Nancy, France that is. An hour and 45 minute high speed train ride from Paris Gare de l’Est, and you’ll arrive in this beautiful, if underrated city in northeastern France. Stepping out of the train station, it feels quite like any other mid-sized city in France with its tramway, brasseries, bakeries, cafés, and shops lining the streets, but a few blocks into the city center, you’ll happen upon the real treasure of the city, Place Stanislas.
Place Stan, as it’s known among locals, is the heart of Nancy and is a classified UNESCO World Heritage site. The square is almost fully enclosed by the facades of the City Hall, Opera, Grand Hotel and a few luxurious restaurants and night clubs. It’s the hosting place for community and cultural events, a common meeting place among friends, and in general, is the site to be seen. Go ahead, take a look!
Place Stanislas is not only a visually stunning site, it was designed with a functional purpose in mind. The square was a project conceived of by Stanislaw Lesczynski, King of Poland and father in law of King Louis XV. It served to connect the old town of Nancy to the more modern part of the city, and walking through Place Stan today, the distinction between these two parts of town, is still quite marked. Cross through to the Vielle Ville (old town) and this is where you’ll find the tiny winding allies, gothic style church, and cobblestone pedestrian streets so reminiscent of old Europe. You’ll also find the bakery of the best croissant in all of France (I can tell you this with certainty, as a self-proclaimed croissant connoisseur- but really, I’ve tasted enough to know).
Walking through Place Stan to the northeastern corner, passing just beyond the elaborate fountain and gilded wrought-iron gate, you’ll enter into the best park in Nancy, la Pépinière, affectionately known by Nanciens as “La Pep.” A perfect dose of tranquility and a jogger’s paradise, the park has something for everyone, including soccer fields, a rose garden, a play area for kids, plenty of benches to rest and people watch, and even a (very modest) zoo.
While the heart of Nancy is indeed Place Stanislas, venturing a bit outside the city center to roam through the neighborhoods is a cultural visit itself as well. Known for its contribution to the Art Nouveau movement, Nancy boasts beautiful architecture, ornate balconies and doorways. To see Art Nouveau beyond the architecture outside, you can also visit L’école de Nancy, a museum devoted to the Art Nouveau movement, where you can also see furniture, and home decorative pieces created in this style.
The next time you plan to visit Paris, think about a day trip to Nancy!