Nancy). This atmospheric town 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 other wonderful places in northern France: the Champagne and Burgundy regions. An idyllic countryside of vine-covered rolling hills give the Champagne region its appeal. This region also 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. To the south of Nancy, the Burgundy region beckons visitors with serene pastoral scenery, pristine woodlands, picturesque villages, and interesting historic monuments including two UNESCO-listed sites (the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in Vézelay and the Abbaye de Fontenay). 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.