Architectural jewels of the city, the three squares of Nancy, classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites, are outstanding examples of a functional modern urban layout. The center of the city surrounds them.
While touring the city, visitors will be able to easily distinguish the architectural differences between the Old Town and the New Town.
La Vieille Ville (the Old Town): crisscrossed by narrow streets and small squares, the Old Town is lined with tall, sometimes medieval houses, and is grouped around the Ducal Palace built by René II. The Craffe Gate (14th century) remains the oldest historical vestige from medieval times.
La Ville Neuve (the New Town): the grid plan adopted by Italian architects when constructing the area is found in the streets’ orthogonal layout (one with many right angles), characteristic of the Renaissance.
Work on Place Stanislas (then called Place Royale), began in 1752 on a vast esplanade. The inauguration took place on November 26th, 1755. The statue of Louis XV that adorns the center influenced the decor of the whole square, which, at Stanislas’ wishes, was meant to honor and glorify his son-in-law. The layout of the square is based on a model often seen in 18th century France, such as in Bordeaux, or at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Though the layout is rather classic – a succession of two-story homogeneous facades – the exceptional ironwork of architect Héré and blacksmith Jean Lamour makes it unique.
The statue of Louis XV was destroyed during the French Revolution, and it wasn’t until forty years later that the statue of Stanislas was erected in its place. On the south end stands the grand facade of the town hall. The Grand Hotel de la Reine and the Nancy Opera House occupy the east side. To the west sit the Jacquet pavilion and the Museum of Fine Arts. To the north are the Héré pavilions, built on a single story (for military defense reasons) and the Arc de Triomphe, which provides a view of Place de la Carrière. The exceptionally delicate gold-accented wrought iron grates are the work of Jean Lamour, linking the buildings and accentuating the sensation of architectural homogeneity in the square. The Amphitrite (towards the nursery) and Neptune (towards the Museum of Fine Arts) Fountains, adorned with beautiful grates, add to the sublime setting. Originally, they were meant to conceal the ramparts, which have since been razed. They are the work of Barthélémy Guibal.
For its architectural unity, delicacy and proportional perfection, Place Stanislas is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world.
Restorations conducted in 2005 to celebrate its 250 years revealed the beauty and size of the original pavement (ocher, diagonally streaked with black), which structures the square. Now reserved for pedestrians, the square once again showcases its original splendor to visitors.
A magnificent sound and light show is projected onto the facades at night from mid-June to mid-September. (See "Events").
The Hôtel de Ville (1755)
Place Stanislas, 54000 Nancy
Visit possible. Information available at the Tourist Office.
The building is accessible via a large, richly decorated hall. Of note is the beautiful and imposing staircase by Jean Lamour. Upstairs, the Salon Carré or the Salon de l’Académie, was decorated in honor of Stanislas by Girardet. These two elements are the only original parts of the building. The Grand Salon, installed in 1866 by the Empress Eugenie, previously served as the private apartments of Stanislas.
Along with Place Stanislas and Place de la Carrière, this square completed the monumental architectural ensemble, designed in the 18th century by Emmanuelle Héré. Of the three squares, it is the most sober, despite being decorated in the center by a fountain. The water feature is the work of Cyfflé, and is dedicated to the military glories of Louis XV, symbolized by the cornucopia, trophies and badges. The top of the obelisk features a spirit announcing the alliance with his bugle. At its base, the three old men sitting on the rocks symbolize the rivers Meurthe, Moselle and Meuse, through which water flows to the basin.
The Arc de Triomphe
Located between Place Stanislas and Place de la Carrière, the Arch sits on the site of the former Royal Gate. Its designer Héré was inspired by the arch erected by Septimius Severus in Rome, particularly evident in the richly decorated facade that overlooks Place Stanislas. It is dedicated to the glory of Louis XV. On this side, the golden element is composed of Glory and Fame presenting a medallion of Louis XV, supported by a spirit and accompanied by a woman representing Lorraine. The side overlooking Place de la Carrière evokes the gods of war and peace.
Place de la Carrière
Created at the same time as the New Town (16th century), Place de la Carrière owes its name to the activities that took place there (equestrian games, jousting ...). But its role in the architectural and urban structure of the city would only begin under the reign of Stanislas. And so Place de la Carrière would reunite the Old Town and the New Town. It is bounded on the north by the Palais du Gouvernement, where the king's representative stayed and where kings Charles X and Louis-Philippe stopped over on their travels.
On either side of the building, the pavilions are connected by columns in a half circle, decorated with military trophies recalling the victory of Charles V in the Ottoman Empire. The facade of the Palais du Gouvernement is decorated with statues representing allegorical figures of Royalty, Justice, Truth, Fertility and Power, the work of Guibal.
At the other end, the Arc de Triomphe closes off the square. The main street just opposite the nursery (Grande Rue) has existed since Middle Ages. It is now lined with sober buildings from the 18th century.
The center of the square is defined by vases and sculptures of children. At the ends of the square, grates made by Lamour complement the ensemble’s decor.