The 13 Best Things to Do in Nancy, France

Last Updated on 20/04/2024 by secretmoona

Nancy, a destination located in northeastern France that is off the beaten path, is a fascinating place that offers visitors a perfect blend of history, culture, and architecture. This enchanting city is renowned for its elegant Art Nouveau heritage and UNESCO-listed Place Stanislas. Nancy has a rich architectural and cultural history, which makes it a perfect destination for those who appreciate such things.

The city offers a wide range of attractions that are ideal for a weekend trip or a longer stay. Despite being overlooked by many, Nancy is a stunning city that boasts a mix of medieval to Renaissance architecture, Art Deco, and, of course, Art Nouveau. Our guide to the best “things to do in Nancy, France” will hopefully give you an idea of the many attractions that the City of the Dukes of Lorraine offers.

Place Stanislas in Nancy France

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Is Nancy, France, Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! Nancy, France, is a city well worth visiting. This elegant city in the Grand Est region is known for its exquisite architecture, especially its stunning 18th-century UNESCO-listed Place Stanislas, a masterpiece of urban design. Nancy has a rich cultural heritage, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which features an impressive collection of artworks spanning centuries. The city’s bustling street life, charming cafes and lively markets offer a delightful ambience for exploration. In addition, Nancy hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year, ensuring that something exciting is always happening. Whether you are interested in history or art or want to immerse yourself in the French way of life, Nancy offers a fulfilling experience for any traveller.

Place Stanislas, Nancy France

History of Nancy, France

The town of Nancy has an interesting history. It all began when the Duke of Lorraine built a small village with fortification. Eventually, the village grew in size and importance and became the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine. In 1736, the French King Louis XV granted the title of Duke of Lorraine to his father-in-law, deposed King Stanislaw Leszczynski. The Duke then embarked on a project to modernize the town, replacing the medieval architecture with a more Baroque and Art Nouveau style.

Top Things to Do in Nancy, France

Nancy is a fantastic city with a variety of things to do and see. To ensure that you make the most of your stay, I recommend stopping by the Nancy Tourist Office and purchasing a Nancy City Pass, which is available for 1, 2, or 3 days. It provides access to museums, public transportation, and other attractions.Get your Nancy City Pass here.

Additionally, the Nancy Greeters, a group of friendly locals, offer free guided tours of the city. These volunteers are passionate about their city and love sharing their knowledge and experiences with visitors..
I have used Greeters in Toulouse and Nantes. They help you explore hidden neighborhoods and discover new places to love.

Marvel at the opulence of Place Stanislas

At the heart of Nancy lies the majestic Place Stanislas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and a masterpiece of 18th-century urban design. Therefore, it’s only natural that any exploration of the capital city of the Dukes of Lorraine should begin there. The square was inaugurated in 1755 and is framed by four elaborate wrought-iron gates and adorned with magnificent Rococo fountains. This grand square is a testament to the city’s rich history and architectural prowess, and it’s undoubtedly one of the grandest squares in France and Europe combined!

A statue of King Stanislas on a pedestal in front of Nancy Town Hall - Nancy, France
Statue of King Stanislas, Duke of Lorraine

The square is named after King Stanislas Leszcznski, the deposed King of Poland and Duke of Lorraine, and his statue is located at the centre of the square. The former king was also the father-in-law of King Louis XV, and played a pivotal role in the transformation of Nancy. Stunning buildings, including the Nancy Town Hall, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Opera House surround the square. Be sure to take a leisurely stroll along its cobblestone paths, admire the opulent facades of the surrounding buildings, relax on the terrace of a restaurant, and enjoy the timeless beauty of Place Stanislas.

In the summer, Place Stanislas turns into a bustling place thanks to the many events happening there throughout the year. The terraces are packed with locals and tourists alike, enjoying a drink and taking in the lovely atmosphere.

Visit Place de la Carrière and Place d’Alliance

There are three important squares in the city of Nancy, one of which is the well-known Place Stanislas. The other two squares are Place de la Carrière and Place d’Alliance. Both of these squares were designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1983. Although they may not be as ornate as Place Stanislas, they are still worth a visit.

Place de la Carrière is a long square leading to the Governor’s Palace – an 18th-century building now serving as a museum. The square is adorned with a beautiful triumphal arch built in King Louis XV’s honour.

On the other hand, Place d’Alliance is smaller but equally charming. It boasts of a well-maintained garden that is sure to capture your heart.

Stroll along the historic centre, a blend of medieval quarter and Renaissance structures

When you visit Nancy, taking a relaxing stroll through the city centre and the old town is a must. The picturesque streets of the old town are perfect for admiring the mix of architecture. The old town’s narrow streets and the renaissance streets in the new town are seamlessly connected but have different moods and vibes.

The new city, or Ville Neuf in French, was established in 1588 and is the commercial centre of Nancy, home to all the shops, covered markets, and more. On the other hand, the old town, or Vielle Ville, is characterized by narrow streets, arts and crafts shops, galleries, and more. Walking in the old town feels like walking back in time, where you can see the beauty of Nancy.

Place Saint-Epvre - Nancy France
Place Saint-Epvre

While exploring, be sure to check out the Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Annonciation with its unique Baroque interior, the historical city gate of Porte Saint-Georges, the Eglise des Cordeliers with its chapel, and the Covered Market.

Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy

One must-visit activity in Nancy is the Nancy Museum of Fine Arts located on Place Stanislas. The museum boasts a rich and varied collection of French and European paintings, spanning from the 14th to the 21st century. The museum’s collection includes altarpieces, post-Impressionists, contemporary art, and furniture. 

The Daum collection of Art Deco glassworks displayed in the lower floor, located between remnants of the city walls and bastions, is a highlight of the museum visit. As you walk around, you see rows after rows of sparking, beautifully hancrafted cristal. The museum also hosts frequent temporary exhibitions and cultural events. 

Whether it’s a rainy day or not, the Museum of Fine Arts is a must-visit attraction in Nancy, France.

Admire the Arc Héré

A large white archway with statues on top and people walking around with Place Stanislas in the background

The Arc Héré, also known as the Porte Héré, is a magnificent triumphal arch situated on the northern side of Place Stanislas. This, along with the other buildings around the square, is a testament to Nancy’s grandeur. The arch links Place Stanislas with Place Carrière and is truly stunning. It was inspired by the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome and was built to glorify King Louis XV.

In fact, it was constructed on the site of an old royal gate. The Arc was declared a historic monument in 1923. It is one of the many architectural wonders that form part of the ensemble, including the Place Stanislas, the Place de la Carrière, and the Place d’Alliance, which were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Visit the Palais des Ducs de Lorraines

The Palais des Ducs de Lorraine (Ducal Palace of Nancy) is a beautiful site located not far from Place Stanislas. The palace is a magnificent structure dating back to the 15th century and showcases both Renaissance and Gothic architecture. Like many buildings in Nancy, the Ducal Palace is adorned with an ornate facade, which reflects the duke’s ambitions.

Currently, the palace houses the Musée Lorrain (Lorrain Museum), which displays art and antiques from the historical Lorrain region. Next to the museum is the Eglise des Cordeliers, which is worth visiting because of its round chapel.

Discover the Art Nouveau buildings (Ecole de Nancy Museum & Villa Majorelle)

Nancy is renowned for its commitment to Art Nouveau, an artistic movement that left an indelible mark on the city. The Musée de l’École de Nancy and the Villa Majorelle are two must-visit destinations for Art Nouveau enthusiasts.

However, you don’t have to visit these museums to admire the Art Nouveau in Nancy. Simply walking around the city and keeping an eye on the buildings can be an enjoyable experience. The Nancy Tourist Office has made things easier for you by providing a map and brochure detailing all the Art Nouveau structures in the city. Some of these buildings feature beautiful ironwork and colourful stained glass windows on their facades. Don’t hesitate to enter some of these buildings, as their interiors are just as impressive as their exteriors. Some of the notable buildings include the Crédit Lyonnais and BNP Paribas Fortis banks, the Brasserie l’Excelsior, and Biet House.

If you prefer to learn as you visit, you can join a guided tour with the Nancy Tourist Office.

Visit L’Ecole de Nancy Museum

To better understand the significance of the Art Nouveau style and design, you should visit the L’Ecole de Nancy Museum. It is housed in the former home of Eugene Corbin, a sponsor of the Art Nouveau movement. The Art Nouveau movement began in 1901 by a collective of artists, furniture designers, glassmakers, and architects, including Antonin Daum, Louis Majorelle, Émile Gallé, Victor Prouvé, Jacques Gruber, and Eugene Vallin.

The museum features a stunning collection of some of the finest examples of Art Nouveau art and design objects, including furniture, glasswork, lamps, ceramics, stained glass, and fabrics. You will be amazed by the beauty of the pieces on display, characterized by their curved lines. Visitors can also explore the lovely garden during their museum visit.

Appreciate Villa Majorelle

After visiting the L’Ecole de Nancy Museum, you can head to the Villa Majorelle, another great example of the Art Nouveau style. Louis Majorelle was a decorator and furniture designer and one of the founding members of the Art Nouveau style. He also served as the vice president of the Ecole de Nancy. Immerse yourself in the past by visiting this house.

Explore the religious buildings (Basilica Saint-Epvre & Nancy Cathedral)

Visit Basilica Saint-Epvre

Basilica Saint-Epvre in Nancy France

An interesting building in the old town of Nancy is the Basilica Saint-Epvre. This magnificent building was originally a Gothic church, which was later rebuilt between 1865 and 1874 in a neo-Gothic style that perfectly blends with the architecture of the old town. The high spire of the Basilica dominates the Place Sainte-Epvre and can be seen from far away in the city.

Admire the Beauty of Nancy Cathedral

A street with cars parked on it in Nancy France

Nancy Cathedral is a well-known religious site situated at the heart of the town of Nancy. It was constructed in the early 18th century and is located in the Ville Neuve (city centre). During the French Revolution, the cathedral was temporarily transformed into a temple. Over the course of history, the cathedral has been subjected to numerous desecrations. However, in 1867, it gained the status of a privileged basilica.

Admire Porte de la Craffe (City gate)

A stone gate with pointed roofs - Nancy France

The impressive Craffe Gate (Porte de la Craffe) is one of the city’s remaining medieval architecture. This gate was built in the 14th century and serves as a historic fortification that offers a glimpse into the past. The Craffe Gate marked the old town’s entrance, consisting of two twin towers connected by thick walls. During the time of its construction, the gate was used as a prison until the French Revolution. After the construction of the Craffe Gate, another gate was built to complete the defence of the city. An arched passage connects the Porte de la Citadelle and the Craffe Gate.

Stroll Park de la Pépiniére

If you’re searching for a peaceful and quiet activity to do in Nancy, then you should definitely visit the Pepiniere Park, also known as the Parc de la Pépinière or “la Pep’”. The park spans over 21 acres of land and is just moments away from Place Stanislas. It’s a beautiful gem of a park that is often referred to as “the lungs of the city”.

As you explore the park, you’ll find many different activities that you can enjoy, such as taking a leisurely stroll, running, playing mini-golf or having a picnic. One of the park’s most notable features is the little farm, which is home to a variety of wild animals, such as goats, donkeys, peacocks and more. You should also make sure not to miss the rose garden while you’re there.

Relax the Jardin Botanique Jean-Marie Pelt

If you are a nature lover and enjoy spending time amidst lush green spaces, then the Jardin Botanique Jean-Marie Pelt is another garden to include on your list of things to do in Nancy. Spread across 27 hectares of hilly terrain; this botanical garden boasts a diverse collection of plant species and flowers from all around the world. The garden’s 2,500 m2 tropical greenhouses are home to hundreds of tropical plants, making it a unique experience altogether. Although located outside Nancy, it’s an ideal destination for a refreshing afternoon away from the city.

Street art tour ADN “Art dans Nancy”

Nancy is known for its culture and art. The city is like an open-air museum with numerous art installations scattered all around. Thanks to the Nancy Tourist Office, visitors can explore works of art from both established and emerging artists at their own pace. The ADN (Art Dans Nancy) is an app that can be downloaded to discover beautiful frescoes and other installations.

Make a Day Trip to Metz

If you are in Nancy, France, do not miss the chance to take a day trip to the charming city of Metz. Just a short train ride away, Metz offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and culinary delights waiting to be explored. You can wander through its picturesque streets adorned with stunning architecture, including the majestic Cathedral of Saint Stephen. You can also indulge in art at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, which showcases contemporary masterpieces against a backdrop of innovative design. You can also taste the local gastronomy, savouring traditional delicacies at quaint cafes and bistros. With its rich heritage and vibrant atmosphere, Metz will be an unforgettable addition to your visit to Nancy.

Practical Information about Nancy, France

Where is Nancy, France

Nancy is located in northeastern France, specifically in the region of Grand-Est (formerly known as Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine). It is approximately 350 km (217 miles) to the east of Paris and 56 km (35 miles) south of Metz. Nancy is well-connected to other major cities, with several means of transportation available for easy access. Its location is also close to the borders of Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium.

Nancy France Map

How to Get to Nancy

Plane:
There are two airports that connect to Nancy, namely Metz-Nancy-Lorraine Airport and Luxembourg Airport. The former is a regional airport that offers both domestic and international flights. You can conveniently reach the city centre from the airport by taking the airport shuttle bus or a taxi. Luxembourg Airport is the nearest international airport and is connected to Nancy through Flibco airport buses.

Train:
Fast and frequent TGV and Ouigo trains can take you from Gare de l’Est in Paris to Gare de Nancy SNCF (also known as Gare de Nancy-Ville) in just 90 minutes. Slower Intercités trains can take under three hours. Gare de Nancy is located at Place Thiers, about 10 to 15 minutes from Place Stanislas and Vieille Ville-Léopold. TGV train service is also available to Gare de Lorraine TGV station, which is just 35 minutes away from Gare de Nancy by shuttle buses. This is perfect if you are coming from other major French cities such as Bordeaux or Lyon. Book your train tickets with Omio here.

Inside the TGV train with seats and windows

Bus:
You can reach Nancy through ISI Lines, OUIBus, Eurolines, and Flixbus buses. Journeys from Paris (Gallieni) to Nancy take about 4 to 6 hours. Local bus and tram services in Nancy are provided by Le réseau Stan, and trips cost €1.75 (slightly cheaper with the app). Many bus and tram stops have ticket machines near them, so you can buy your pass (ticket) before boarding the tram or bus.

Car:
Nancy is conveniently reachable by car as France has an excellent motorway network. It takes approximately four hours to drive from Paris via the A4 motorway. If you are travelling from the north of France, you will need to join the A4 at Reims. On the other hand, if you are coming from the south of France, you should take the A6 motorway to Dijon and then continue on the A31 towards Nancy. Rent your car here with DiscoverCars.

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Getting around Nancy

Nancy is an easy city to navigate on foot. Actually, apart from getting the bus to the botanical garden, I’ve walked everywhere. There are plenty of places to stop between attractions to relax and enjoy the beauty of the city.

Where to Stay in Nancy

There is no shortage of places to stay in Nancy. I’ve opted for a hotel as part of the ALL Accor brand, as I am a member. The Mercure Place Stanislas is 4* located less than 10 minutes from Place Stanislas. The hotel was lovely, with nice decor right from the lobby to the rooms. Although my room faced another brick wall, I wasn’t bothered by it as the room was extremely clean and comfortable.

 

How many days should you spend in Nancy, France?

There are plenty of activities to enjoy in Nancy, France that would require a minimum of 2 to 3 days. While most of the popular attractions, such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts, are located near Place Stanislas and can be visited in one day, it is recommended to spend at least 2 to 3 days to fully appreciate the city’s charming streets, markets, shops, and magnificent Art Nouveau buildings. This will give you ample time to leisurely explore the area and enjoy all that it has to offer.

Where to Eat in Nancy

Just like the accommodation, a full range of restaurant options is available in Nancy. Place Stanislas alone has several, however, for a more local experience, it is best to eat in the many restaurants away from the touristy square. Here are some places to check out:

Where to eat in Nancy France - Voyou Burger
Voyou Burger
  • Voyou – For a more casual and laid-back atmosphere, especially if you’re in the mood for burgers during your visit, the restaurant located on rue Stanislas, just a few steps from the square, offers a wide variety of burger options, including vegetarian choices.
  • L’Excelsior – The brasserie restaurant, founded in 1911 near the station, showcases Nancy School’s Art Nouveau movement, offering deliciously refined French cuisine.
  • Pidélice – This Greek restaurant is located on rue Raymond-Poincaré near the train station and offers delicious vegetarian meals.

Thank you for reading our guide to the things to do in Nancy, France. As you can see, the city is pretty amazing with lots to see and do. If you love the architecture of Paris but want to avoid the crowds, Nancy makes for a pretty good alternative.


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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

6 thoughts on “The 13 Best Things to Do in Nancy, France

  1. Nancy looks like a wonderful hidden gem. I love the Alsace region! Thank you for adding this city to my radar. 🙂

  2. I have to laugh that the “New City” is about three hundred years OLDER than my country! I love all the centuries of history in France…

  3. I’ve never heard of Nancy! As beautiful as it is though, I’m surprised at that. It seems like such a great place to visit for art lovers that’s off the beaten path.

  4. I love it when a blog pops up about a specific place I’ve been thinking about. My husband and I have been talking about a month in Bordeaux next year. We were looking at the map and considering things in the vicinity and Nancy popped up. I have never been but now we know more! Saving this for our travel planning!!

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