Colmar - Alsace
French Regions

Best Things To Do in Grand Est, France

02/25/2020

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Grand Est - France

Grand Est is a vast new region in Eastern France, the unification of the former historical regions of Champagne-Ardenne, Alsace, and Lorraine.
World-famous wines, picturesque villages, natural wonders and interesting history in a unique setting, the French region of Grand Est is all this and much more.

 

Its geographical location – the only French region bordering Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Switzerland – makes of the Grand Est an interesting cultural melting pot which can be clearly seen in its architecture and tasted in its gastronomy.

Strasburg is the region’s largest city, and also its administrative capital but cities like Reims, Metz or Nancy are also great Grand Est destinations for weekend getaways.

If you have some extra time, take the road to explore quaint villages and taste some great wines and champagnes, without forgetting the region’s beautiful mountains, forests, and lakes.

The region of Grand Est is divided into 9 departments: Ardennes, Aube, Marne, Haute-Marne, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, and Vosges. Haven’t you visited this great french region yet? Let us tell you the best things to do in Grand Est.

 

 

Top Things to Do in Grand Est France

Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Grand Est, France. The list of Grand Est destinations includes sightseeing, picturesque towns, cultural cities, natural wonders, and (of course) some of the best French wines.

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Champagne Tasting in Epernay

Epernay - Champagne

Discover the beauty of Champagne, with its rolling hills and vineyards everywhere, and taste some of the best champagnes in Epernay. This area is especially beautiful after the harvest, with the fall colors.

Stroll Avenue Champagne with its beautiful private mansions along it. Avenue de Champagne is considered the most expensive avenue in the world thanks to its millions of champagne bottles stored below the grounds.

Explore Moêt & Chandon cellars and learn the history of one of the most exclusive champagnes in the world. Tour around to visit the small champagne producers (and taste their bottles) in the villages nearby.

Extend your trip to Hautvillers to visit the little abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers where Dom Pérignon is buried. Dom Pérignon was a benedictine monk in this abbey where, according to the legend, he invented the champagne wine.

 

Explore the Grande Ile in Strasbourg

Strasbourg - Alsace

People visiting the region of Grand Est, France, cannot miss Strasbourg, the capital.

The Grande Île (Large Island) is Strasbourg’s beating heart, an island that lies at the historic center of the city. On this island, we can find some of Strasbourg’s main sights, like Place Kléber, the quarter of Petite France – characterized by its canal system and historical buildings – or the Gothic cathedral.

The Grande Ile is listed as a UNESCO heritage site because it exemplifies medieval cities.

The Grande Ile is a charming area of Strasbourg that visitors shouldn’t miss. Most of the shops and restaurants of the city center are located in this area plus it has beautiful half-timbered houses and Renaissance houses.

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Get Cultured in Metz, Lorraine

Metz - France

Metz, in the historical region of Lorraine, is an ideal destination for a cultural weekend getaway. Crossed by the Moselle and Seille Rivers, Metz is home to extensive green space, a large pedestrian old town, and a university.

In Metz’s large pedestrian Old Town, the German door is the most imposing remaining part of the medieval ramparts whilst the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Étienne outstands for its massive amount of stained-glass windows.

Architecture lovers will like to stroll the Imperial Quarter, full of elegant streets and villas, a mix of neo-Renaissance, neo-Romanesque, and art deco styles. This quarter was the idea of German Kaiser Wilhelm II to promote Metz after it became part of the Second Reich in 1871.

Finally, don’t miss the new Centre Pompidou-Metz museum, hosting an interesting collection of Contemporary Art.

 

Back to Nature in the Vosges Mountains

The Vosges - Alsace

Set in the heart of the region, the Vosges Mountains are the perfect destination in Eastern France for nature lovers.

In addition to the beautiful forests, pristine lakes, and superb views, the Vosges is also a center of adventure sports like nordic ski, paragliding, or extreme canoeing.

People looking for a more relaxing stay can recharge their batteries in one of the spas of Ribeauvillé or Plombières-les-Bains whilst enjoying the traditional gastronomy.

 

Drive the Alsace Wine Route

Eguisheim Alsace

The Alsace Wine Route, from Strasbourg to Mulhouse, is the most famous wine route in France.

Learn about the wines of Alsace but also visit the picturesque Alsace villages with their cobbled streets and beautiful half-timbered houses and marvel at the imposing medieval castles and their fascinating history!

The best way to do the Alsace Wines Route is by car. Click here for the best Alsace Wine Route itinerary + map.

 

A Royal Stroll at Stanislas Square in Nancy

Stanislas Square - Nancy

Stanislas Square is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, if not the most beautiful one!

Place Stanislas was commissioned in the 18th century by the Duke of Lorraine Stanislas Leszczyński. At that time, Nancy was divided into two areas, separated by ramparts: the medieval Old Town with its ducal palace and the Renaissance New Town characterized by its wide straight roads.

Duke Stanislas wanted to unite these two neighborhoods to create a new, more beautiful Nancy, more in accordance with its status as the capital of the Lorraine. With this square, the Duke also intended to honor his son-in-law, King Louis XV.

Duke Stanislas chose the esplanade dividing the two towns as the site for a Royal Square dedicated to his son-in-law, King Louis XV and entrusted the works to his architect Emmanuel Héré. The architect had a double-challenge: create a magnificent backdrop for Louis XV’s royal statue and unify Nancy by bringing together the two towns.

Stanislas Square was built in the classic and rococo style and consists of 3 squares arranged according to a perfect axis of symmetry. All the buildings that surround the square were all created by Emmanuel Héré, a homogeneous classic architecture that presents a Corinthian style. Since 1983, all the square is listed as a UNESCO Heritage site.

 

Battlefield of Verdun – Learn About the Great War

Battlefield of Verdun

The Battle of Verdun in 1916 was a frontal collision, the deadliest in history, between France and the German Empire. This battle of annihilation, through an unprecedented artillery duel, symbolizes and summarizes total war.

From the start of the war in 1914, Verdun, its citadel and the belt of forts that protected it, were considered key to the French defensive system. That’s why the German strategists decided to take it.

The Battle of Verdun was the longest battle in human history, 302 days of non-stop combats that ended with a French defensive victory and the failure of the German offensive. Since then, this little village crossed by the Meuse River became for the whole nation the symbol of courage and selflessness and the resistance of French fighters in Verdun is still reported worldwide.

The Verdun Battlefield constitutes a unique place of memory in France and in the world. It also presents a set of remarkable sites key to understand what was the Great War in the Meuse. Every year, Verdun hosts The biggest show in Europe, a scenic evocation of the battle of Verdun usually from mid-June to mid-July.

 

Explore the Medieval Fair Town of Troyes 

Troyes - France

Troyes, in the south of Champagne, was one of the most important fair towns in France during medieval times, center for hosiery and cloth making. Just like Provins, in Ile de France, Troyes hosted two huge annual fairs that brought craftsmen and merchants from all over Europe.

In 1524 a huge fire destroyed much of the town and Troyes had to be fully rebuilt. Much of what you see today is from that period of total reconstruction that’s why there’s a level of harmony that you can’t find anywhere else in France.

A stroll around the Old Town steeped in history and with beautiful half-timbered houses reveals the town’s commercial past to us. Don’t miss Troyes’ Gothic Cathedral, considered as one of the most beautiful churches in all of Europe.

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Visit Reims’ Cathedral – Symbol of Royal Power

Royal Square - Reims

Reims, the unofficial capital of the historical region of Champagne, is a beautiful city to visit, with an interesting history and medieval heritage.
Among all the historical buildings in Reims outstands its Gothic Cathedral. The cathedral was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is famous for being the traditional location for the coronation of the kings of France.

Why Reims’ Cathedral? Clovis, the king of the Franks, was baptized here by Bishop St. Remy around 498 A.D., making it sacred ground for royals, especially since French kings claimed their rule was ordained by God. Legend tells us that St. Remy received a vile of oil from a white dove. This holy oil crowned every king up until Charles X in 1825.

In addition to its historical importance, the Gothic Cathedral is known for its stained glass window and carved portals. The building is adorned with 2,303 statues, including the famous Smiling Angel, whose jovial expression reflects the Champagne School of the 13th century.

 

All Bugatti at Cité de l’Automobile in Mulhouse

Cars at Cité Automobile - Mulhouse

La Cité de l’Automobile, also known of Musée national de l’Automobile, is built around the Schlumpf collection of classic automobiles.

The Schlumpf brothers were two local businessmen with a passion for cars. Their collection, located in one of their former factories, is the largest displayed collection of automobiles and contains the largest and most comprehensive collection of Bugatti cars in the world.

The museum displays some of the very first cars but also racing cars or luxury cars. Attached to the museum there is a small race track where it is possible to test the most iconic Bugatti cars. Amazing!

 

Learn About the Vauban Fortifications

Vauban Fortifications

The Marquis of Vauban was a French engineer ordered Maréchal de France by King Louis XIV. Expert in poliorcetic ( the art of organizing attack or defense during the siege of a city, place or stronghold), Vauban designed or improved more than 150 strongholds in France. He built the Iron Belt, the network of fortifications on the borders of France, between 1665 and 1707, which remained functional until the 19th century.

Among all the Vauban sites there are 3 located in the region of Grand Est: the fortified towns of Longwy (Lorraine), and Neuf-Brisach (Alsace) plus the Barrage Vauban in the Grand Ile of Strasbourg (Alsace). Each of these sites is unique because of its interdependence with its context so if you have the time, we recommend visiting all three.

PRACTICAL INFO & OUR FAVORITES | GRAND EST, FRANCE

Practical Info Best time to Visit Grand Est, France

The best time to visit Grand Est is during the shoulder seasons when the temperatures are mild. Summer is great for outdoor adventures, with temperatures reaching up to 25C in July and August.

Try to avoid Colmar during the weekend (if you can), it gets very crowded with people coming from the nearest towns in Germany.

Winter is cold in Grand Est, with temperatures down to 4- 5C. However, the region hosts some of the best Christmas Markets in France and trips to Colmar, Strasbourg or Metz in December should be booked well in advance.

Traveling to Grand Est

The most important airport in the region is the International Airport Bâle-Mulhouse-Fribourg (EuroAirport). Located in French soil, this airport has the particularity of being the only bi-national airport (French-Swiss) in the world.

The Grand Est is also crossed by the classic lines Paris – Nancy – Strasbourg, and Paris – Troyes – Chaumont – Mulhouse.  The two other main rail routes in the region are Basel – Mulhouse – Strasbourg (- Metz – Luxembourg) and Nancy – Metz – Luxembourg.

Thanks to the Rhine-Rhône high-speed line, the TGVs Marseille – Lyon – Frankfurt-am-Main pass through Alsace (Mulhouse and Strasbourg).

Paris – Strasbourg is only a 2-hour ride with TGV, Paris – Metz takes 1 hour 25 minutes and Paris – Reims is only 45 minutes.

>> Click here to book your train tickets to Grand Est

For extended trips in the region, the best way for getting around is by car. If you don’t have your own car, we recommend booking in advance through platforms like RentalCar or AutoEurope. Both sites take all of the major rental companies, such as Hertz, Avis, etc, and do the comparison of prices for you. If you are starting from Paris, we recommend taking a train to the main cities in the region, such as Strasbourg, Reims, or Metz and rent the car from there. 

Where to stay in Grand Est?

>> Here’s a selection of wonderful hotels along the Wine Route, in Alsace

What to do in Grand Est?

  • City sightseeing, historical sightseeing
  • Hiking, cycling, rock climbing, canoeing
  • Wine tasting
  • Romantic, Cultural and gastronomy getaways

Useful Links

Click here to Explore the French Regions

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