Destination Lorraine: Why Not Choose… Épinal?
Nestled in the heart of Vosges, Épinal awaits, ready to reveal its turbulent history, its rich architecture and the natural treasures of its surrounding area. With millennia of history behind it, the city has many heritage sites: the remains of a fortified castle, the imposing Saint Maurice Basilica, the arcades of the splendid Place des Vosges… Prepare to discover an amazing city, with new surprises around every corner.
Architectural, Cultural and Historical Treasures!
Start your trip at the Place des Vosges, the liveliest place in Épinal, with its many café terraces, and above all a beautiful example of the treasures remaining in the city of images despite the Second World War bombings: the "du Bailli" House.
Walk past the Saint Maurice Basilica and admire the architecture of this 11th-century building. Then move on to the Chapter neighbourhood: you're sure to love the colourful fronts of the 16th- and 18th-century century canonical houses. Look at the plaques and blazons over each door: they tell us the names of the last canonesses to live there, before the revolution. And to discover all the secrets of Épinal's history, take a look around the Chapter Museum.
No visitor should miss the Cité de l'Image, with its collection of famous Épinal prints and its artisan workshop. You should also visit the Image Museum, which offers a broad look at popular images of the past and present. It is one of the most popular sites in Lorraine.
Looking for somewhere quiet and tranquil? The Jardin le Cours, a magnificent, English-style park, and the Épinal Castle Park are great spots for nature, relaxation and well-being. Don't forget that Vosges is famous for its balneology. In Épinal, but also Contrexéville, Vittel and Bains-les-Bains, your holiday offers the perfect chance to enjoy a spa treatment.
Once you've recharged your batteries, you will certainly want to sample all the sports and nature activities available in the region: eco-hiking, Nordic walking and mountain biking, as well as water sports on the Moselle. There's plenty to choose from!
If history is your thing, go a little further afield and follow the trail of Joan of Arc, heading to Domrémy-la-Pucelle where she was born and grew up. Her birth house has even been an official historical monument since 1840. In memory of a more recent history, Épinal's American cemetery honours the 5255 soldiers who fell in the French and German campaigns.
Top 10 Must-Sees
The Place des Vosges: Épinal's economic and political centre, the square still has its old arcades, once reserved for merchants. An official historical monument, it is the liveliest place in the city.
The Geninet (du Bailli) House: with one of the most beautiful façades on Place des Vosges, this house, built from 1604 to 1607 for Amé Geninet, a rich paper-maker from Épinal, is an example of late Renaissance style.
The Saint-Maurice Basilica: this official historical monument was built in the 11thcentury then modified in the 13th century. After being consecrated in 1051 by Pope Leo IX, it became an important pilgrimage site to the relics of Saint Goeric, and is richly furnished. It mixes different architectural styles from the Rhineland, Burgundy and Champagne.
The Chapter Museum: located since 2003 in a mediaeval tower in the heart of the historical Basilica quarter, the Chapter Museum offers three floors of exhibits covering Épinal's past. Around a large model showing the city in 1626, the last four centuries of its history are presented through multiple iconographic documents.
The Jardin le Cours: this 28 hectare English-style park, with paths bordered mainly by lime trees, is a true haven of tranquillity right in the heart of the city. It boasts magnificent trees of various species, including cedar, douglas fir, araucaria, copper beech and chestnut.
The Roman House: built in 1894 on the orders of a rich industrialist, this house is the reproduction of a villa in Pompeii, which was connected to a vast columned building. It is surrounded by a stunning rose garden, containing over 550 different varieties.
The Musée de l’image: the image museum is home to one of the largest collections of popular Épinal prints, but also to other French and foreign images produced from the 17th to the 21st century. Pictures for children, hidden image puzzles, and images of saints, Napoleon or the First World War: a wide range of subjects were covered, and the museum invites you to discover this huge variety through its collection.
Épinal Prints: with the highly intuitive HISTOPAD touch-screen tablet, discover a new, digital way to explore the famous workshop. Find out the fascinating story of these prints at your own pace, see old machines that are still operational (Gutenberg, Aquatype and Heidelberg presses), and find out about the stages of image production.
The Épinal Castle Park: enjoy some serenity in this 26 hectare park, and discover the remains of the castle. The park offers superb views over Épinal, and a perfect green space for relaxation. As well as the wildlife park, you will find a mediaeval garden with rare species, an arboretum, vines and even a Chinese pagoda.
Épinal American Cemetery: the 5255 soldiers buried here fought in the campaigns of north-east France, the Rhine and Germany, during the Second World War. This historical memorial site, nestled in a green haven, will take you back to the turbulent period of the liberation, but also offer you a peaceful walking spot where you can pay tribute to the courageous men and young soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom.
A Land of Flavours!
A member of the Destinations Terroirs historical and gastronomic heritage club, Épinal offers you a privileged discovery of its cuisine and local specialities, via a selection of partner restaurants serving typical regional dishes all year round. Vosges Salad, Lorraine pate, grated potato fritters, tofaille (potato and bacon bake), Val d’Ajol andouille (smoked sausage), calf's head, mirabelle plums, honey, Vosges sweets and other mouthwatering specialities!
February: Vitality and Well-Being Festival
Over two days, visitors can access a full range of new natural health methods and remedies. Come and meet well-being professionals in Lorraine and discover their expertise.
March: Vosges Heritage Trail and Tasting Market
Held in Épinal Castle Park, the Vosges Heritage Trail (Trail des Terroirs Vosgiens) is a unique combination of trail, mountain biking and walking, with good food, agriculture and respect for the natural heritage.
May: Les Imaginales
A literature and illustration festival devoted to fiction and imagination: fantasy, thrillers, tales and legends, historical novels, etc. Over a hundred authors and illustrators from all corners of the world participate in this festival.
September: The Folles Journées du Vélo Cycle Festival
A huge, weekend-long cycle festival. The Saturday brings cycling into the city, with a big parade, shows and a beautiful bike competition On the Sunday, there are seven heritage cycle tours, leaving from Épinal Port.
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