If you love Christmas markets, fabulous architecture, streets lined with great shops and unique boutiques and great gastronomy – the Metz must be on your must-do list…
The city of Metz is in Moselle in Lorraine, north-eastern France (Alsace-Lorraine). It borders Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany, and you can reach it in less than an hour and a half by train from Paris. It’s definitely a year-round destination with the incredible Metz Pompidou, the more than 800 year old Gothic Cathedral with the third highest nave in France, museums, wonderful architecture and superb restaurants galore. But as Christmas approaches, Metz puts on its festive best, opens several Christmas markets including one dedicated solely to food, and lights up the Sentier des Lanternes – more about this magical light show in a minute…
Merry ChristMetz! Christmas markets galore
Metz is Christmas central. Not just one Christmas market here. There are five Christmas markets spread around this compact city in a sort of ring around the great Gothic Cathedral. It’s easy to visit them all on foot or hop on the free navette buses that traverse the city.
Head to Place de la Republique for loads of traditional chalets specialising in local products and gorgeous gifts made by local artisans. There’s are two German Christmas Pyramid bars. You’ll find the aroma of mulled wine and hot chocolate is alluring and the sight of the lit carousel-like-tops rotating is mesmerising. Did you know that the German pyramid decorations were the pre-cursor to Christmas trees – which originated in neighbouring Alsace in the 16th century? If you happen to be at the Christmas market when the Meisenthal glassware chalet is open, don’t miss the chance to buy a Christmas bauble. They’re are famous in these parts and make wonderful family heirloom Christmas decorations.
In Place Saint-Louis there is a traditional gifts Christmas market where the scent of gingerbread will make you smile. There’s also a carousel. In Place d’Armes, there are more Christmas chalets. Plus there’s a Ferris Wheel from which you will have the most incredible views over the illuminated Cathedral. And in Place Saint-Jacques, there are beautiful specialist artisan products on offer from food to gifts. Meanwhile at Place de la Comédie the whole Christmas market is devoted to food. And it’s the perfect place to pop for a snack, aperitifs or a delicious meal. Food is cooked on site, and tables and chairs welcome you to stop for a break.
As if all this Christmas spirit is not enough – there is also the Sentier des Lanternes…
Sentier des Lanternes – a luminous Christmas event
Around the beginning of November, a flurry of activity takes place over three weeks as the Lantern Trail – the sentier des Lanternes is set up. It transforms the Place Boufflers in the centre of Metz, a stone’s throw from the Christmas market in Place de la Republique. In 2010, inspired by the Night of Lights in Montreal, Canada, the tourist office created the first Lantern Trail. Since then, this luminous Christmas event has grown and grown. In 2021 it featured more than 1 million LED lights, 2000 lit up figures including a gingerbread house, and a 4 metre high Saint Nicolas on his donkey! There are 9 kilometres of cable involved on an area of 3000sqm.
Those are the statistics. But when you go, it’s all about the magic.
Metz’s Lantern Trail is enchanting. And no matter what your age, it will make you happy and give you that warm Christmassy feeling. The ‘lanterns’ are giant light sculptures – snowflakes, gingerbread men, elves, toy soldiers, lollipops, teddy bears, rabbits on scooters. Trees are decorated with LED lights so that they look as if they have come from the Magic Faraway Forest. It’s like your dream of Christmas came true, and you woke up in a Christmas wonderland…
The Messines – people from Metz – are hugely proud of their local produce. From Mirabelle plums to sensational wine, gorgeous glassware, there’s a lot for them to be proud of. Apart from the Christmas markets, there are shopping streets aplenty. Nip to the tourist office to pick up details of the best areas. But, don’t miss cobbled rue Taison which is beautifully decorated for Christmas and where a dragon hangs across the street! Named Graouly, the dragon is said to have lived in Metz, in an amphitheatre built by the Romans. It terrorised the inhabitants until the Bishop of Metz who became Saint Clement, drowned the monster in the River Seille.
See the Metz Tourist office for details of Christmas festivities and much more: tourisme-metz.com
Find out more about Christmas in Moselle: noelsdemoselle.fr
Where to stay
There are plenty of hotels in the city but I like the 4* MGallery La Citadelle Hotel in a former 16th century military building for its superb décor and great restaurant (5 Ave Ney). The 3* Hotel de la Cathedrale is in two 17th century houses and once hosted writers Madame de Stael and Chateaubriand (Place de Chambre).
Where to eat
El Theatris in Place de la Comédie on the Petit Saulcy island in the centre of Metz is a gastronomic delight. This is a town of gourmands though, so you’ll find plenty of restaurants as you wander.
How to get there
TGV trains from Paris will get you there in just 1 hour 25 minutes.
Luxembourg airport (international flights) is one hour by car.
From Strasbourg, the train takes from 55 minutes. Nancy is from 48 minutes by train.
If you do take the train, leave time to see the station, next to Metz Pompidou Centre. It’s a listed historic building and is quite possibly the most beautiful train station in France. Built between 1905-1908 when Metz was under German rule, it was commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II who had an apartment created there. The architecture is extraordinary and it has a Cathedral like to feel to it.