I read once that Nancy has the most beautiful Royal Square in Europe. This is a big statement, isn’t it? That was enough to convince me to jump on a train from Paris (1.5 hours) to check it out for a day trip. And I realised there are a lot of things to see in Nancy – and it was easy to simply walk from the train station! Here’s my itinerary to spend one day in Nancy.
Place Stanislas: Nancy’s most famous landmark
The Place Stanislas (1) is indeed impressive and not to be missed if you are in the area. Built in the 18th century, it is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and « ranked as the fourth most attractive square in the world ». It looked indeed very elegant and spacious. I loved the beautifully designed lampposts and doors with their prominent golden ornaments standing out on the black iron. It’s lovely to sit at a terrace of a cafe or a restaurant and be able to admire the stunning classic architecture all around. The fountains and the garden nearby add a nice touch of greenery in the city.
Stanislas was the former King of Poland. He commissioned the construction of the “Place Royale” in the 1750s in honour of his son-in-law the French King Louis XV, featuring a four-metre high bronze statue of him. The statue of Louis XV was destroyed during the French revolution in 1789 and the square name was changed to “Place Stanislas”. They finally added the prominent statue of Stanislas in 1831.
Nancy’s Triumphal Arch
Although it’s not as impressive as Paris Triumphal Arch, it’s still a wonderful monument that deserves a mention on the list of the best things to do in Nancy.
Modelled on the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome, the Arc Héré (2) is was also built in the 18th century to honour Louis XV. It links the two UNESCO-listed square mentioned earlier: Place Stanislas and Place de la Carriere (3).
The face towards the Place Stanislas is better decorated, so make sure you see it that way and not the other way around.
Parc de la Pepiniere
The Parc de la Pepiniere (4) used to be the Royal Plant Nursery (translation of Pepiniere) but it’s now the biggest public park in the city. Adjacent to the two beautiful squares, it’s easy to add it to your itinerary for a lovely green break if you’re lucky to have lovely weather while you’re visiting Nancy.
There are many things to do in the park and locals sometimes spend a full day there. I stuck to a lunch break near the beautiful Rose Garden.
Nancy Old Town
I loved wandering around Nancy Old Town. The mix of medieval and Renaissance styles give Nancy a lot of charms and brings some kind of magic into the visit. It is a very pleasant place to explore on foot.
The medieval Porte de Craffe (7) is my favourite monument in the old town. You’ll see on your way there the Basilica Saint-Epvre (5) and the Ducal Palace (6). Porte Désille (8) is another nice door in Nancy.
Don’t miss the interesting Baroque interior of the city’s 18th-century Cathedral (9). You may even want to start with this when exploring Nancy.
Unfortunately, I cannot write any details about the museums you can visit in Nancy. I discovered when I arrived that they were all closed on Tuesdays so I didn’t get to see any. I would have loved to learn more about the Lorraine culture and history.
Nancy’s Regional Food Specialties
You probably know the French Quiche. In French, we call it Quiche Lorraine. And Nancy is the capital of the Lorraine. But there are a lot more regional dishes to try. My favourite one is the Choucroute (vegetarians, please look away!) – which is more famous as a dish from the nearby region Alsace but is also made in Lorraine. I love the Bouchée à la Reine (known to be a recipe from Louis XV’s wife) filled with mushrooms – and this last one can be vegetarian. The region Lorraine is also famous for its patés.
But what many visitors will be the most excited about are the sweet specialities of Nancy. It’s very reputed for its macarons and the lollies Bergamotes.
The region Lorraine used to produce a lot of wine before the XXth century. Unfortunately, an epidemic of the sadly famous pest phylloxera in 1890 killed most of the vines of the region. There are now around 90 producers in Lorraine for three main regions: côtes de Toul (the main one), côtes de Moselle and côtes de Meuse. The nearby region Alsace is more famous for its wineries.
Nancy’s region is the third producer of beers in France (after the north of France and – once again – Alsace). There was a boom in the creations of breweries in Lorraine after the French Revolution: from one in 1789 to 30 in 1810 and more than 350 in the early XXth century. Unfortunately, the two world wars affected this industry and the number of breweries has reduced a lot since. If you want to try local beers, head to La Capsule (21 Avenue Général Leclerc) or La Fabrique de bières (61 Avenue du XX Corps). If you really want to use your visit to Nancy to learn more about French beers, the Musée Français de la Brasserie (French Museum of Brewing) is in a small town 20-minute south of Nancy (open in the afternoon only from 2.30 pm to 6.30 pm).
For how long should you stay in Nancy?
Even a short visit is worth it. You can quickly check out the beautiful monuments in half a day. But there are enough things to do in Nancy to keep you busy for a couple of days.
I recommend visiting Nancy for a weekend break. If you’ve seen it all in one day, then why not combine this visit with the next-door town, Metz? They are less than 40mn from each other. By TGV, Strasbourg is not far away as well.
I cannot recommend a place to stay in Nancy as I went there for a day trip. However, if I could go back and stay longer, I’d look for accommodation in the old town not too far from Place Stanislas. I love the fact that everything is very close so we can walk everywhere! Click here to view available accommodation and book your hotel in Nancy*.
Map of this one-day itinerary to visit Nancy
How to go to Nancy
There are two major railways deserving Nancy: one directly to the town centre (Nancy Ville), and one is 20km away (Lorraine-TGV). It is only 1.5 hours away from Paris (with the high-speed train straight from Charles de Gaulle airport) and easily accessible from many French cities.
Nancy also has an international bus station. It will take more time than by high-speed train of course, but they sometimes offer attractive deals!