The crystallization of amorphous Ge2Sb2Te5 thin films has been studied by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The analysis has been performed on partially crystallized films, with a surface crystalline fraction (fS
) ranging from 20% to 100%. XRD analysis indicates the presence, in the partially transformed layer, of grains with average lattice parameters higher than that of the equilibrium metastable cubic phase (from 6.06 Å at fS
=20% to 6.01 Å at fS
=100%). The amorphous to crystal transition, as shown by TEM analysis, occurs through the nucleation of face-centered-cubic crystal domains at the film surface. Local dimples appear in the crystallized areas, due to the higher atomic density of the crystal phase compared to the amorphous one. At the initial stage of the transformation, a fast bi-dimensional growth of such crystalline nucleus occurs by the generation of transrotational grains in which the lattice bending gives rise to an average lattice parameter significantly larger than that of the face-centered-cubic phase in good agreement with the XRD data. As the crystallized fraction increases above 80%, dimples and transrotational structures start to disappear and the lattice parameter approaches the bulk value.