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Place Stanislas, a Hidden Gem, in Nancy, France

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

I adore the grand squares of Europe, but Place Stanislas exceeded my expectations; I was smitten. This square, the epitome of harmonious urban landscapes, combined with its exquisite architecture and ornamentation, is a masterpiece of the Enlightenment. Built between 1752 to 1756, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site of outstanding universal value.

Place Stanislas, photo taken from our room at the Grand Hotel De La Reine

Stanislas Leszczynski, deposed king of Poland, fled to Alsace, France in 1737; his daughter Marie had married King Louis XV in 1725. Stanislas received the dukedoms of Lorraine for life, as compensation for his promotion of French goals in Poland, efforts that were partly to blame for his forced abdication. While a temporary resident of Nancy, and a "king without a kingdom", Stanislas conceived the creation of this square, a major project of urban planning, which would connect the medieval old town of Nancy with the new town, constructed in the 17th century.

Architect Héré led the brilliant team to fulfill Stanislas' carefully planned project.

Stanislas also intended this square as a place royale to honor his son-in-law King Louis XV, and it is indeed majestic.

Splendid wrought-iron gates and lanterns, created by Jean Lamour, decorate the open corners of the square. Lamour also contributed the balustrade at the Hotel de Ville and the balcony across the centre of its main facade. Nancy's nickname, the City with Golden Gates, is derived from these works of art.

Hotel de Ville (City Hall), aka Palais de Stanislas

I knew I was in love when my eyes fell upon the fountain of Amphitrite, created by the French sculptor Barthelemy Guibal; it was captivating.

Fountain of Amphitrite

In the opposite corner of the square is Guibal's symmetrical fountain of Neptune. Both fountains are in a rococo style, nicely breaking the classical architecture of the square. Neptune holds a trident while overlooking two nearby fountains of children riding dolphins. In the lefthand fountain, one child is crying, having been pinched by a crab; the crab is no where in sight.

The triumphal Arc Here, built by Emmanuel Here de Corny, stands in the corner of the fourth side, and leads the way to the adjoining Place de la Carriere.

Triumphal Arc Here

In 1831, a bronze statue depicting Stanislas, by Georges Jacquot, was placed in the center of the square; since then, the square has been known as Place Stanislas. I find it only fitting that in the end, the square commemorates its progressive founder.

Dressed in flowing robes, Stanislas holds a sword in his left hand while pointing north with his right. During the Christmas holiday season, he is within a globe which is lit up by night, making the statue most challenging to photograph.

Place Stanislas continues to create joy in Nancy. We spent time in the square, around the square, and having lunch with my son, overlooking the square. It was filled with people, enjoying the square and the season, a true delight to behold. I must confess I also fell in love with a dessert in Nancy, I do not know its name, but it had plums and liqueur and ice cream and was divine. My first taste was at the recommended Grand Cafe Foy in Nancy, though I did manage to find it throughout the rest of our travels in France. Divine, and something I continue to long for frequently.

Unesco cites: "The Stanislas, Carrière and d’Alliance Squares constitute the oldest and most characteristic example of a modern capital, where an enlightened monarch proved to be sensitive to the needs of the public. In addition to providing prestigious architecture conceived to exalt the sovereign, with its triumphal arches, statues and fountains, the project favoured the public with its three squares giving access to the town hall, the courts of justice and the “Palais de Fermes” as well as to other public buildings." I think we need more of this.

Vive la Place Stanislas.

My guys returning to our hotel, the perfect spot to enjoy Place Stanislas

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