Nancy, prefecture of Meurthe-et-Moselle, was the political capital of the Duchy of Lorraine until its attachment to the Kingdom of France in 1766. Stanislas Leszczyński, father-in-law of Louis XV and former king of Poland, left his mark on Nancy through great achievements, including the square that bears his name, in the centre of the present-day city. Three major historical periods are visible as you walk through the streets: the Middle Ages, with the old town (bounded by the Saint-Epvre basilica and the Porte de la Craffe, linked together by the Grande-Rue, where the Cordeliers church and the ducal palace are located) ; the 18th century, represented by the Place Stanislas, the Place de la Carrière and the Place d'Alliance (all listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO); and, finally, the 1900s, represented by the houses and buildings of the École de Nancy, mainly near the railway station and the Saint-Léon and Saurupt districts and the Sainte-Marie park.
Place Stanislas, one of the most beautiful squares in the worldone of the most beautiful squares in the world
The Place Stanislas is THE jewel of Nancy, its point zero, its symbol, its reference. Regularly ranked among the most beautiful squares in the world, it is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site and is simply a must-see, regardless of the season, for Nancy residents and tourists alike. The basic idea here was to build a royal square to honour and glorify the King of France, Louis XV. It was built between 1751 and 1755 under the direction of the architect Emmanuel Héré, at the request of Stanislas Leszczynski, former King of Poland, then Duke of Lorraine. All around, classical buildings now house the town hall, the Opera and the Museum of Fine Arts. The ensemble still shines thanks to the superb gates adorned with gold and the majestic fountains. In the centre, there was originally a statue of Louis XV, replaced in 1831 by that of Stanislas. In 2005, following restoration work, the place regained its original splendour. The square became pedestrian again and took on the role of the heart of the city and of all the events... In particular, during the festive season, when it is deliciously illuminated. And as soon as the weather is fine, the café terraces take over, and the building facades come to life with the sound and light show. Simply splendid!
Architecture and Art Nouveau
Curious passers-by and visitors with a thirst for discovery can also admire the treasures of Art Nouveau in the heart of the city, visible along the facades and streets. The School of Nancy was revealed in the 1900s. Artists and industrialists (cabinetmakers, sculptors, architects, glassmakers, ironworkers, goldsmiths, etc.) had come together under the impetus of the École de Nancy group, composed of Émile Gallé, Louis Majorelle, Eugène Vallin, Georges Biet, Victor Prouvé and the Daum brothers. They made Nancy one of the main centres for the development of Art Nouveau. The plant world and flexible geometric patterns are their main source of inspiration. A large place is given to innovative materials such as glass, wood, iron or ceramic cabochons. The Tourist Office has a small leaflet with the main points of interest to discover and an itinerary of the most beautiful monuments of this period. On some buildings, a plaque mentions the name of the architect or the artist who designed the ironwork. Sometimes it is also the family name of the owner of the house. A little far from the town centre, at the bottom of rue Jeanne-d'Arc, there is also a neighbourhood of beautiful villas to discover
Going green at La Pépinière
La Pépinière is quite simply the largest park in the city and probably the most beautiful too. 22 hectares of greenery accessible from Place Stanislas and Place Carrière, a haven of peace and tranquillity for walkers, a paradise for children, a playground for joggers, and a place that is emblematic of the city's many sporting and cultural events... Initially a royal nursery founded by Stanislas in 1765, the area became a public park in 1835. Today, sportsmen and women go jogging or play basketball, football or handball; groups of friends play music on the grass, lovers stroll through the rose garden, children ride the merry-go-round or the swing, families enjoy the animal park (monkeys, ducks, donkeys, peacocks, hinds, goats..) while tasting the (delicious) waffles prepared on the spot... An essential step in the visit of Nancy - especially since the Park is obviously labeled Jardin Remarquable.
A must-see aquarium
The Aquarium Museum is a real point of attraction for the city's inhabitants, tourists and the curious. Dating from 1930, it now offers a dive into distant waters, with 57 freshwater, tropical or temperate seawater and brackish water aquariums and around 300 species in total. Seahorses, clownfish, balloonfish or trumpetfish, eels, rays and flying scorpion fish, but also crustaceans, molluscs and plants, the waters of America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific or the Caribbean are represented. On the first floor, a 400m2 zoological gallery displays nearly 600 specimens from the heritage collections. Butterflies, insects, mammals and the great shark or giant squid, naturalized and fossilized animals that will take you on a journey to the heart of historical eras and periods. Temporary exhibitions for young and old, lectures on nature and fun workshops are also organised. Sometimes the Museum-Aquarium even opens its doors in the evening, for special visits, concerts or special events (raclette evening for example)... Find out more!
Saint Nicolas, a magical festival
Finally, all the people of Lorraine will tell you: Saint Nicholas is a sacred day - and the most beautiful parade is the one in Nancy. Because Saint Nicolas is the patron saint of Lorraine and this character is deeply rooted in the history and traditions of the region... And because finally, it's a bit like Christmas before Christmas, since the man goes around the schools to congratulate the good children by offering them gingerbread and chocolates - and the city is in celebration for a good ten days. So if you're in the area around the first weekend of December (December 4 and 5 this year), get ready to experience some magical moments. Street shows, animations, workshops, concerts, theatre, Christmas markets, tastings of local products, artists' exhibitions... And, the highlight: a magnificent parade of floats, created by Nancy and its agglomeration weeks before. Impressive, magnificent, magical ... Superlatives are lacking to describe the event. On the other hand, if you want to see it all, you must arrive at least one hour in advance for the big evening parade, where nearly 150,000 spectators come every year. A must-see!
When can you go? You can obviously go to Nancy all year round. But to attend the St Nicholas' Day festivities, come to the Lorraine city between 19 November 2021 and 2 January 2022. The weekend of Saint-Nicolas will take place on December 4 and 5 (although the date of the festival is December 6).
How to get there. By plane (Metz-Nancy-Lorraine airport, 30 minutes away by car), by train (the station is right in the heart of the city), by bus (Ouibus or Eurolines) or by car (A31, A4 or RN4), everything is possible.
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Useful. To prepare your trip to Nancy.
OFFICE DE TOURISME DU GRAND NANCY - More information on the website
SAINT-NICOLAS FESTIVAL IN NANCY - More informationon the website
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