Image – Nancy at night, Copyright Atout France/Michel Laurent.
The prefecture of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Nancy was the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine until the mid-18th century. Nestling in the Côtes de Moselle, in a valley surrounded by hills, it is located a few kilometres from the confluence points of the Moselle and Meurthe rivers.
Nancy’s architectural and historic heritage is exceptional, and can be divided into three main periods.
The old town, with its streets around the Basilica of St. Epvre and the Craffe Gate, dates back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This is where you can find the Lorraine Museum, which has one of the finest sculpture collections in France, and the tombs of the Dukes of Lorraine.
The 18th century is well represented by three superb town squares that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Place Stanislas, named after the Polish king who took refuge in Nancy in the 17th century, with its magnificent fountains and railings by Jean Lamour, Place de la Carrière and Place d’Alliance. The 18th century is also when the main commercial roads were laid in the city centre.
Lastly, the 1900s and the famous Nancy School art movement find expression in all the Art Nouveau buildings. There are many of them to see, visit and admire, like the Brasserie Excelsior or the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Founded in 1901, the Nancy School brought together a dozen artists like Emile Gallé, Louis Majorelle, Jacques Gruber and Louis Hestaux, who brought renewal to the decorative arts, taking inspiration from the natural sciences. This art movement influenced the city’s appearance (ironwork, glasswork and ceramics, furniture, stained glass, etc.), giving it a unique character. The unmissable Nancy School Museum houses a collection of prestigious works of art. The districts of Saurupt and Nancy Thermal, with its Sainte-Marie Park, the commercial buildings between the city centre and the station, the Daum collection at the Museum of Fine Arts on Place Stanislas, with over 600 crystal pieces, or the Villa Majorelle, an Aan Art Nouveau gem, are all reminders of this artistic period.
Other sights to see are the Museum Aquarium, for its strange fish and its taxidermy collection; the Museum of Iron History; the Poirel Gallery, devoted to contemporary art and design; and the superb Jean-Marie Pelt Botanical Garden, with over 12,000 cultivated species!
When it comes to gastronomy, visitors will be delighted the typical local specialities: pâté lorrain pie and bouchées à la Reine vol-au-vents, a legacy of King Stanislas’ Court, mirabelle plums, macarons and bergamote sweets, Nancy cake and rum baba!
Nancy pays tribute to its patron saint, St. Nicholas, every year: accompanied by Father Whipper (Père Fouettard), he walks the city streets on 6 December, giving out chocolates and gingerbread to deserving children! Advent is also a high point in Lorraine: Nancy is no exception to tradition with its Christmas markets and festive entertainment.