Metz, well worth a stop along the way

Metz is a city that is well worth a stop along the way. And more than that: staying overnight is recommended; a day, a week, two weeks. There is so much to experience that it is difficult to choose. Visiting Metz unprepared is certainly an option, but preparation will prevent you from missing a lot. The urban landscape is unique for Europe. It is one of the greenest cities in France, with a variety of lovingly restored architecture, ‘the lantern of the Good Lord’, a branch of the Pompidou, the second largest flea market and a top zoo. And in a village nearby, you will find the house of the ‘father of Europe’. If you drive south via Limburg, you will soon pass Metz (approx. 260 km from the border), a city smaller than Maastricht, but with slightly more inhabitants. From the highway, a graceful Gothic spire towers above the city like a beacon.

City landscape

Upon entering, you immediately notice how well maintained and beautifully renovated the houses are and how the streets have been renovated. There is a lot of greenery, such as leafy avenues, parks, public gardens, as you often see in France, and even the bridges, embellished with artistic flower arrangements. There is a lot to experience in terms of architecture. You will find a variety of styles, from medieval to classic and modern. The whole is unique not only in France but in the whole of Europe. The city itself, the center and the parks, is more than worth a visit. The variety means that you will never be bored. Exploring is best done à pied; through winding streets, through leafy avenues, such as avenue Foch , through picturesque squares such as place Jeanne D’Arc , and parks such as parc de la Seille , the forests, the many waterways and lakes and the marina.

Marche Couvert

Metz has a car-free center, with a small covered market and the Cathedral, which, like the tourism office, is located on the Place Darmes. The Marché Couvert, originally intended as an episcopal palace, was downgraded to a covered market after the French Revolution. The fresh products and local delicacies are beautifully displayed. On Saturday mornings the market extends outwards into the surrounding squares and alleys, including many household items.

Cathedrale Saint-Etienne

Fortunately, the cathedral of the diocese of Metz on the Place Darmes survived the revolution. She does have a somewhat strange shape. This square is located next to the church. This is because the church was created over the centuries by combining parts from the 13th and 14th centuries with an even older, Romanesque church. The center part of the church, the transept, and a choir were added later. You enter the church, one of the largest in France, through a beautiful, finely crafted portal. Impressive are the enormous stained glass windows, the largest in the world, which give the cathedral the nickname ‘the lantern of the Good Lord’. Some of these windows are original, others were designed by famous artists such as Marc Chagall . If you have a taste for it, visit Saint-Maximin (12th-15th century), 61 rue Mazelle, for which colleague and contemporary Jean Cocteau was responsible.

Ports des Allemands

A five-minute walk from the latter church, on the edge of the old town, is an impressive medieval city gate that provides access to an imposing castle, complete with towers, battlements, gates and drawbridges and also beautifully restored. There is no further trace of the city walls. If you want to visit a real fort, take the beautiful walk south through the Parc de la Seille, via the Parc du Pas du Loupe , and further afield where the Fort de Queuleu is hidden under the forest.

L’ile du Petit Saulcy

A nice island that splits the Moselle is the île du Petit Saulcy. There is a stylish classic building located on a flowery park. This is one of the oldest theaters in France still in use. From the island you have a beautiful view of the river, the beautiful facades of the houses on the other side and the cathedral. You can stroll relaxed along the river here, because there is a good walking path. When you leave the island, don’t go straight back to the center, but cross one of the bridges to Les Ȋles. Perpendicular to the Pont Saint Georges is the Esplanade des Thermes with a very special sleek building in a modern district around medieval ruins.

Green

Besides its size, the river and beautiful buildings, Metz is pleasantly walkable thanks to the abundance of greenery. Without a map or significant information, the walk passes unnoticed from one green zone to another; Metz is truly one of the greenest cities in France. Without really getting lost, it is a real pleasure to cross the many parks that can be found throughout the city; the Esplanade on the avenue Ney with the Arsenal , the jardin Botanique , on the rue de Pont-à-Mousson, the jardin des cinq sens on the avenue Jean XXIII, the jardin des Tanneurs , etc. etc. You can spend days here linger!

Center Pompidou-Metz

If you previously ignored Metz while racing along the highway, the branch of the Parisian Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art has probably been the reason for a stop along the way since 2010. Because ‘Paris’ has many more works of art (60,000) than it can exhibit (2,000), it was thought that the periphery of the collection should be able to benefit. This created three monumental exhibition spaces, with space for enormously large canvases, and a central hall, under a striking white undulating wooden roof. In addition to the permanent collection, there are temporary exhibitions to visit.

The Musée de la Cour d’Or

Antiquities enthusiasts are more likely to choose this museum and will have their hands full. The very rich collection, including remains of two-thousand-year-old Roman baths, can be found spread over a number of old monastery buildings. The offer consists of Merovingian and Celtic objects from before Roman rule and numerous finds from Roman times. A warning is perhaps in order: the didactic design received more attention than the signage… While you’re wandering around, don’t forget to visit the top floor with its beautiful medieval painted wooden ceiling.

House of Robert Schuman

Not in the city itself, but a twenty-minute drive from the center is the former home of the founder of the European Union. His grave is also located in the pastoral hamlet of Scy Chazelles. With the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, Schuman took the first step towards a united Europe and the EEC. Fortunately, the house as such has been left intact so that you can get a good sense of the atmosphere. On the other hand, it would be a missed opportunity if there were not also a permanent and interactive exhibition about his life and the first years of the association of Europe. There is also a beautiful garden.

Even more top tips

Another argument for visiting the city can also be the second largest flea market in France. Once or twice a month there is a flea market the size of three to four football fields, which every year accounts for 5/4 of the city’s population (150,000 per year out of a population of 120,000). The professional collectors are already there at 6 am, but as a holidaymaker, 9 am is probably early enough. The market lasts until about three o’clock in the afternoon and has a lunch break that is sacred to the French. For us Dutch, it means being able to quietly enjoy everything between art and kitsch.

Parc Zoologique d’Amneville

This zoo is one of the best in Europe, half an hour’s drive north of Metz. The park owes this well-deserved spot to the animal enclosures that do their best to look as natural as possible. You will see rare animals such as the white rhino, the Siberian tiger, white lions, white wolves, polar bears, gorillas, … For people, the garden is designed in such a way that the visit becomes a true voyage of discovery: around every bend a different surprise awaits. . As a result, you can easily lose your way and overview. In addition to the animals in their enclosures, animal shows are also organized and the feeding moments have been transformed into an educational event. The aquarium on site must be paid for separately. All in all, a ticket for two days cannot be a bad idea.

Parc Sainte-Croix

The special thing about this zoo, an hour south of Metz, is the fact that you can spend the night here. From a luxurious tree house you have an unnoticed view of the gray wolves day and night.