"Fantastic shopping in Lille includes retro boutiques Nostalgie, La Mère Veille, Vintage Store and Funny Vintage, and the cosmopolitan Wazemmes Market."
The Charms of Arras.
History Seen From On HighEnjoy an atmospheric aperitif at the foot of an UNESCO-listed belfry
Take a break from everyday routine and grey skies with a couple’s break in this romantic French city just a short hop from the Channel ferry ports, rich in Flemish architecture and atmosphere.
Just an hour from Calais by motorway,
Arras is the perfect place for a couple’s break that gives you the chance to slow down and spend some quality time together while learning new things and appreciating authentic culture and impressive architecture.
Cassel:Northern France’s Most Flemish Town with sweeping views
A short hop from the Channel, Cassel has a romantic atmosphere and laid-back charm that make it perfect for couples looking to explore historic Flanders and experience some French art de vivre.
Less than an hour from Calais, Cassel is a unique place to immerse yourself in another culture, learn about Flemish architecture and enjoy views over the rest of French Flanders. Must-sees are the Grand’Place with its gabled houses with brightly painted wooden shutters, the Kasteel Meulen or Moulin de Cassel, one of around 20 windmills that dotted the area in the Middle Ages, several private châteaux, and the Musée Départemental de Flandre, with displays on local history plus English audio-guides. For the best countryside views, head for Kasteel Meulen, Estaminet T’Kasteel’hof or the Châtellerie de Shoebecque’s restaurant. A passionate advocate of local life, Manuel de Quillacq is proprietor of both T’Kasteel Hof (a typical Flemish estaminet or bistro, serving comfort food in a cosy setting) and the remarkable Jardin du Mont des Récollets, inspired by historic Flemish gardens and including topiary and an area inspired by Brueghel’s Hunters in the Snow.
Made by slow-cooking meat in brown ale with a bit of sugar, smoked bacon, herbs and spices this rich, delicious casserole is the best way to immerse yourself in Flemish flavours. The best part? It’s served with ginger bread toast, and the spices combined with the beef stew is a match made in heaven.
get a rare opportunity to watch the Ronde Européenne de Géants Portés in Steenvoorde just east of Cassel. This UNESCO-listed parade held every six years or so features giant carnival figures from all over Europe, the most famous among them Reuze Papa.
With 20 Michelin-starred chefs and many restaurants listed in the influential Gault et Millau guides, Hauts-de-France is a paradise for foodie couples, who can enjoy both traditional and innovative cuisine while exploring the region’s sights. These include Deux-Caps, the Baie de Somme (among the world’s loveliest bays), the Château de Chantilly with its antique painting collection second only to that of the Louvre in Paris, the Musée du Louvre-Lens, and the city of Lille. And luxurious places to stay are close at hand too.
At the helm of Auberge de la Grenouillère in La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, Michelin-starred Alexandre Gauthier shot to fame when he served local Licques chicken to heads of state including Barack Obama at Paris’ COP21 conference.
Other Michelin-starred names to look out for are Florent Ladeyn at the Auberge du Vert-Mont in Boeschepe, Nicolas Pourcheresse at Hôtel Clarance in Lille, Ludovic Colpart at the Auberge du Pont de Rethondes, and Marc Meurin, with restaurants in Lille, Lens and Busnes – including Hôtel Le Château de Busnes with its gourmet cookery courses, available in English.
Chefs get out and about, selecting ingredients from market stalls, market gardeners and producers, plus seafood in the Somme Bay.
Then there are other huge talents such as Steven Ramon at Rouge Barre in Lille, Sébastien Porquet at La Table des Corderies in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, and Tony Lestienne at La Matelote in Boulogne-sur-Mer, known for his seafood.
Low Food Miles, High Standards of Presentation These chefs insist on using high-quality seasonal produce. Some incorporate rare ingredients such as saffron grown in the Baie de Somme, as championed by Porquet and Ludovic Colpart at the Auberge du Pont de Rethondes.
Enjoy some innovative French cuisine based on edible flowers while discovering Northern France’s botanical gardens and picking up some gardening tips along the way.
While enjoying classic French cuisine is one of the great pleasures of holidays in Northern France, the region is also home to a new wave of innovative chefs working with local flowers and plants.
Nowhere is this more in evidence than at the Table du Jardinier at the Jardins de Valloires near the french coast. Here, exciting dishes using plants from the botanical gardens include a salad of ground ivy and Bayonne ham, pike perch with nasturtiums and crayfish pesto, and crême brûlée with sweet woodruff. Before or after lunch, wander the botanical gardens and glean some ideas for improving your own garden back home.
In Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, on the french coast, the stylish Table des Corderies in the chic hotel of the same name serves creative and traditional french food including foie gras with seaweed, scallops with foraged herbs, and a dessert of saffron mousse. The chef picks up himself its flowers in the Somme Bay or at the Herbarium. Stay the night and offer you a spa weekend breaks in its sea-view spa. Or in nearby Le Crotoy, head for Auberge de la Marine, where recipes featuring local plants – some foraged – include duck tenderloin braised with sea buckthorn, in a light sauce of carotte des sables (carrots grown in sand) with orange.
The addition of family roller coaster Pégase to its Ancient Greece area makes Parc Astérix one of things to do in France this summer, whether you’re spending northern france holidays or passing through (the park has its own exit off the A1 Paris–Lille and is also handy for those travelling to or from the ferry / Eurotunnel port of Calais).
ImmersionJust across the channel
Just a short hop across the Channel, the northern France region is blessed with a rich cultural and architectural heritage that makes it a superb destination for a stimulating weekend getaway.
Many sites here are UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the 104-metre-tall beffroi or bell-tower on Lille’s 1920s town hall, which was inspired by triangular-gabled Flemish houses. The bell-towers of Douai and Arras are also UNESCO listed.
The region has nine cathedrals to discover, too. Among them is Amiens’ UNESCO-listed Gothic Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame – France’s largest cathedral, and one endowed with a remarkable stylistic unity. Others are at Lille, Cambrai, Arras, Saint-Omer, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Laon, Beauvais and Soissons.
A new addition to the cultural attractions of the region is the Villa Cavrois in Croix, just outside Lille. An incredible refurbishment project undertaken by the French government to restore a modernist mansion by French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens.
An unmissable site for those visiting the region is Chantilly with its spectacular château housing both lavish royal apartments and a vast collection of antique paintings (within the Musée de Condé). There are also stunning parklands to explore and the fascinating Musée du Cheval in the former Grand Stables, with displays on the history of horses.
Art Deco, which took seed in Western Europe after beginning in France, has a strong presence in the region too. You can see it in everything from seaside villas in Le Touquet Paris-Plage, Dunkirk and elsewhere, to swimming pools (one – at Roubaix – still functional, others turned into cultural venues), train stations and post offices. Saint-Quentin is a good place to see a concentration of Art Deco buildings and features.
With remarkable historic sights and fabulous dining, laid-back Chantilly just north-east of Paris is perfect for experiencing French art de vivre in a setting of incredible natural beauty.
Surrounded by gorgeous forest yet within easy reason of the French capital, Chantilly is compact enough to explore on foot during a leisurely couple’s break yet packed with some of France’s most impressive historic sites, as well as unforgettable places to eat, drink and stay.
Canals and French charmA secret city break, Northern France
Lively yet peaceful, and full of great restaurants with french cuisine, this city halfway between Paris and Calais is home to a host of offbeat sights that make it a charming choice for a romantic weekend break.
A short hop from the Channel ferry ports, Amiens is no ordinary city. At its heart lies France’s largest Gothic cathedral – a UNESCO-listed structure that stuns visitors year-round but that is best viewed at nightfall from mid-June to mid-September and throughout December. During these periods, its main facade with its extraordinary sculptures is illuminated to show the surprisingly bright colours in which it was painted in medieval times. Accompanied by spiritual music, the effect is spellbinding.
Artistic trades flourish in Hauts-de-France and continue to make their presence felt on an international stage, making it the perfect destination for couples keen to learn together and perhaps acquire a new skill. For instance, Musée Atelier du Verre in Sars-Poteries runs courses in its state-of-the-art glass studio, and Cristallerie d’Arc in Arques gives you the chance to learn the art of glass-blowing. There are also workshops at the Musée de la Céramique, Desvres.
Visiting a French Christmas market is a wonderful opportunity to sample some of the region’s specialities, as well to feast on festive favourites such as mulled wine, waffles, roast chestnuts.
Lille, home to one of France’s largest art museums, the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Hauts de France capital offers culture, heritage and gastronomy just 75 minutes from the Channel.
One of the most dramatic World War I battles saw the use of massed Mark IV tanks by the British, in an attempt to liberate the town of Cambrai just behind the Hindenburg LIne. Though unsuccessful, it paved the way for the Hundred Days offensives. So important was this battle that Cambrai Day is commemorated on the 20th November by the Royal Tank Regiment.
Meet Deborah, centrepiece of the new Museum of Cambrai 1917
The centenary of the Battle of Cambrai will be marked by the opening of the Cambrai Tank 1917 Museum. Its centrepiece is ‘Deborah’, a British tank uncovered by hotelier Philippe Gorczynski in the grounds of the Château de Flesquières in 1998. The venue will also tell the story of many of the 44,000 British troops wounded, lost or killed in the attack, some of whom are buried in British Hill Cemetery beside the museum.
At Hôtel Le Béatus, owner Philippe Gorczynski, a WWI expert, will happily share his passion for the subject. Having spent childhood holidays in the area, he devoted years of painstaking research to locate ‘Deborah’."
Challenge your perspective with a visit to the Cambrai Musée des Beaux-Arts, with works by Ingres and Rodin; the Matisse Museum, with France’s largest collection by the painter; and Musée de la Dentelle in Caudry where the lace on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was made. Less than an hour’s drive away is the Louvre Lens, with meticulously chosen works from its big sister in Paris. Dining options are aplenty. Do try the Château de la Motte Fénelon’s restaurant Le 109, with dishes that include veal caramelised in Belval Abbey honey, with sand-grown carrots and white-onion sauce. Let yourself be tempted by boulangeries, farmshops and markets, and bring a piece of France home with you from the Halles Cambrésiennes or Bétises de Cambrai Afchain (boiled sweets). Maroilles CheeseIf you fancy a slower pace, Mormal Forest, damaged in the war, is a peaceful walking spot, with roe and red deer and boar. Pretty Maroilles, home to one of France’s most pungent cheeses, hosts a fleamarket in June and a Fête Flamiche in August (flamiche is a tart). Practical Information.
The Past Lives On
World War ILearn about the war and its impact on today
"Thiepval Visitor Centre has a database to try to track down ancestors."
For the duration of filming, the town and the Dune Marchand nature reserve, ever popular with birdwatchers and hikers were taken over by extras, film-sets and military vehicles disrupting the peaceful atmosphere.
The French and British armies are surrounded by 80,000 German soldiers. While groups of allied soldiers are organised to hold back the German advance, the largest ever maritime evacuation in history, Operation Dynamo, takes position. Nearly 338,000 soldiers waiting on the beach are finally transported back to England thanks to a fleet of “little ships”, simple fishing boats and pleasure craft which came to assist military vessels.
a heritage site with UNESCO-listed belfries, seafront villas and a working harbour. Dunkirk is also the ideal place to escape from daily routines and revitalise the spirit. Enjoy the unique atmosphere of its Carnival, a colourful tradition with several lively music events and parades taking place over 3 months. A warm welcome can also be found in the town’s bars and restaurants, ideal for sampling local specialities: mussels & chips, Potjevleesch (3 meat terrine). Or for the sweet tooth, the Sugar tart and waffles from Dunkerque. When in Flanders, nothing beats a pint of local beer at the brewery! When in Flanders, nothing beats a pint of local beer at the brewery!
© Biscuiterie la Dunkerquoise
Northern France is home to the greatest number of British memorial sites on the French Western Front in World War I and hence a place of pilgrimage for everyone from families on the trace of a missing loved one to history buffs and school groups who want to learn about the terrible conflict and its impact on the world today. Among the region’s heroes, British Army officer, medical doctor and Olympic athlete Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse from Oxford was the only man awarded the Victoria Cross twice in the First World War, once for trying to save comrades in the Battle of Guillemont between Amiens and Arras. He died of his wounds in 1917.
On 9th April 2017, representatives from several countries came together in the Arras region to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Battle of Arras.
The Battle of Arras was a British led offensive on the Western Front in April 1917. Given the extreme danger faced by soldiers in preparing this offensive, a vast underground network of tunnels below the town was used for its preparation. Traces left by the soldiers who went into battle on the morning of 9th April 1917 can still be found in the cool damp of Wellington Quarry’s underground tunnels. It’s hard to imagine the town’s state of ruin in 1918 as one strolls beneath the arches around the two main squares. Reconstruction works restored Arras’ town-hall and belfry to their original splendour, as well as the Flemish baroque-style houses around the squares. Sitting at one of the cafés on Place des Héros is the ideal way to soak in the unique architecture and atmosphere. To the North of Arras, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial is a peaceful site, shaped by its terrible past. Children enjoy being taken down into the preserved network of WW1 trenches, where they are welcomed by young volunteer guides from Canada, who explain the preparations for the assault launched by the Canadian forces on 9th April 1917.
Europe’s two highest slag heaps, in Loos-en Gohelle, offer a panoramic overview of the UNESCO-listed mining landscape in Nord-Pas de Calais and, in good weather, Lens (with its Bollaert-Delelis stadium and the Louvre-Lens Museum, showing works from the Paris Louvre) and even as far as LillePractical Information
Created by David Austin in 2004 for the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, the five-petalled Rose of Picardy® takes its name from a 1916 song said to be based on a love affair in France, and often sung by British soldiers as they enlisted for the Front. A song from a legend... The Rose of Picardy® was written by Frederic Weatherly - a British lawyer however prolific poet. It can be seen at the Abbaye de Valloires, Château Fort de Rambures, Abbaye de Chaalis, Jardin des Ifs and Jardins de LY. Some of these gardens have lovely restaurants and/or tea-rooms – notably the Jardin des Ifs in Gerberoy (one of the most beautiful villages in France) and Abbaye de Valloires with its graden roses. One of the best places to stay close to the latter is the Domaine de Célestins near the coast, with stylish B&B rooms and gîtes, plus a spa.
Let the protected green areas of Hauts-de-France restore you and put you back in touch with your body and its natural rhythms – as well as help you to renew your connection with your partner. Large swathes of this region remain free of urbanisation, and many of them are protected natural reserves too – making this the perfect destination for couples who need to get away from it all and carve out some quality time for themselves. Such spaces include the Baie de Somme – one of the world’s loveliest bays, whose seemingly endless horizons and wealth of wildlife (including a colony of harbour seals) are best discovered via a guided nature walk with a local expert. Soak in breathtaking views (and fresh air galore) from the Deux-Caps, Boulogne-sur-Mer’s ramparts, the cliffs of Mers-les-Bains and Bois de Cise, and Vaux-sur-Somme’s viewing platform. In many places you can glean insider glimpses of local life courtesy of English-speaking ‘greeters’ such as Frédéric Legris, who will take you to see the house of his market-gardener grandparents in the UNESCO biosphere reserve of the Marais Audomarois.
The Champagne Trail.
A Taste of French Art de Vivre
Spend quality time together on a couple’s break in a romantic setting where life runs at a more leisurely pace, discovering local gourmet delights as well as lovely countryside and gardens.
Following the Champagne Route through the Aisne department near Reims and Paris brings you into contact with both large- and small-scale producers. Along the way, you’ll discover traditional little villages, Romanesque churches, châteaux and botanical gardens tucked amidst the rolling vineyards and woodlands. Blessed with the ideal temperatures, rainfall and sunshine
North France’s special birds:see great species hardly ever seen in the UK!
With its extensive protected areas and habitats, northern France has several bird species not found in Britain as well as many which are difficult to see on our shores – and all within a short drive of your ferry or the Channel Tunnel.
The birds are obvious as soon as you set foot on French soil, with Crested Larks and Zitting Cisticolas near the Calais Ferry terminal and many seabirds around the channel on the way in. And there is even better just minutes along the coast, with miles of dunes and marshes alive with birdsong as Savi and Melodious Warblers - at Platier do L’Oye or Guines Marsh - or good numbers of Bluethroat at the Etangs de Romelaere near St Omer.
French market gardens by boat
Visit a UNESCO listed atmospheric wetlands only 40 minutes from Calais and immerse yourself in protected local landscapes and traditions, and learn about authentic ways of life.
The UNESCO-listed Marais Audomarois includes Saint-Omer – a city rich in art and history – and France’s only remaining cultivated wetland, with about 40 market gardeners. It’s a calm place to escape daily life and see sustainable consumption in action. Hire electric bikes or head to the the Maison du Marais Saint-Omer to ride a bacôve – a flat-bottomed boat used to transport vegetables, handmade locally.
A Family Nature BreakA New View of the British Coast
Escape from routine and spend time together at a nature reserve just across the Channel. Learn new things and get a different perspective on the UK coast – plus lungfuls of fresh seaside air.
Together comprising the Grand Site des Deux Caps, Cap Gris-Nez and Cap Blanc-Nez are the closest points in France to the UK coast. As well as offering the chance to see your country from a new angle, it’s a fabulous place to bring kids for clifftop walks and fresh air within minutes of Calais ferry port. Deux Caps has an otherworldly feel while being within easy reach of seaside and inland villages where you can enjoy seafood fresh from the boats and get a great night’s sleep in family-friendly accommodation.