Lorraine today

Lorraine is located in Eastern France.

Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine provinces map
Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine provinces map

This former administrative region is now part of the region Alsace-Lorraine-Champagne-Ardenne or ALCA.

ALCA was renamed Grand Est during the territorial reform that took effect on January 1, 2016.

Metz is the administrative centre and préfecture.

Lorraine has 4 departments:

Meurthe-et-Moselle (54 – Nancy), Meuse (55 – Bar-le-Duc), Moselle (57 – Metz) and Vosges (88 – Epinal)

It’s the only French region to have a common border with three other countries: Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.

Geography and Climate

The Vosges mountain range and Plateau de Lorraine are the region’s main geological features.

Lorraine is one of most wooded regions in metropolitan France (36% of its area).

Vosges - Lorraine

The Vosges unfold on the eastern side and act as a natural boundary with Alsace.

The department of Vosges is the 3rd most wooded French department (48% of its area) after the Landes and the Var.

The Plateau de Lorraine consists of rolling hills and covers most of the remaining area.

The river Moselle and its tributaries Madon, Meurthe, Seille, Saar and Meuse, and the Saône and its tributaries Bold, Ourche, Coney flow through the region.

These produce several natural lakes – Lac de Gérardmer, Lac de Longemer, Lac de Retournemer and Lac des Corbeaux.

Lorraine enjoys an oceanic climate with continental influences.


Fountain on Place Stanislas
Fountain and gilded grids

Lorraine’s extensive coalfield formed between -400 million and 245 million years ago.

It covers an area of approximately 49,000ha and spans the Moselle valley.

It obviously played a major role in its historic and economical development.

Archaeological findings indeed show that it attracted permanent human settlements during the Early Iron Age (800BC-500BC).

Coal was consistently mined through out the Middle-Ages.

However, the mining industry started to thrive in the late 18th century and reached its peak during the industrial revolution of the mid 19th century.

A bit of history…

Several tribes lived there when the Romans conquered the region, which they integrated to their Belgium Province.

Monument aux Enfants de Verdun Morts pour la France
Monument aux Enfants de Verdun Morts pour la France

The Frank King Clovis conquered Roman Gaul in the late 5th century and integrated the region to the Kingdom of Austrasia.

After his death, his kingdom was divided between his sons.

Lothar inherited Austrasia, which became commonly known as Lotharii regnum – Lothaire’s Kingdom.

This name evolved into Lotharingia in the 10th century, then slowly evolved into Lorraine over time.

Interestingly, historical Lorraine is still referred to as Lotharingie.

Clovis’ descendants ruled France until 751AD; the Carolingians succeeded them and ruled until 987AD.

During his long reign (768AD – 814AD) Charlemagne united a large part of Europe.

Above all, he laid the foundation of modern day France and Germany when he became the first Holy Roman Emperor in 800AD.

His 3 surviving grandsons inherited the Carolingian Empire in 843AD with the Treaty of Verdun.

This division gave birth to the Kingdom of France in the West and the Holy Roman Empire in the East.

Louis the German inherited East Francia, which became part of the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th century.

In 880 Lotharingia became part of East Francia.

The newly formed Duchy of Lorraine thus became a transition land with a cultural and linguistic duality it has since retained.

The kings of France tried repeatedly to recover Lorraine throughout the centuries.

This eventually happened via intricate marriage alliances!

Lorraine becomes French

Stanislas Leszczynski, the fallen prince of Poland, indeed inherited the Duchy of Lorraine in the 18th century.

Stanislas was not only Duke of Lorraine, but he was also the father-in-law of Louis XV.

As a result,  his duchy became part of the Kingdom of France after his death in 1766.

Came the French Revolution, and in 1790 the old duchy was divided in 4 departments: Meuse, Meurthe, Moselle and Vosges.

However, French and Germans kept fighting over territorial issues; France lost the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.

The German Empire recovered the region with the signature of the Treaty of Frankfurt.

The Germans lost WWI and Lorraine, but re-annexed it in 1940.

However, the region was liberated in March 1945, and has remained French since.


Industrial Lorraine thrived after WWII, as its raw material reserves were spared during the war.

Many Italians and Polish immigrants came to work in the mines.

The unprecedented demographic expansion they triggered ranked Lorraine as the 3rd French economic pole.

Sadly the coal and iron mines closed in the second part of the 20th century.

The region has since succeeded its re-conversion by targeting new technologies such as energy or electronics.

The key factors of its economic and trading success are its common borders with Luxembourg, Belgium and German, its membership to SaarLorLux and its proximity to the European megalopolis.

Finally, the department of Moselle is part of the Eurodistrict SaarMoselle (EGCC).

As a result, Lorraine’s economy generates some 44-billion € and therefore contributes to 3.4% of France’s GDP!


The spas towns of Vittel, Contrexéville, Bains-les-Bains and Plombières-les-Bains contribute to the reputation of the Vosges Mountains.

The Lorraine Regional Natural Park attracts hikers and nature lovers.

Nancy‘s Art Nouveau Places Stanislas, Carrière and Alliance, which are listed by UNESCO, attract tourists from all over the world.

So do its magnificent lake and surrounding area.

In the late 18th century, Epinal specialised in the prints known as Images d’Epinal.

The Château de Lunéville, the chateau of the Duke of Lorraine Stanislas Leszczynski, has retained its lavish decoration and architecture.

Metz is known for its architectural and cultural heritage, but also for its Centre Pompidou, a contemporary building resembling a gigantic white sail.

Then, a visit to Longwy is compulsory if you like earthenware and cloisonné enamels.

The region’s unique history led also to the appearance of a rich military architectural heritage.

Finally, the region sustains a thriving Tourism of Memory, centered around Verdun, Argonne and the Salient of Saint-Mihiel.

A last word; Lorraine is the only French region that celebrates St. Nicholas (Santa Claus!) on December 6th and the following days!

Area: 23 547 km2
Population: 2,346.292 (2014)

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