Here’s one I struggled with a bit while upgrading yesterday.

Scenario: You need to take your site offline and want to redirect all its traffic to a “down for maintenance” page. For search engine friendliness, that page should return a 503: Service Unavailable status code. Here’s the (not entirely intuitive) way to do that in Nginx:

server {
        listen      80;
        root    /var/www/;

        location / {
            if (-f $document_root/maintenance.html) {
                return 503;
            ... # the rest of your config goes here

        error_page 503 @maintenance;
        location @maintenance {
                rewrite ^(.*)$ /maintenance.html break;

Now whenever you need to take your site offline, simply create the file maintenance.html in the $document_root (in our case, /var/www/ If the file exists, Nginx will serve it with a 503 status code, if not, it will proceed as usual.