Unspoilt natural beauty and picturesque historic towns make the Lorraine region a wonderful area to explore. The capital Nancy is located in the east of France, surrounded by the valleys of the Meuse and the Moselle, sandwiched between the Champagne region and the Vosges. The steep, forest-covered hills of the Vosges and quiet alpine lakes are dotted with attractive holiday resorts such as Gérardmer. There are also traditional spa towns, including the towns of Vittel and Bain-les-Bains. Created in the 18th and 19th centuries, the fashionable society of Europe frequented these spas to bathe in the healing waters. Today, tourists can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and classical beauty of Lorraine’s resorts, nature reserves and culture-rich towns.
SwatiTravel is supported by readers and may earn a commission from purchases made through links in this article.
The ancient capital of Lorraine, Nancy is a historic city known for its beautiful 18th century baroque architecture. The elegant main square, the Place Stanislas , is lined with impressive palaces, including the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), with balconies and balustrades. The most distinctive feature of the square are the beautiful gilded wrought iron balustrades at the ends of the streets and around the fountains of Neptune and Amphitrite. Another top tourist attraction, the Musée des Beaux Arts , has a remarkable collection of European paintings from the 16th to the 20th century along with modern art, including works by Dufy, Utrillo, Modigliani, and Zadkine. The Palais du Gouvernement, the former Ducal Palace, is the most important secular building of the Late Gothic period in Lorraine and now houses the Historical Museum of Lorraine , with a collection of archaeology, medieval sculpture and traditional folk crafts. Housed in an Art Nouveau villa, the Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy displays a collection of glass, furniture, and jewelry.
Metz has an ancient history dating back to Roman times. In the 6th century, Metz was a residence of the Merovingian kings and later became a free imperial city. The picturesque town is characterized by cobbled streets, narrow streets and charming old houses. On the Place d’Armes is the 18th century Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) and the Cathedral of Saint-Etienne. This impressive yellow sandstone cathedral was built between 1250 and 1380, including the former church of Notre-Dame-la-Ronde. With its immense 42 meter high vault and beautiful stained glass windows, the interior has the overwhelming effect of a grand Gothic sanctuary. There is a 14th-century rose window on the west side and three windows by Marc Chagall in the north transept. Also worth a visit, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire contains Gallo-Roman archaeological finds and examples of medieval religious art and architecture. From the town’s Esplanade , a terrace offers a beautiful view of the Moselle valley and Mont Saint-Quentin.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Metz
For Cheap flights – Swatitravel.com
In the upper Moselle valley, Toul was an important city during the Middle Ages, the bishop’s seat, and until 1648 it was a free imperial city. The city is still surrounded by its 17th-century four-gated walls; the Porte de Metz was designed by Vauban. Built in the 13th and 14th centuries, Saint-Etienne Cathedral has a late Gothic facade and Renaissance gateway. The monastery also dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. Southwest of the cathedral is the Church of Saint-Gengoultbuilt from the 13th to the 16th century. This church is a smaller and simpler version of the cathedral. The chancel features beautiful 13th century stained glass windows and the 16th century cloister has an elegant flamboyant style. On the Rue Général-Gengoult are a number of historic houses from the 14th century. Another notable site in Toul is the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), which occupies the former bishop’s palace.
Surrounded by fortified hills, the ancient walled city of Verdun sits at an important crossroads on the way to Paris and was one of France’s strongest fortresses during the First World War. The town was the site of a devastating battle and a bronze sculpture by Rodin in front of the Porte Saint-Paul commemorates this event. There is also a war museum in the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) and a memorial on the Quai de la République . There are battlefields on both sides of the Meuseof the First World War: the Fort de Vaux, the Fort de Souville (with a memorial to André Maginot), the Ossuaire de Douaumont (with the remains of unidentified soldiers), the Fort de Douaumont and the Tranchée des Baïonnettes. Other notable monuments in Verdun are the cathedral and the city gates : the 14th-century Porte Chaussée and the 15th-century Porte Châtel, which formed part of the city’s defences.
Located between the Rhine-Marne Canal and the River Ornain, Bar-le-Duc is the ancient capital of the Duchy of Bar. In the upper town on the slopes above the valley is the 14th century Church of Saint-Etienne and the Ducal château which now houses a museum. Handsome old houses line Rue du Bourg, Rue de Bar and Place Saint-Pierre. In the lower town, on the southeast side of Boulevard de la Rochelle, is the beautiful neo-Romanesque and Byzantine Church of Saint-Jean . The Pont Notre-Dame leads to the Church of Notre-Dame , which was built in the 13th and 14th centuries and restored in the 17th century, the church contains a wooden figure of Christ by Ligier Richier, a pupil of Michelangelo and a 15th-century bas-relief. Beyond the narrow canal is the 14th century Church of Saint-Antoine with beautiful frescoes from the same period.
In a picturesque lake area of the Vosges, the popular holiday resort of Gérardmer is located below the mountain Col de la Schlucht at an altitude of about 1,000 meters. With its pristine mountain setting and excellent tourist facilities, Gérardmer attracts nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts all year round. In summer, the vast Lac de Gérardmer comes alive with a variety of water sports, including sailing and canoeing. The area also has well-maintained walking, hiking, mountain biking and cycling trails with varying levels of ability from beginners to advanced. The Station de Trail offers detailed maps of walking routes. There are also GPS walks for the tech inclined. For riders there is the possibility of horseback riding. In winter, Gérardmer is a destination for skiing and cross-country skiing.
The old center of Sarrebourg is located on the edge of the Vosges, on the river Sarre. In the historic center of the town is the former Franciscan church, the 13th century Chapelle des Cordeliers . The chapel was enhanced with spectacular stained glass windows by Marc Chagall including a stunning 12-metre window titled La Paix in the chancel and lateral windows. The chapel is now used as the Musée du Pays de Sarrebourg , a museum with a section dedicated to the life and work of Marc Chagall. There is also a Chagall Garden that broadcasts interview clips with Chagall. The Musée du Pays has an excellent ceramic collection and interesting archaeological finds from the area. On the outskirts of Sarrebourg is a World War I military cemetery with 13,000 graves, and just a few kilometers away, in Saint-Ulrich, are the ruins of a large Gallo-Roman villa .
The town of Vittel has been one of the most popular spa towns in Lorraine since the mid-19th century and has a reputation as a spa town dating back to Roman times. Vittels water, which comes from four cold mineral springs, is used to treat various health problems. The local water is also sold as bottled water in France. The town of Vittel has the ambiance of a resort, which caters to the relaxation needs of visitors. There are beautiful parks, a golf course and a racecourse. Of architectural interest is the Church of St-Rémyof the late Gothic period. Vittel is also a good base to start exploring other natural areas in the area. About a 45 minute drive from Vittel is another famous spa town, Bains-les-Bains , with 11 natural springs that have been used since Roman times.
9 St. Mihiel
The town of Saint-Mihiel (or Saint Michel) grew up around a Benedictine abbey founded in 709, and in the 14th century it was one of the most important towns in the Barrois district. 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 best works, the Pâmoison de la Vierge (The Virgin Fainting, Supported by Saint John), is in a chapel in the Church of Saint-Michel that was founded in the 12th century. Another masterpiece of Richier’s sculpture, the Entombment , is in the 16th century Church of Saint-Etienne .
Steeped in history, Lunéville was the residence of the Dukes of Lorraine between 1702 and 1737. The town’s handsome 18th-century chateau was designed by Boffrand, a student of Mansart. The castle now houses an art museum. Another important monument is the baroque twin-towered church of Saint-Jacques, built between 1730 and 1747. One of Lunéville’s most famous residents was the Marquise de Châtelet, Voltaire’s mistress. She had been given refuge in Luneville by debt collectors from Stanislas Leczinsky, Duke of Lorraine. It was here that the Marchioness translated Newton’s Principia .
Stretching along the banks of the Moselle and surrounded by vast forests, Épinal is an important town in the Vosges department. It is best known for producing colored prints known as ” images d’Épinal ,” which were sold worldwide in the 19th century. A printer and publisher named Pellerin settled here in 1799 and began producing prints, including illustrated books on contemporary themes for children, as well as fairy tale books. Examples of these prints can be seen at the Imagerie d’Epinal on the Quai de Dogneville. Other important sites include the 13th century Basilique Saint-Maurice , with a 14th century Virgin, and the ruins of a medieval castle in theParc du Chateau . Outside of Épinal in Dinozé, there is an American World War II cemetery .
Built around 1570 as a fortified town , Phalsbourg was an important stronghold in the Duchy of Lorraine. The city fell to France in 1662 and its defenses were considerably strengthened by Vauban in 1680. The Place d’Armes stands as a testimony to Vauban’s architecture. The Porte de France and Porte d’Allemagne, both richly decorated, are also remnants of the old Vauban fortifications. There is a museum about the city’s history in the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall). Phalsbourg has both a strong Catholic heritage and a Jewish history dating back to 1702. The town’s neo-Gothic Catholic church was rebuilt after the siege of 1870 and the synagogue dates from 1857.
With a picturesque location on the Moselle River, the small town of Thillot is a popular holiday destination all year round. The town is located at the foot of the Ballon d’Alsace , the southernmost peak in the Vosges. Thillot is ideal for summer and winter holidays and is close to hiking trails and ski resorts. In town, the Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste is worth a visit to see its serene interior and beautiful stained glass windows.
Where to stay in Lorraine for sightseeing
We recommend these highly rated hotels in Lorraine in charming towns such as Nancy, Metz and Verdun:
- Hotel La Citadelle Metz – MGallery by Sofitel: 4-star luxury, 16th-century historic building, contemporary interior, 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 interior, multilingual staff.