Must see attractions in Lorraine

  • Top ChoiceSights in Nancy

    Musée des Beaux-Arts

    Lodged in a regal 18th-century edifice, Nancy's standout gallery occupies art lovers for hours. A wrought-iron staircase curls gracefully up to the 2nd floor, where a chronological spin begins with 14th- to 17th-century paintings by the likes of Perugino, Tintoretto and Jan van Hemessen. The 1st floor spotlights 17th- to 19th-century masterpieces of the Rubens, Monet, Picasso and Caravaggio ilk. A collection of Jean Prouvé furnishings, impressionist and modern art and a dazzling Daum crystal collection hide in the basement.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Metz

    Cathédrale St-Étienne

    The lacy golden spires of this Gothic cathedral crown Metz’ skyline. Exquisitely lit by kaleidoscopic curtains of 13th- to 20th-century stained glass, the cathedral is nicknamed ‘God’s lantern’ and its sense of height is spiritually uplifting. Notice the flamboyant Chagall windows in startling jewel-coloured shades of ruby, gold, sapphire, topaz and amethyst in the ambulatory, which also harbours the treasury. A sculpture of the Graoully (‘grau-lee’), a dragon said to have terrified pre-Christian Metz, lurks in the 15th-century crypt.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Nancy

    Place Stanislas

    Nancy’s crowning glory is this grand neoclassical square and Unesco World Heritage Site. Designed by Emmanuel Héré in the 1750s, it was named after the enlightened, Polish-born duke of Lorraine, whose statue stands in the middle. The square is home to an opulent ensemble of pale-stone buildings, including the hôtel de ville and Opéra National de Lorraine, as well as gilded wrought-iron gateways by Jean Lamour and rococo fountains by Guibal – look out for the one of a trident-bearing Neptune.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Metz

    Centre Pompidou-Metz

    Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, with a curved roof resembling a space-age Chinese hat, the architecturally innovative Centre Pompidou-Metz is the star of Metz' art scene. The satellite branch of Paris’ Centre Pompidou draws on Europe’s largest modern-art collection to stage ambitious temporary exhibitions, such as the figurative cubist creations of French artist and sculptor Fernand Léger and the bold avant-garde works of German Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer. The dynamic space also hosts cultural events, talks and youth projects.

  • Sights in Verdun

    Citadelle Souterraine

    Comprising 7km of underground galleries, this cavernous subterranean citadel was designed by military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban in the 17th century and completed in 1838. In 1916 it was turned into an impregnable command centre in which 10,000 poilus (French WWI soldiers) lived, waiting to be dispatched to the front. About 10% of the galleries have been converted into an audiovisual re-enactment of Verdun's WWI history. Half-hour, battery-powered-car tours, available in six languages, should be booked ahead.

  • Sights in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon

    Romagne ’14 -’18

    This heart-rending museum, which, in the words of owner Jean-Paul de Vries, is all about ‘life stories’ and ‘the human being behind the helmet’. Artefacts are shown in the state in which they were found – rust, dirt and all. The museum is a 40-minute drive northwest of Verdun via the D964 and D123.

  • Sights in Verdun

    Ossuaire de Douaumont

    Rising like a gigantic artillery shell above 15,000 crosses that bleed into the distance, this sombre, 137m-long ossuary, inaugurated in 1932, is one of France’s most important WWI memorials. A ticket to the 20-minute audiovisual presentation (adult/child €6/3) on the battle also lets you climb the 46m-high bell tower. Out front, the French military cemetery is flanked by memorials to Muslim and Jewish soldiers (to the east and west, respectively) who died fighting for France in WWI.

  • Sights in Verdun

    Fort de Douaumont

    Sitting high on a hill, this is the strongest of the 38 fortresses and bastions built along a 45km front to protect Verdun. When the Battle of Verdun began, 400m-long Douaumont – whose 3km network of cold, dripping galleries was built between 1885 and 1913 – had only a skeleton crew. By the fourth day it had been captured easily, a serious blow to French morale; four months later, it was retaken by colonial troops from Morocco.

  • Sights in Verdun

    Mémorial de Verdun

    The village of Fleury, wiped off the face of the earth in the course of being captured and recaptured 16 times, is now the site of this memorial. It tells the story of ‘300 days, 300,000 dead, 400,000 wounded’, with insightful displays of war artefacts and personal items. Downstairs you’ll find a recreation of the battlefield as it looked on the day the guns finally fell silent.

  • Sights in Metz

    Fort du Hackenberg

    The largest single Maginot Line bastion in the Metz area was the 1000-man Fort du Hackenberg, whose 10km of galleries were designed to be self-sufficient for three months and, in battle, to fire 4 tonnes of shells a minute. An electric trolley takes visitors along 4km of tunnels – always at 12°C – past subterranean installations. Tours last two hours. The fort is around 35km northeast of Metz via the D2 or A35.

  • Sights in Nancy

    Musée Lorrain

    Once home to the dukes of Lorraine, the regal Renaissance Palais Ducal now shelters the Musée Lorrain. The rich fine arts and history collection spotlights medieval statuary, engravings and lustrous faience (glazed pottery). The regional art and folklore collection occupies a 15th-century former Franciscan monastery. Inside, the Gothic Église des Cordeliers and the 17th-century Chapelle Ducale, modelled on the Medici Chapel in Florence, served as the burial place of the dukes of Lorraine.

  • Sights in Verdun

    Fort de Vaux

    Located in crater-scarred countryside 10km northeast of Verdun, this fort was constructed between 1881 and 1884. It was the second fort – Douaumont was the first – to fall in the Battle of Verdun, and became the site of the bloodiest battle for two months. Weak with thirst, Major Raynal and his troops surrendered to the enemy on 7 June 1916. You can gain an insight into past horrors by taking a tour of its dank interior and observation points.

  • Sights in Metz

    Musée La Cour d’Or

    Delve into the past at this trove of Gallo-Roman antiquities, hiding remnants of the city’s Roman baths and a statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis unearthed right here in Metz. Your visit continues with art from the Middle Ages, paintings from the 15th century onwards, and artefacts revealing the history of Metz’ ancient Jewish community. A room-by-room brochure in English is available.

  • Sights in Lorraine

    Lorraine American Cemetery

    Verdun had a significant military presence from the end of WWII until Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO’s integrated military command in 1966. Surrounded by woodland and set in landscaped grounds, this is the largest US WWII military cemetery in Europe. The cemetery is a 30-minute drive east of Metz via the A4 motorway.

  • Sights in Nancy

    Musée de l’École de Nancy

    A highlight of a visit to Nancy, the Musée de l’École de Nancy brings together an exquisite collection of art-nouveau interiors, curvaceous glass and landscaped gardens. It’s housed in a 19th-century villa about 2km southwest of the centre; to get there take bus 6 (Painlevé stop) or bus 6, 7 or 8 (Nancy Thermal stop).

  • Sights in Nancy

    Villa Majorelle

    The whimsical Villa Majorelle, built by Henri Sauvage in 1901, bears the hallmarks of Majorelle (furniture) and Gruber (stained glass). The centrepiece is Les Blés dining room, with its vine-like stone fireplace. Advance telephone bookings are essential.

  • Sights in Nancy

    Vieille Ville

    A saunter through the charming old town takes in the silver-turreted, 14th-century Porte de la Craffe, Nancy’s oldest city gate, and place St-Epvre, dominated by ornate neo-Gothic Basilique St-Epvre.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon

    Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery

    The largest US military cemetery in Europe is this WWI ground, where 14,246 soldiers lie buried – a sobering sea of white crosses reaching as far as the eye can see. The cemetery is located 41km northwest of Verdun along the D38 and D123.

  • Sights in Metz

    Quartier Impérial

    The stately boulevards and bourgeois villas of the German Imperial Quarter, including rue Gambetta and av Foch, are the brainchild of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Philippe Starck lamp posts contrast with Teutonic sculptures, whose common theme is German imperial might, at the monumental Rhenish neo-Romanesque train station, completed in 1908. The massive main post office, built in 1911 of red Vosges sandstone, is as solid and heavy as the cathedral is light and lacy.

  • Sights in Verdun

    Tranchée des Baïonnettes

    On 12 June 1916, two companies of the 137th Infantry Regiment of the French army were sheltered in their tranchées (trenches), baïonnettes (bayonets) fixed, waiting for a ferocious artillery bombardment to end. It never did – the incoming shells covered their positions with mud and debris, burying them alive. They were found three years later, when someone spotted several hundred bayonet tips sticking out of the ground. Today the site is marked by a simple memorial that is always open.