Its location at the confluence of the rivers Moselle and Seille has attracted settlers to Metz as early as 3,000 years ago. I visited the capital of Lorraine region in early summer. My couchsurfing host Eric proofed not only a great host but also a knowledgable guide to the city and its grand history. It is not without reason that Metz has been submitted on the France’s UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.
Walk along the rampards by the seille
There are no more remains of the Celtic oppidum, which existed on a hill above the confluence. Evidence of the Gallo-Roman period are the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, one of the oldest churches in Europe, near the old citadelle and the vestiges of the thermae in the basement of the Golden Courtyard museum.
Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains
The first thing you’ll notice when approaching the city center is the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Metz, located a few hundred meters above the Moselle. The monument boasts a massive 41 meter high nave and the largest expanse of stained glass in the world, some of the windows have been designed by Marc Chagall.
Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Metz (Saint Stephen)
The cathedral like most of the city center have been constructed with the characteristic yellow limestone (jaumont). Downtown Metz is now home to one of the largest pedestrian areas in France. The shops and restaurants have taken over beautiful Renaissance, Neoclassical and Art Nouveau houses.
Art Nouveau ceiling at sport store MegaSport (2 Rue des Clercs)
Across Avenue Foch you will notice a difference in color. German Emperor Wilhelm II had the “Imperial Quarter” built after Germany first annexed Alsace in the 1870s, using pink and grey sandstone, granite and basalt from the Rhineland. The most impressive among these buildings is certainly the train station. Metz has always been a garrison town, and therefore the German Kaiser had a station devised that would be large enough to allow for moving a number of troops in a short period of time.
Gare de Metz
For performing art enthusiasts Metz offers its Opera House, the oldest one working in France and the Arsenal Concert Hall. And of course there is the Centre Pompidou-Metz museum, designed by Shigeru Ban, testament to modern Metz and its commitment to sustainability and ecology.
Centre Pompidou-Metz museum, designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban
On a lush summer night join the crowds on one of the city’s squares, enjoy a Ricard and devour some of the Lorraine cuisine, like quiche (lorraine), andouille sausage and tarte des mirabelles.