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. I wasn’t sure back then if Nancy was worth visiting, but I ended up having a good time around the small city. Here are my tips and itinerary to spend one day in Nancy.
Is Nancy worth visiting?
Absolutely. Nancy is worth visiting, and some even say it’s one of the most beautiful towns in Europe. Nancy makes an excellent day trip or weekend trip visit.
There are a lot of things to see in Nancy, and most of them are free. Nancy is known for its impressive and grandiose architecture. You’ll find UNESCO heritage-listed buildings around town and an interesting mix of medieval and Renaissance styles. And a visit to Nancy is also a good opportunity to try famous local food specialties, sweet and savoury (see below for more details).
Plus, it’s easy to organise a day trip to Nancy as you can easily go there by train and then simply walk from the station (Nancy-Ville). It will also often be on your itinerary if you’re going from France to Germany or Luxembourg.
The must-see places for a day trip to Nancy
The numbers in brackets refer to the number on the map of things to do in Nancy at the end of the article.
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. All those who’ve been to Nancy agree. Place Stanislas was even elected the French people’s favourite monument in 2021.
Built in the 18th century, it is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and ranked as one of the most attractive squares in the world. It looks 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 on 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 to 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 Héré
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) was, like Place Stanislas, built in the 18th century to honour Louis XV. It links the two UNESCO-listed squares of the city: Place Stanislas and Place de la Carriere (3).
The face towards 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 took my lunch break near the beautiful Rose Garden.
With only one day in Nancy, I didn’t have time to visit the port on the river Moselle. But you should give it a go if you’re staying for an extra day and are keen on checking out another relaxing spot in Nancy. The botanic garden Jean-Marie Pelt or Sainte-Marie Park are other lovely options.
Nancy Old Town
I loved wandering around Nancy Old Town. The mix of medieval and Renaissance styles gives 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) from the 14th century 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, with a very different style.
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 visit any. I would have loved to learn more about the Lorraine culture and history. Villa Majorelle and the Museum of Nancy School are the most reputed ones. You’ll also find the Beaux Art Museum on Place Stanislas.
Nancy’s regional food specialties
You probably know the French Quiche. In French, we call it Quiche Lorraine. And Nancy is the capital of Lorraine. But there are a lot more regional dishes to try. My favourite one is the Choucroute aka sauerkraut (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 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, and often listed as one of the best wine regions in France.
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 creation 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?
Nancy is worth visiting even if you only have a short time to spend in the city. 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*.
When is the best time to visit Nancy?
You can visit Nancy all year round. I prefer going there in summer or spring as the chances of having beautiful weather are higher, and I don’t particularly like walking in the rain. Nancy has a very special atmosphere during the festive season, especially as Saint Nicholas approaches (December 6th).
But even in Autumn, Nancy is worth visiting. They organise many events and festivals so the town stays lively even when the days get shorter.
Map of this one-day itinerary to visit Nancy
How to get 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. You can visit Nancy on a day trip from Paris by train. There are even high-speed trains coming from Lille (2 hrs) and Bordeaux (5hrs10).
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.
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