Her 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 knowledgeable guide to the city and her grand history. It is not without reason that France has submitted Metz to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.
Walk along the ramparts 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 is the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, one of the oldest churches in Europe, near the citadel 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; Marc Chagall was the mastermind behind some of the windows.
Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Metz (Saint Stephen)
The cathedral – like most of the city center – has been constructed with the characteristic yellow limestone (called 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 sports 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 undoubtedly the train station. Metz has always been a garrison town, and therefore the German Kaiser had a train station devised that would be large enough to allow for moving many troops quickly.
Gare de Metz
For performing art enthusiasts, Metz offers an Opera House – the oldest operating one in France – and the Arsenal Concert Hall. And of course, there is the Centre Pompidou-Metz museum, designed by Shigeru Ban, a testament to modern Metz and the 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 cuisines, like quiche (Lorraine), andouille sausage and tarte des mirabelles.