Named after the medieval kingdom of Lotharingia, the cabochon of northeastern France, Lorraine is full of gorgeous historic cities and stunning scenery that will sweep you off your feet. The 23,547 km2 region is home to some spectacular forests, rivers, lakes, rolling hills, and mineral springs.
Whether you are one of those who appreciate art and culture, or history buffs, or those looking for a relaxing and soothing vacation, Lorraine has something for everyone. Making sure you have the best time while in the region, here are our top picks for the best things to do in the Lorraine region.
Lorraine‘s Dearest Nancy!
You may know someone with that name, but did you know that there is a whole city with that same name! Nancy is the name of the old capital of Lorraine, and the city is famous for its intoxicating 18th-century Baroque architecture.
The city is home to one of Europe’s most glorious squares, which is the UNESCO-listed Place Stanislas. Place Stanislas is a neoclassical square designed by Emmanuel Héré in the 1750s.
In the middle of the square, there is the statue of the Polish-born duke of Lorraine Stanisław Leszczyński, whom the square was named after. The square also includes marvelous buildings like the hôtel de ville and Opéra National de Lorraine.
While visiting the square, make sure to get a good shot of the fascinating wrought-iron gates of the open corners that were created by Jean Lamour. Another thing you must capture on camera is the beautiful Fountains of Neptune and Amphitrite of the sculptor Guibal, and there is also the Fountain of the Place d’Alliance by Paul-Louis Cyfflé.
Visiting the square is one of the top things to do in the Lorraine region; the whole square is full of lustrous masterpieces.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts
Next on the list of things you should do while visiting the city of Nancy is going to the Musée des Beaux-Arts. The Musée des Beaux-Arts is one of the oldest museums in France; it is located inside the Place Stanislas in one of its pavilions.
The museum has a superb collection of European paintings from the 14th to 20th centuries with a gallery dedicated to Jean Prouvé.
The paintings inside are displayed in chronological order starting with the 14th- to 17th-century work of Perugino, Tintoretto, and Jan van Hemessen to the 17th- to 19th-century paintings of the Rubens, Monet, Picasso, and Caravaggio ilk. The tour inside the museum will take you to a different world full of classy art.
Musée de l’École de Nancy
Another amazing museum that you must add to your list is the Musée de l’École de Nancy. The museum’s setting is quite pleasant with outdoor fountains and refreshing flower-work. Inside the museum, you will see some of the finest Art Nouveau stained-glass, furniture, ceramic arts, and glassware that you will ever see in your life.
With each piece inside the museum, you will be able to sense the décor of the time the piece belonged to. Visiting the Musée de l’École de Nancy is absolutely a time well-spent!
Metz…. The Green City
You can’t make it to the Lorraine region without paying a visit to Green City…Metz. The city is located in northern France at the tripoint of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, and it is the current capital of the Lorraine region.
Thanks to its strategic location, the city brings a sweet cultural mixture from France, Germany, and Luxembourg. The city is bursting with amazing things to do and see.
First on the list is a visit to the Saint-Étienne de Metz cathedral. Known as la Lanterne du Bon Dieu” (The Lantern of God), the gothic Saint-Étienne de Metz cathedral is 6,500-square meters of unique stained-glass windows that will take your breath away.
The cathedral has one of the tallest naves in Europe and the third-tallest nave of cathedrals in France, reaching 42 meters high. The cathedral earned its nickname because of its stained-glass windows that allow the sunshine to illuminate the sanctuary.
Another major touristic attraction in the city of Metz is the Musée de La Cour d’Or. The museum is positioned inside the La Cour d’Or, which is a building named after the palace of Merovingian Kings.
The museum has three major collections: antiquities, medieval art, and fine art. The collections include several great works like Gallo-Roman baths and the Eglise des Trinitaires, which is a nice Baroque church from 1720.
The antiquities collection features mosaics, statues, and everyday objects from the Gallo-Roman city of Divodurum. Whereas the medieval collection has religious art, Merovingian tombs, and medieval treasures of the 11th century.
As for the fine arts collection, this one features French, Dutch, German, and Flemish paintings from the 16th to 20th centuries. The museum has something for every taste, and its visit is one of the best things we recommend doing while in Metz city.
Bar-le-Duc…Home of the Renaissance Festival
Labeled as Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (City of Art and History), Bar-le-Duc is one of France’s “Most Beautiful Detours” and one of the most enchanting cities to visit in the Lorraine region. The city’s upper town is a preserved area that will take you on a journey to ancient times.
With its ochre-coloured streets and amazing stone facades, Bar-le-Duc is the best place to explore France’s Renaissance heritage.
One of the places we recommend visiting in the city is the landmark Saint-Étienne Church, which includes the remarkable piece of work “Le Transi” by the famous sculptor Ligier Richie. Another landmark of the city is its annual Renaissance Festival.
The festival takes place in early July, and it witnesses the gathering of theater companies, troubadours, and performers who take the Renaissance district of Bar-le-Duc by storm. With a wide range of events and activities, the festival is a sweet blend of street entertainment and ancient music.
Try to make it to Bar-le-Duc in July; you will have a great time at the festival, it is like nothing else.
Gérardmer: The Town for Sports
The town of Gérardmer is located near the German border, and it is famous for being a ski resort, with a high-speed chairlift and slalom course. Gérardmer is an excellent vacation destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts with the perfect setting for an exhilarating skiing experience along the town’s tree-lined slopes.
If you are not into skiing, then we recommend going to the town in summertime, that is when the water sports at the glacial lake Lac de Gérardmer starts. In Lac de Gérardmer, you can enjoy water sports such as sailing and canoeing. The town is also a perfect playground for sports like hiking, walking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Vittel: A Place to Relax….
Vittel is a historic spa town with a setting brimming with relaxation and rejuvenation. The town is very popular for its iconic spa Les Thermes de Vittel. The world-class spa offers a variety of first-rate services such as pampering and thermal hydrotherapy treatments that relax the muscles and promote well-being.
Treat yourself to treatment while there; we highly recommend the Oriental hammam; you will feel so much better afterward.
Another key element of the town is its thermal waters, which have been celebrated for their health benefits for centuries. It all started in the 1st century AD when the ancient Roman general Vitellius found out about the healing properties of Vittel’s local waters.
Later on, during the Belle Epoque era, the town’s thermal waters were rekindled, and that was when many hotels were built in the town of Vittel to accommodate the coming visitors…. And the visitors keep on coming up until this day!
If you are looking for something a bit extra, then we suggest spending the night at the luxurious Club Med Vittel Le Parc or the Club Med Vittel Ermitage, which has an Art Deco facade, and an 18-hole golf course, among other things. There are also more on-budget options like the four-star Hotel Mercure Vittel and Le Chalet Vitellius.
To enjoy more thermal water, you can head to the town of Bains-Les-Bains; it is a 45-minute drive from Vittel. Bains-Les-Bains also has thermal springs, which have been used since Roman times.
Whether it is for winter sports, or historic places, or its spas, the region of Lorraine is a great vacation destination that should be on your bucket list.