Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region of North-East France
The capital of the Lorraine region of North-East France is too often ignored, perhaps due to its proximity to Germany (the border is just 30 miles away) and its industrial status.
What Metz lacks in profile it makes up for in its history — Caesar, Attila the Hun and Charlemagne have all left their mark on this former fortress, and its cathedral is so impressive it’s called the Lantern of God…
Where to stay
Hotel de la Cathedrale
As the name suggests, this 17th-century townhouse faces the cathedral. With its wooden beams, wrought-iron staircase and vintage writing bureaus in some rooms, it feels like a writer’s retreat of yore.
Doubles from £75 (breakfast £9.20 extra per person, hotelcathedrale-metz.fr)
Metz, pictured, is a haven for history buffs – Caesar, Attila the Hun and Charlemagne have all left their mark on this former fortress
This barge has just three rooms but they’re surprisingly spacious. Take breakfast on the sundeck!
B&B doubles from £63 (chambrespenichemetz.com)
Hotel la Citadelle
Hotel la Citadelle, housed in a former military barracks, has ‘surprisingly plush’ rooms – one of which is pictured
A glimpse inside the Michelin-starred restaurant at Hotel la Citadelle, where rooms are priced from £95
This former military barracks looks a little daunting from the outside, but the rooms are surprisingly plush. It has a Michelin-starred restaurant, too.
Doubles from £95, room only (all.accor.com)
Les Chambres de L’Ile
This B&B, located on a tiny island in the Moselle river, offers huge breakfast spreads complete with homemade jams.
B&B doubles from £63 (bnbmetz.com)
What to see and do
Above is the neo-Romanesque train station in the city’s Imperial District – an area that was designed by Kaiser Wilhelm II when Metz was part of the Second Reich in the 1870s
Have you just crossed the border into Germany by mistake? You’ll think so when strolling the boulevards of the Imperial District; designed by Kaiser Wilhelm II when Metz was part of the Second Reich in the 1870s.
Mock-Bavarian farmhouses, a grandiose Post Office building and the neo-Romanesque train station combine elegance and hubris to somewhat eccentric effect.
In your Pomp(idou)
The Metz branch of the Pompidou, pictured, was designed by Japanese star-architect Shigeru Ban
Looking like a giant mushroom, the Metz branch of the Pompidou (centrepompidou-metz.fr, from £6.15), designed by Japanese star-architect Shigeru Ban, seems to almost levitate above the ground.
Built on the site of a Roman amphitheatre, there’s no permanent collection but, covid permitting, Yves Klein and his immense sky-scapes will be exhibited this summer.
A night at the opera
Dating back to 1752, Opera-Theatre de Metz Metropole (pictured) is the oldest opera house in France. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons
This neo-classical wedding cake of a building is the oldest opera house in France, dating back to 1752 on a square once used to guillotine ‘enemies of the people’ during the French Revolution.
Bellini’s bucolic opera The Sonnambula is being staged later this month (opera.metzmetropole.fr), tickets from £27).
Inside the lantern
Saint Etienne cathedral (pictured above) is one of Europe’s great Gothic masterpieces – and it has more stained glass than any other church on the planet
Saint Etienne cathedral is eight hundred years old this year
Eight hundred years old this year, the Saint Etienne cathedral (cathedrale-metz.fr) is one of Europe’s great Gothic masterpieces with more stained glass (one-and-a-half acres of it) than any other church on the planet, some designed by Marc Chagall after a few originals were destroyed during World War II.
Do as the locals do come 6pm in Metz and take a slow amble around Place de Chambre and Place St Jacques, where there’s a fine array of bars offering everything from Mirabelle plum cocktails at Pop White (4 Place St Jacques), pastis and ricard at the Opera Café (39 Place de Chambre) and live DJs and an outdoor terrace at Mojito Bar (16 Place de Chambre).
Where to eat
Historic: Take a stroll by the Moselle river before buying some treats in one of the city’s patisseries
Patisserie Claude Bourguignon
The front (bourguignonmetz.fr) sells tarte aux mirabelles — heavenly pastry with plums. Then head to the back for the best quiche Lorraine (£11.45).
The two-course lunch is a knock-down £14.50 (www.lepicurienmetz.fr). Expect imaginative creations such as profiteroles of snails with Roquefort.
Les Copains D’Abord
The space is unprepossessing but may well provide the most generously sized sharing platters in all of Lorraine (restaurantlescopainsdabordmetz.fr).
Once you arrive in the Marche Couvert (pictured) in Metz, hunt down Chez Mauricette for a £16 Lorraine assiette
Located inside the Marche Couvert (covered market), the highlight of this stall (chezmauricette.com) is the Lorraine assiette (plate) at just £16.
La Table d’Aladin
Metz has an above-average range of North African and Lebanese restaurants, but none beats this side-street joint (latabledaladin.com) for value. Get a chicken skewer, two falafel fritters or a kefta, with a side dish, for just £9.
How to get there