Metz and Nancy are two of the most visited cities in Lorraine. Each one has a fascinating history and is full of incredible things to do, making it difficult to choose between them.
I’ve been living in France for more than six years and have explored both towns extensively. I know the top attractions, the best places to eat, and all the must-visit sites in both cities.
And I often get asked, “Which one is better, Metz or Nancy?”
The truth is it depends on what you prefer.
In this post, I’ll cover both cities in detail so you can decide which is right for you.
An Overview: Metz or Nancy
When it comes to choosing between Metz and Nancy, it ultimately depends on what you look for in a destination.
Think of Nancy as an elegant, sophisticated city that blends UNESCO World Heritage Sites with Art Nouveau architecture.
Metz, on the other hand, is a picturesque hidden gem with a cozy atmosphere, incredible museums, and stunning historical sites.
Below I’ve summarized the best city for each travel style:
✓ Best for History Lovers – Nancy
✓ Best for Foodies – Nancy
✓ Best for Culture – Nancy
✓ Best for Museums – Metz
✓ Best for a Romantic Weekend – Metz
✓ Best Base for Day Trips – Metz
✓ Best for Nature – Both
Which is Better Nancy or Metz?
Nancy is renowned for its Art Nouveau style, boasting a rich history and stunning architecture.
The city’s main square, Place Stanislas, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It’s also home to several world-class museums like the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Musée Lorraine.
But what I loved most about Nancy were the parks. My personal favorite was the Parc de la Pépinière. It’s a green oasis in the center of town, and its rose garden is stunning during the summer.
Then, of course, there’s the food scene. There are tons of delicious restaurants around town. But the biggest draw is Nancy’s version of the macaron. It’s worth stopping by just to try one.
In contrast, Metz has a more intimate feel and offers a charming mix of old-world charm and modernity. The city also has an impressive number of museums and monuments.
The Centre Pompidou-Metz, which showcases contemporary art, was my favorite museum. But the Porte des Allemands was the highlight of my visit.
The Saint-Étienne Cathedral or Metz Cathedral is another must-see. It has the largest stained-glass surface area of any cathedral in the world and stands as a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.
Finally, Metz has tons of green space. The Jardin de l’Esplanade de Metz has beautiful gardens while Jardins Jean-Marie Pelt – Parc de la Seille offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle.
So, which one is better – Nancy or Metz?
The answer depends on what you’re looking for.
If you want a city with a vibrant culture and art scene, then Nancy is the better choice. But if you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere with a mix of history and modernity, Metz is your destination.
Either way, both cities are worth visiting.
An Overview of Metz
If you’re planning a trip to France and looking for off-the-beaten-path cities, Metz should be on your list.
Below I’ll cover the highlights that make it a must-visit destination.
Metz is a city full of history and charm, with plenty of must-see attractions. Some of the top ones include:
✓ The Centre Pompidou-Metz – This museum showcases contemporary art and regularly features international exhibitions.
✓ The Porte des Allemands – A historical monument that offers stunning views over the Moselle River.
✓ Saint-Étienne Cathedral – As I mentioned earlier, this Gothic masterpiece has the largest stained-glass surface area of any cathedral in the world. And it’s one of the most spectacular places of worship I’ve seen in the country.
✓ Musée de La Cour d’Or – This museum is home to a vast collection of archaeological artifacts and fine art. Of the exhibits, my favorite was the Roman Thermal Complex.
Cultural Things to Do
For those interested in arts and culture, Metz has plenty to offer. Some noteworthy options include:
✓ Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole – This opera house hosts a variety of performances ranging from classical music to modern dance.
✓ Torii Japonais – Located in the middle of the Plan d’Eau de Metz, this beautiful Torii gate was one of the most unique sites I visited in Metz.
✓ Le Temple Neuf – A stunning Protestant church with impressive architecture and beautiful gardens.
✓ Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains – This 4th-century Roman basilica is one of the oldest in France. Today, it serves as a cultural center for concerts, exhibitions, and events.
Foodie Things to Do
While Metz might not be known for its food scene, a few dishes are still worth trying. Here are the most must-try activities for foodies:
✓ Metz Covered Market – A food lover’s paradise with fresh produce, meats, and cheeses.
✓ Chez Mauricette – This traditional brasserie is in the Metz Covered Market. They serve the best quiche Lorraine I’ve ever had.
An Overview of Nancy
Nancy is the capital of the Dukes of Lorraine. It’s a major cultural and educational center with a rich history.
Here are some of the major highlights that make it worth visiting.
Nancy has tons of things to see and do. Some of the top attractions include:
✓ Place Stanislas – This beautiful square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the heart of Nancy. My favorite features were the Arc Héré, a triumphal arch, the entry gates, and the fountains.
✓ Place de la Carrière and Place d’Alliance – Along with Place Stanislas, these two squares form the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
✓ Musée des Beaux-Arts – Home to one of France’s most significant art collections, this museum has works from the medieval era to the present day.
✓ Parc de la Pépinière – A beautiful park with gardens, walking paths, benches, and picnic areas. It’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature in the heart of the city.
Cultural Things to Do
Aside from the top attractions, Nancy also offers a variety of cultural activities:
✓ Old Town – With its narrow streets, charming architecture, and historical buildings, Nancy’s Old Town is perfect for a stroll. My favorite street was Rue du Duc Raoul.
✓ Opéra National de Lorraine – This stunning opera house offers a variety of performances from classical music to ballet.
✓ Musée Lorraine – If you’re interested in the history and culture of Lorraine, this museum is a must-visit. It houses a collection of artifacts, documents, and artworks that tell the story of the region.
✓ Musée de l’École de Nancy – This museum is dedicated to the Art Nouveau movement, showcasing furniture, glassware, and other decorative arts from this period.
Foodie Things to Do
Nancy is also famous for its cuisine, so make sure to try out some of these foodie activities:
✓ Maison des Soeurs Macarons – These delicious macarons are a must-try when in Nancy. Compared to the ones I had in Amiens and Paris; they are crispier and less sweet.
✓ Brasserie Excelsior – This iconic brasserie has been around since 1911. It’s known for its traditional French dishes such as escargots, steak frites, and crème brûlée.
✓ Marché Central – This covered market offers a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, and other local specialties.
Comparing Nancy and Metz
Nancy and Metz are both beautiful cities. Now that you know the main attractions in each, let’s compare the two.
Nancy’s architecture has a major Art Nouveau influence, while Metz’s combines Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles.
And, since Metz was once a part of Germany, there are a lot of buildings that reflect Germanic architecture, like the Gare de Metz-Ville.
Helpful Tip: After the Franco-Prussian War, several cities including Metz, Mulhouse, and Strasbourg were annexed to Germany.
I found that the monuments in Metz all had that wow factor, and they were more awe-inspiring than Nancy’s.
But Nancy had a certain charm with its Art Nouveau buildings. There were more hidden side streets, and I found several that weren’t mentioned in any guidebooks, like Rue Félix Faure (photo above).
Both cities have a central train station that is easy to get to from bigger cities like Paris and Strasbourg.
In general, there are more high-speed trains that go to Metz than Nancy. And there are far fewer delays on the route to Metz.
Metz is also a better base for day trips. The most popular is, without a doubt, the World War I battlefields of Verdun.
Then, both cities are easy to navigate on foot and all the major attractions are within walking distance, so you won’t need a car to explore either.
Metz does have a tram system that is efficient and easy to use, in case you want to use public transport.
Nancy’s public transport is very limited. It does have a tram line, but I didn’t use it as much as the one in Metz.
In terms of size and population, Metz is slightly bigger than Nancy.
Neither was overcrowded, and I didn’t feel like I needed to fight through hordes of tourists to visit any of the attractions.
Finally, you won’t need more than a day to explore Metz or Nancy.
Both cities offer plenty of cultural experiences, from museums to galleries and theaters.
Metz has a slight edge in the variety of cultural activities it offers.
The Centre Pompidou-Metz is a must-visit for contemporary art enthusiasts, while the Musée de La Cour d’Or showcases stunning Gallo-Roman artifacts. There are also tons of historical monuments, churches, and parks.
Nancy has more cultural spots than Metz, but less variety. There’s the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée de Lorraine, and the Musée de l’École de Nancy. But they all focus on the history of the region, only differing in the era.
Of course, Nancy has UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière, and Place d’Alliance, and Metz does not.
Accommodation options are plentiful in both cities, with a range of budget-friendly hotels and cozy bed and breakfasts.
Nancy does, however, have more high-end luxury accommodations compared to Metz. So, if that’s something you want in a destination, Nancy is the better choice.
But both cities offer comfortable and convenient places to stay for all types of travelers.
Conclusion: Metz vs Nancy
So, which city should you visit?
It ultimately depends on your preferences and what you’re looking to get out of your trip.
If you want more variety of cultural activities and attractions, then Metz is the way to go.
But if you prefer stunning architecture and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, then Nancy is the better option.
Either way, both cities offer a perfect blend of history, culture, and charm that will make for an unforgettable trip. So, why not visit both?
You can even add them to your trip to the east of France.
Read More Articles About France
I hope you enjoyed my post and found it useful. Here are some other articles that I think you might find interesting.
- 17 Amazing Things to Do in Verdun, France
- Is Strasbourg Worth Visiting? Things to Do and Reasons to Visit