Tourist Places in Anjou(Angers)

Close to where the Maine River enters the Loire, Angers is an impossibly beautiful city awash with renaissance architecture.

This opulence was the perk of being the capital of Anjou, a historical province ruled by dukes and counts who wielded serious power in medieval times.

The might of these dynasties will be evident when you see Angers Castle, the seat of the counts and a formidable stronghold from the 1300s that looks like it could withstand anything thrown it is way.

You’ll fall in love with the splendid art that the rich nobility commissioned, and can delve into renaissance houses, twee old neighborhoods and the majestic but less frequented châteaux of the lower Loire Valley.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Anger:

1. Angers Castle

The ultimate symbol of the might of the medieval Counts of Anjou, Angers Castle as we see it was built in 1231. The outer wall rules over the southern part of the city center, with a curtain that goes on for 660 meters and is strengthened with 17 bulk towers, every 18 meters in height.

It’s a truly impressive show of force that belies the daintiness of the residence within the courtyard.

The Grand Salle is from the 9th century, when the castle was first built, and there are chapels, lodgings and parterre gardens to discover.

You could also “man the battlements” for views of the city or take stroll in the sweet formal gardens at the base of the walls in the castle’s former ditches.

2. Apocalypse Tapestry

n the 1370s, Louis I, the Duke of Anjou commissioned artist Jean Bondol to make the preliminary sketches for what would become the immense tapestry that is presented inside the castle.

The Apocalypse Tapestry was finished in 1382 and would have required as much as 85 accumulative years of labor from its weavers at their workshop in Paris.

When it was done it had six sections, each one just over six meters high and 24 meters wide, and is seen by critics as one of the greatest artistic representations of the Book of Revelations and a medieval wonder.

3. Musée Jean-Lurçat

The 12th-century Hôpital Saint-Jean is a phenomenal piece of Angevin gothic design, and its impressive how much of it is still here.

La Grande Salle des Malades (Hall of the Sick), measures 60 by 22.5 meters and has beautiful vaulting, while the granary, 17th-century apothecary and cloister have been almost completely preserved.

In the Grand Salle des, Malades is the Chant du Monde (Song of the World), a sequence of ten modern tapestries by the artist Jean Lurçat, which are a kind of synopsis of all the good and bad in the world, inspired by the Apocalypse Tapestry on show at the castle.

4. Musée des Beaux-Arts

Those in the known rate Anger’ fine arts museum, situated in the renaissance Logis Barrault, as one of the top regional museums in France.

And as is usually the way with such attractions there are galleries of European painting paired with exhibitions of archaeology relevant to Anger and its region.

The “Parcours Histoire d’Angers” is a trail that ushers you through the collections from Anger’s former museum of antiquities, with portraits of the historical personalities and landscapes of Anger through the ages to convey the development of the city.

Then the “Parcours Beaux-Arts” shows the Flemish, Italian and French school paintings that once enriched the homes of the city’s elite.

5. Angers Cathedral

Constructed in the 13th century but frequently altered down the years, the cathedral is a bit of a mish-mash of styles, but it can be satisfying to work out which part of the church was built when.

For instance, the 77-meter-high towers are from the 16th century and in the renaissance style, while the carvings of Christ and the symbols of the Evangelists in the western portal below are gothic, and date to the church’s earliest years.

There was a big fire in the 1400s, which took out many of the stained glass windows, but that only gave master glassmaker André Robin the opportunity to craft the current fabulous red and blue windows in 1453.

6. Maison d’Adam

Just behind the cathedral on Place Sainte-Croix is a renaissance timber building from the late-15th century, which is unmissable in every sense.

It stands at six stories tall and its beams have an ornate diamond pattern.

As is the case with most houses from this era, the upper levels are larger than the ones below and are propped up by the most intricately carved corbels.

One of these is of an apple tree, around which would have been caricatures of Adam and Eve, which explains the name.

Just behind the cathedral on Place Sainte-Croix is a renaissance timber building from the late-15th century, which is unmissable in every sense.

It stands at six storeys tall and its beams have an ornate diamond pattern.

As is the case with most houses from this era, the upper levels are larger than the ones below and are propped up by the most intricately carved corbels.

One of these is of an apple tree, around which would have been caricatures of Adam and Eve, which explains the name.

7. Jardin des Plantes

Although the current Jardin des Plantes was plotted in the English style at the start of the 20th century,  there had been a botanical garden here, just outside the old walls, since botany became fashionable in the 1700s.

The park is four peaceful hectares of lawns, woodland, bushes, flowerbeds, a lake, stream and waterfalls, all embellished with sculptures.

If you know your horticulture you might be able to point out the more exotic specimens, like a paulownia tree, which is native to China and Korea, a Siberian elm and Quercus fares, a species of oak that grows in Algeria and Tunisia.

Bring the little guys to make friends with the goats, while there are also deer and aviaries for parrots.

8. La Doutre

Cross Maine for a wander in the district once encircled by Anger’ walls.

La Doutre is a clutter of streets and alleys, many with covered passageways and lined with timber-framed houses.

All you have to do is take Rue Beaurepaire from the bridge and let yourself be drawn down the side streets.

Place de la Laiterie has a real village-like feel in what is still the center of the city, while Place du Tertre Saint-Laurent is where the 19th-century bourgeoisie settled, and all the adjoining streets have refined stone mansions.

With its avenue of giant plane trees, Quai Monge is as grand as it gets and belongs to the Berges de Maine, a 300-hectare public space by the River.

9. Terra Botanica

When it opened in 2010 it became the first theme park based on plants and botany.

And if that sounds a bit dry for kids there’s a lot for them to get stuck into, like La Balade des Times, a sort of elevated pedal monorail that lifts you above the tree canopy, and exciting 4D CGI movies that show the water cycle from the perspective of a water droplet or take you on a journey into a dinosaur reserve.

As Terra Botanica is largely organic, with 300,000 plants from around the world, there are different colours and scents whether you come in May or at the end of the season in September.

10. Logis Pincé

This museum of classical and oriental art has been closed for refurbishments for the last couple of years.

If it is open when you come, there are Roman ceramics, Egyptian hieroglyphics and a wealth of art from Japan and China, including porcelain, glassware, bronzes and theatre masks.

But even of the museum is still being renovated, you’d be remiss not to stop on Rue Lenepvue for a photo of Logis Pincé’s fairytale renaissance architecture.

The building is from the 1500s and is like a miniature Loire Château in the heart of the city.

11. Galerie David d’Angers

David d’Angers was a leading sculptor in the 18th and 19th centuries, receiving commissions from all over Europe and even America.

As his name might tell you, he was a native of Anger, and this museum has accumulated many of the preparatory plasters he made before fashioning marble or bronze sculptures.

There are 985 statues, medallions and busts in all, including those for preeminent contemporary figures like Goethe, Victor Hugo Balzac and Chateaubriand.

The setting is also exquisite; the 13th-century Toussaint Abbey was in ruins before it was converted for this museum in 1984, with a new glass roof filling the galleries with natural light.

13. Château de Brissac

A simple 15-minute drive from Anger, the Château de Brissac is absolutely spellbinding.

The renaissance and baroque design we see now is from the 16th century and was ordered by Pierre de Brézé, a chief minister for King Charles VII. At seven storeys tall it’s the highest château in France, with 200 rooms and has been in the same family for 20 generations.

You’ll need an hour for the tour, perusing rooms enriched with gilt, damask and fine period furniture.

Beneath the grounds is a 250-metre canal designed for when the nearby river flooded, and a wine cellar for you to taste Rosé d’Anjou and take a bottle home as a souvenir.

Tourist Places in Burgundy(Dijon)

Dijon is famous for its mustard, but the quaint boutiques selling old-fashioned mustard are just the beginning of the tourist attractions. Known as the “City of Dukes,” Dijon was the capital of the medieval duchy of Burgundy. The town’s UNESCO-listed historic center boasts well-preserved aristocratic palaces and elegant “hôtels particuliers,” mansions of the Dukes of Burgundy and other distinguished owners.

Besides admiring the impressive architecture, visitors will enjoy strolling the atmospheric cobblestone streets and savoring gourmet meals at traditional restaurants. Dijon is a place to sample authentic culinary specialties such as escargot and boeuf bourguignon for a taste of classic French gastronomy. For ideas on more things to do, see our list of the top attractions in Dijon.

1. Palais des Ducs and the Musée des Beaux-Arts

The Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne (Ducal Palace) is a must-see tourist attraction in the UNESCO-listed historic center of Dijon. The palace exemplifies refined Neoclassical style, thanks to renovations in the 17th century by the architect of Versailles, Jules Hardouin-Mansart. The Dijon Office of Tourism organizes tours of the Philippe le Bon tower, which has sensational views from a platform at the top (reached by climbing 316 steps).

The Palais des Ducs houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts, a fine arts museum that displays exhibits within the palace’s former kitchen, guard room, and grand reception halls (the East Wing of the palace).

The Musée des Beaux-Arts boasts an exceptional collection of around 13,000 pieces, from Egyptian antiquities to contemporary art. Highlights include masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance by Titian, Veronese, and Lorenzo Lotto; 17th-century paintings by Rubens, Phillipe de Champaigne, and Georges de la Tour; 19th-century works by Gustave Moreau and Eugène Delacroix; and Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Edouard Manet, and Camille Pissarro.

Not to be missed are Georges de La Tour’s Le Souffleur à la Lampe, a painting that reveals an amazingly realistic technique of depicting candlelight; and Adam and Eve in Paradise by Guido Reni, which evokes a sentimental view of paradise.

2. Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne

The Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne in the historic center is the city’s finest example of Burgundian Gothic architecture, built between 1280 and 1314 on the site of an ancient Benedictine abbey. The cathedral was dedicated to Saint Bénigne, who was martyred in Dijon in the late 2nd century.

The only remaining vestige of the original abbey is the “Rotonde,” a remarkable three-story subterranean crypt, which contains the tomb of Saint Benignus. Dating back to the Carolingian era, the Rotonde is a solemn domed space that resembles the classical architecture of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Today, this emblematic twin-towered monument still provides a place of spiritual worship for the residents of Dijon with daily mass celebrations. One of the most inspiring things to do in Dijon is to attend one of the cathedral’s organ concerts, performed by renowned musicians throughout the year. The cathedral also houses an Archaeological Museum with an excellent collection of Gallo-Roman artifacts, Romanesque sculptures, and medieval antiquities.

3. Eglise Notre-Dame

Built between 1230 and 1250, the Eglise Notre-Dame is the “Grande Dame” of Dijon churches. In the historic center (near the Ducal Palace), the building exemplifies Burgundian Gothic architecture, with a striking facade featuring three rows of whimsical gargoyles and a marvelous high-vaulted interior.

The church has a clock tower created in 1382 with a charming family of jacquemarts, mechanical figures that chime the church bells. Inside the chapel on the right is a precious 11th-century Black Virgin, one of the oldest wooden figures in France. An owl sculpture on the exterior is considered a good luck charm. The local tradition is to stroke the owl and then make a wish.

4. Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne

The Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne (Museum of Burgundian Life) occupies the Cloître des Bernardines, a splendid cloister of a 17th-century monastery in Dijon’s historic center. This museum is a great place to learn about the culture of the Burgundy region. Collections focus on the history of Dijon, the traditional clothing of the 19th century, and everyday objects from the 19th to 20th century.

An exhibit of Faïence de Dijon reveals the beauty of 17th-century faïence ceramics (plates, dishes, pitchers, mustard jars, etc.) decorated with delicate motifs. The museum also has a library-boutique that sells books, postcards, and vintage-style wooden toys.

5. Chartreuse de Champmol

Outside of Dijon’s historic center (about a five-minute drive or 30-minute walk), the Chartreuse de Champmol is the former necropolis of the Dukes of Burgundy. However, the monument was converted into a hospital in the 19th century.

Today, the site welcomes tourists and is worth visiting to admire two superb examples of Burgundian sculpture created in 1404: the Puits de Moïse (“Well of Moses”) and the Portail de la Chapelle (Doorway of the Chapel). The “Puits de Moïse” features decorative columns topped by angels and Old Testament prophets. The Portail de la Chapelle is the entryway for a chapel that nows serves the hospital community.

Address: Centre Hospitalier Spécialisé de la Chartreuse, 1 Boulevard du Chanoine Kir, Dijon

6. Dijon Mustard Boutiques and Culinary Shops

For gourmands around the world, it is a happy coincidence that the woodland terrain around Dijon provides the ideal conditions for cultivating mustard plants with pungent seeds. The Dijon style of mustard is so distinctive that the town’s name is synonymous with this gourmet product, created by gently milling the seeds of locally grown mustard plants. In fact, the venerable condiment has been produced here since the 14th century.

Two prestigious mustard boutiques are found in the historic center of town: the Maison Maille (32 Rue de la Liberté) founded in 1747 and the Moutarderie Edmund Fallot (16 Rue de la Chouette), which dates to 1840.

Other gastronomic destinations in Dijon include the culinary marketplace Les Halles (Rue Odebert), built-in 1868 and modeled after Paris’ market halls. Les Halles contains 246 boutiques that sell fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, and specialty food products.

La Maison des Pains (7 Rue de la Liberté) near the Maison Maille is the place to indulge in fancy French pastries. Also nearby is the Pains d’épices Mulot & Petitjean boutique (16 Rue de la Liberté), which sells gingerbread cakes, a specialty of Dijon. Founded in 1796, the Mulot & Petitjean company has a historic boutique at 13 Place Bossuet and still follows gingerbread recipes that have been passed down through the generations.

7. Jardin de arquebuse

In a more modern area of Dijon outside of the historic center, the Jardin de arquebuse is a delightful botanical garden with an arboretum and playground. The vast grounds offer an oasis of relaxation in nature. The garden is planted with 3,500 species of indigenous and exotic plants, including medicinal plants. Spacious lawns, vibrant flowerbeds, alleyways of shady trees, and a gurgling stream add to the charm, inviting leisurely strolls through the leafy park.

Science lovers will appreciate the garden’s natural history museum, the Jardin des Sciences de Dijon. This museum educates visitors about biodiversity with exhibits on zoology, geology, mineralogy, and entomology. The museum features interactive and educational display windows to help visitors understand the natural history. The planetarium will appeal to those who appreciate astronomy and anyone who enjoys star gazing.

8. Eglise Saint-Michel

In the historic center of Dijon (near the Ducal Palace), the Eglise Saint-Michel appears to soar towards heaven, with its twin-towered facade that harmoniously blends medieval and Renaissance architectural elements.

Founded in 1497, the church was constructed over two centuries, which explains the unusual mix of styles. Three richly sculpted doorways feature ornate carvings of angels and other figures. An exquisite high-vaulted Gothic nave impresses visitors with its grandeur and brightness. The sanctuary is illuminated by gorgeous 19th-century stained-glass windows that have a dreamy, romantic quality.

9. Hôtel de Vogüé

In the heart of the historic center near the Ducal Palace, the Hôtel de Vogüé is a magnificent hôtel particulier (mansion) constructed in 1614 for Etienne Bouhier, an advisor of the Bourgogne Parliament. This exquisite example of classical Italian Renaissance architecture incorporates a grand entrance porch and an ornately adorned courtyard. The entire building is characterized by its decorative richness, and the distinctive tiled roof features the colorful geometric patterns that are typical in Burgundy.

10. Musée Magnin

The Musée Magnin occupies the Hôtel Lantin, another elegant 17th-century hôtel particulier in Dijon’s historic center. The museum provides a glimpse of a unique private art collection, which belonged to passionate art collectors Jeanne and Maurice Magnin. The collection focuses on French paintings (650 pieces), most of which were created between 1630 and 1650 as well as 18th-century and early 19th-century works.

The lavish Salon Napoléon III is still decorated with original antique furniture and objects of art. Tourists can find souvenirs at the museum’s boutique, which sells postcards and reproductions of artworks.

Tourist Places in Poitou

Seeing as it contains La Rochelle and the top-tier theme park Futuroscope, it’s no shock that Poitou-Charentes is among France’s most popular tourist regions.

Historic La Rochelle is the destination that everyone knows and loves thanks in no small part to its old port, kept safe for centuries by those iconic towers.

But there’s so much more to the region if you’re ready to travel: Historic UNESCO sites, France’s answer to Venice, innovative family attractions and some of the prettiest towns you’ll ever encounter.

True brandy connoisseurs can brush up their knowledge about Cognac on the designated trail, visiting the world’s most prestigious distilleries and quaffing this delectable drink as they go.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Poitou-Charentes:

1. La Rochelle

This coastal city is rightfully one of France’s favorite summer destinations, with a glorious old harbor defended by the Tour de la Chaîne and Tour Saint-Nicolas.

Idle over a long, leisurely meal at a quayside restaurant and wander the city’s historic arcaded streets.

Family attractions here are all about the ocean, so you can find out about the history of French seafaring at the Maritime Museum or see the huge aquarium, with tanks totaling three million liters.

For beach-time cross the bridge  Île de Ré, which has a host shallow golden beaches, as well as a UNESCO-listed port, Saint-Martin, fortified by Vauban in the 17th-century.

2. Marais Poitevin

If you want to be outdoors you couldn’t ask for a more idyllic location than the second-largest wetlands in France.

Whenever you read about the eastern, inland part of Marais Poitevin you can’t avoid seeing nickname, “The Green Venice”, and it’s a pretty accurate description, as the waters are covered in bright green duckweed.

There’s a system of canals with green banks, wooden footbridges, lush foliage and cute little cottages.

You can make for one of the tourist piers to take a cruise in one of the area’s famous flat-bottomed boats, or grab a paddle and go where you please in a kayak.

The banks are made for cycling too, with inexhaustible choice trails for two-wheeled adventures.

3. Futuroscope, Poitiers

This is an audiovisual theme park with a host of 3D shows and rides, most set in cavernous movie theatres.

The most exhilarating of these shows of these is “4D”, combining movement and other sensory effects with the films.

What’s handy for parents with younger children is that hardly any of the attractions have height restrictions.

Right now the most popular presentations are “Dancing with Robots”, “Arthur, the Adventure” and “Ice Age”. Recently the park has also teamed up with Cirque du Soleil to produce a nightly stage show laden with special effects.

4. Cognac Country

Charente and Charente-Maritime are where this sophisticated and prized brandy originated.

To earn the prestigious name of Cognac it needs to be produced in this part of France, distilled twice in copper stills and then aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years.

Around Cognac, you can take a tour of some of the most famous names in the business, including Hennessy and Remy Martin, or follow the designated Cognac Trail to happen upon some of the lesser-known but no less accomplished producers.

The countryside in the Charente Valley is a wonder of its own, with regimented vineyards, old water mills and quaint riverside villages.

5. Atlantic Coast

Down from La Rochelle the coastline, with its sweeping ocean beaches, is known as the  Côte de Beauté and has enough opportunities for tourism to appeal to all kinds of tourism.

For heritage there’s Rochefort, near the mouth of the Charente River and chosen by Louis XIV has his royal dockyard.

The Corderie Royale (Rope Factory), and a reproduction of the 18th-century French frigate Hermione are vivid reminders of this historic role.

The Île-d’Aix is a delight too, and completely carless.

Catch the ferry out and then see the island from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage.

6. Poitiers City

The pedestrianized center of this historic city is heart-achingly beautiful, with so many churches and palaces that it can be hard to know where to look! One of the more modest-looking, the Baptistère Saint-Jean, is claimed to be the oldest Christian building in all of France, and perhaps even Western Europe.

It dates to the 4th century and has awesome frescoes from the 1100s.

You can’t leave without seeing the cathedral either, which was built under the orders of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II, with 13th-century wooden choir stalls that might also be the oldest in France.

In the evening, you also have to stop by the Church of Notre Dame, when the gothic friezes on the facade are illuminated in a multicolored display.

7. Monolithic Church of Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

Photos can’t capture the size of this underground church that has been hewn from the cliff-face in a glorious setting next to the Dronne River.

The church was first carved in the 500s but then expanded by Benedictine monks in the 1100s.

The nave is about 15 meters high, and your eye will be drawn to the reliquary at one end, standing six meters and designed in the romanesque style.

As you study the columns and raised galleries it’s almost impossible to imagine that this was all completed by hand.

8. La Palmyre Zoo

One way this zoo will differ from most you’ll have visited is that it offers visitors the chance to feed many of the animals: You can hand out the straw to the elephants and popcorn to the giraffes, which is a photo opportunity that you won’t find in many other places!

The zoo was opened in the 60s, which means some of the enclosures can be on the small side, but it also ensures that you’ have no trouble spotting all the animals, which include giant tortoises, rhinos, lemurs, and orangutans.

It also has a stellar record for conservation, recording up to 300 births a year.

9. Abbaye de Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

The medieval murals in this church at this abbey are so impressive that they have earned it the epithet of “Romanesque Sistine Chapel”, and listing as a UNESCO site.

These paintings are from the 1000s and 1100s, and there’s nothing that bears comparison in Europe.

The artists used a relatively small palette, with just black, white, green, red ochre and yellow ochre, but in many cases, the images are as vibrant as the day they were completed.

If you need the full story you can get a guided tour lasting 90 minutes and will come away completely informed.

The church architecture also demands close attention: The leaf-like motifs on the capitals supporting the barrel-arched ceiling are of the highest standard.

10. Tumulus of Bougon

There’s the heritage of a prehistoric variety in the Deux-Sèvres department at the center of the region.

When these five Neolithic barrows were discovered in 1840 it caused an international scientific sensation.

The oldest burial monuments at the site are getting on for 6,800 years old, and you’ll be blown away by their state of preservation.

That’s because they were hidden below the soil for thousands of years, only appearing as faint mounds.

There’s one-kilometer curling around the site, and though the signs are all in French you can get multi-lingual audio-guides at the entrance.

Start your visit to the museum for some background and then head off on the trail to enter these remarkable megaliths.

11. La Vallée des Singes, Romagne

It’s not often that a zoo can be a one-off experience, but it’s the case at La Vallée des Singes thanks to the design of this unforgettable zoo.

The park is devoted to primates of all species and is landscaped in the shady forest.

When it opened in the 70s it was the first free-roaming primate park in the world.

At many of the enclosures, it will feel like there’s just a small moat between you and creatures like mountain gorillas.

Other, smaller species will be climbing or resting in the trees around you as you walk.

There are 32 species in all, but the bonobos are prized, as the park has the largest number of this endangered species in the world.

12. Le Château des Énigmes, Pons

If the little guys in your family are prone to impatience when you visit France’s beautiful but not exactly child-friendly châteaux, this innovative attraction is a breath of fresh air.

Parents can revel in the design of this Italian renaissance stately home, listed as a French national monument.

But the enthusiastic staff, in period costume, also organize a variety of activities that children can also get enthused about.

There’s a pirate-themed treasure hunt around the grounds, with interactive games and climbing frames to complete to retrieve the clues.

There’s a small farm in the grounds too, with ducks and goats for kids to meet.

13. Musée d’Angoulême

This top-notch museum next to Angoulême Cathedral has the distinguished French appellation “Musée de France”, the gold standard for cultural attractions in the country.

The Musée d’Angoulême wins acclaim for its art, ethnological and archaeological exhibitions.

But what really sets the pulse racing are the finds from the Charente River basin, among them the Agris Helmet.

This is an iron and bronze helmet covered with intricately adorned gold leaf of exceptional purity.

It dates to 350BC and is held as a masterpiece of Celtic Art.

14. Chauvigny, Vienne

On the Vienne River is a fabulous little town that is crowned with the towers of five châteaux, all along one rocky ridge.

This turns the high part of Chauvigny into a sort of open museum, with castles in differing states of repair all on the same street.

One, the Donjon de Gouzon has a viewing platform, with panoramas of the river and the countryside.

There’s also a museum in this building, retracing the history of industry in Chauvigny, telling you about the town’s famous stone quarries, which sourced the building material for the Louvre and Palais Garnier in Paris.

The Church of Saint-Pierre is a handsome romanesque building, and like many of the churches in Poitou-Charente has the most delicately carved capitals in the choir, cherished as masterpieces of high medieval art.

15. Saintes, Charente-Maritime

This timeless city has been inhabited as far back as Celtic times, and each new civilization has contributed to Saintes’ absorbing heritage.

The Roman era left behind a 1st-century amphitheater and the Arch of Germanicus, in good nick for its great age and standing on the right bank of the Charente.

This river was Saintes gateway to rest of the world, with salt, timber and, of course, cognac packed to far-flung destinations from the riverside.

In the medieval center-Ville the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre is in the flamboyant gothic style and has a curious past, having been sacked by the Huguenots in the 16th-century Wars of Religion before it was even completed.

Tourist Places in Picardy

An agricultural region north of Paris, Picardy has magnificent cathedrals and châteaux that have set the scene for many films and TV shows.

One of the country’s big attractions, Parc Astérix lets kids and adults live the adventures of this beloved illustrated character and his friends.

Picardy is also where the Somme Offensive, one of the First World War’s most devastating battles took place, and there are museums and memorials that confront you with the realities of the war.

On the lighter side, Picardy has 72 public parks and gardens, and several of France’s “most beautiful” villages.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Picardy:

1. Amiens Cathedral

This 13th-century gothic cathedral was completed in just 50 years, leaving the building with a rare coherence of style.

It’s one of the reasons the cathedral is a World Heritage site, but the size of the construction qualifies it too: It is massive and has the largest interior of any medieval building in Western Europe.

The roof is supported by 126 pillars, and it’s great to stand at the end of the north or south aisle and see the rows of vast but dainty vaults.

On the south transept portal and west facade, there’s some marvelous sculpture, representing Christ in Majesty on the Day of Judgement and portraying a variety of saints relevant to the Amiens area.

2. Parc Astérix, Plailly

Goscinny and Uderzo’s illustrated books are among France’s most famous cultural exports of the last 50 years, loved by generations of young readers.

Kids can act out these adventures in real life at this theme park, while many adults will fondly recall the stories from their own childhoods.

The park’s environment, log-flumes, roller coasters, shows, and amusements are all inspired by settings or characters from the books.

Take the log flume, Menhir Express, based on Obelix, or Ozlris, a recent steel roller coaster, themed on the Ancient Egypt you see in Asterix and Cleopatra.

3. Château de Chantilly

The Château de Chantilly is an opulent renaissance-style building that was wrecked in the revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s with a new design.

In the estate are symmetrical parterres, an English garden, and regal 18th-century stables.

But the headline is the Musée Condé, a supreme art museum based on the collection of the Duke of Animal, the son of France’s last king, Louis Philippe I. There are more than a thousand words here, mostly from the renaissance, a good number of which are masterpieces: Raphael’s Three Graces and Botticelli’s Autumn are on show.

The library is magnificent too, and has some invaluable medieval manuscripts, like the Ingeborg Psalter and a leaf from the Registrium Gregory dating to the 10th century.

4. Château de Pierrefonds

The towers of Château de Pierrefonds rising over the Compiègne Forest is a chivalric scene that may be familiar to you: It has starred in various TV shows and movies, including the BBC series Merlin, and the version of the Man in The Iron Mask, with Leonardo DiCaprio.

The current layout is from the turn of the 15th century, during the Hundred Years’ War.

But after centuries of decay Napoleon III ordered a restoration in the 1800s, led by Viollet-le-Duc at incredible expense.

What Viollet-le-Duc made is a majestic, idealized vision of the 15th century, although the huge sums involved meant that the interior was never completed.

if you’re with little guys they’ll get a kick out of the spooky crypt, with special effects, and the mock-up tombs of France’s most famous figures.

5. Musée Somme 1916, Albert

Musée Somme 1916, Albert, Picardie, France

It’s only right that this museum about one of the First World War’s most notorious battles should be set ten meters underground.

The museum is in a medieval tunnel, 250 meters long and has photographs, working models, tableaus, dioramas, weapons, and other battlefield artifacts.

Cramped trenches, with light and sound effects, may give you fleeting glimpses of what it was like on the front line.

At the start of the visit, you can also watch a 3D presentation illustrating the wider picture of the war and pointing out the local landmarks during the four-month battle in 1916.

6. Beauvais Cathedral

Viollet-le-Duc, the 19th-century restorer who rebuilt the Château de Pierrefonds and the walls at Carcassonne described this church as “the Parthenon of the French Gothic”. It was constructed when cities competed to have record-breaking cathedrals, which was partly the building’s undoing.

Beauvais has the tallest gothic choir in the world, at 48.5 meters, but these huge dimensions caused structural problems and the nave and tower, which would also have smashed records were never completed.

Take a peek at the interior to see the trusses added to bind the building together.

There’s also a working medieval clock from the 1300s, and the 19th-century astronomical clock displays the time in various cities worldwide, as well as the positions of the planets and sunrise and sunset.

7. Maison de Jules Verne, Amiens

Jules Verne moved into this luxurious mansion on rue Charles Dubois with his wife Honorine in 1882 when he was at the height of his fame.

They lived here until 1900, and in 1980 the house was bought by the city.

The museum really fell into place in 2000 when it purchased the collection of Piero Gondolo della Riva, a Verne scholar, and fanatic who had spent a lifetime amassing 30,000 manuscripts, first editions, posters, letters and objects relating to the author.

So you can see Verne’s office, furnished with his possessions, and go up to the attic where there’s a map of the world that he marked, and a whole trove of other items that will keep a Verne fan absorbed for hours.

8. Château de Compiègne

From the 14th century onwards Compiègne was a summer residence for French monarchs, who came here to hunt in the estate’s deep forests.

Louis XIV visited 75 times, while his successor Louis XV was particularly infatuated with the place as hunting was his passion.

It was also one of three seats of government, and then an imperial domain when Napoleon was in power.

So you can indulge your curiosity about the First and Second Empires on your way through lavishly-decorated halls and apartments.

There’s also a transport museum with vehicles dating as far back as the 1700s: The cream of the collection is La Jamais Content and electric car from 1899.

9. Laon Cathedral

The towers of this wondrous building command the low-lying landscape around just as they’d have done in the 1200s when it was built.

The western facade deserves a few minutes of awestruck meditation: It will remind you of the Notre-Dame in Paris, and above the central portal here is one of the French gothic’s most beautiful rose windows.

Get up close to the towers and you can see life-sized sculptures of oxen, commemorating the beasts that helped to pull the stone up the hill to build the cathedral.

Inside you should locate the 12th-century font, with primitive carvings, and a 12th-century icon of the Holy Face, painted in Serbia and gifted to the church by Pope Urban V.

10. Familistère de Guise, Aisne

This Utopian worker’s community was the brainchild of the industrialist and social innovator Jean-Baptiste André Godin.

In line with his ideas about worker’s rights, he developed a “social palace” between 1858 and 1883 for people employed at his stove-making factory.

There are three blocks, each four stories tall and surrounding a courtyard beneath a metal-and-glass canopy.

This open space was a play area for children, while moments from the living quarters were amenities like a pool, laundry, school, and theatre.

The project survived for decades, housing 1,748 at its peak in 1889. Previous

11. Jardins de Valloires, Argoules

These gardens cover eight hectares on the grounds of Valloires Abbey in the Somme department.

The abbey is from the 1700s, but the gardens are much more recent, only established in the early-1980s.

They are founded on the collection of one Jean-Louis Cousin, a botanist who had 3,000 plant specimens but nowhere for them to go.

Now there are more than 5,000 different kinds of plants, from 2,030 species, most of which are from Central and East Asia.

Come in April when the cherry blossoms are astonishing.

The collections are arranged in French parterres, an English garden, and a less formalized wild space.

In the summer you can also go inside the Abbey, to see the sacristy’s oak paneling and the church with its gilded baroque decor.

12. War Memorials, Somme

One of the many shocking things about the First World War, and the Battle of the Somme in particular, is the number of missing soldiers without graves.

The 72,246 British missing servicemen are remembered at Thiepval, which is the largest monument for missing Commonwealth servicemen in the world.

Nearby, Beaumont-Hamel is dedicated to 814 members of the Dominion of Newfoundland who died in the war.

The site has the largest preserved section of the Somme battlefield, a large, cratered green field etched with trenches.

A memorial for the grim first day of the battle on July 1, 1916, is the Lochnagar Crater, created when a mine with 2.7 tons of explosives was detonated to signal the start of the attack.

13. Mers-Les-Bains

When it heats up in summer this resort, hemmed on two sides by chalk cliffs, is an elegant way to get some sea air.

The beachfront is very charming, with a long row of tall art nouveau mansions, all with slightly different designs, with their timber frames and wooden balcony’s painted a variety of bright colors.

The beach has large pebbles but is a joy in summer when you can wander along the promenade and go down to the water to dip your feet in the sea.

14. Saint-Valery-sur-Somme

Set where the Somme flows into the Channel, this adorable coastal village has much to see for such a small place.

On the harbor is the quaint Courtgain quarter, with old fisherman’s houses painted in bright colors.

The higher medieval part of the village is still within its walls and there are still towers on the main gate giving you a dignified welcome.

See if you can find the remnants of La Tour Harold, supposedly where Harold Godwinson was kept after his shipwreck at Ponthieu in 1065. Saint-Valery is also a stop on the Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme, a heritage steam railway touring the Bay of Somme in the summer.

15. Gerberoy

This village in the Oise department is impossibly cute and is listed as one of the “most beautiful” in France.

It has creaking, half-timbered 17th and 18th-century buildings lining little lanes and passages.

Gerberoy is pretty at any time of year but is irresistible from spring to mid-July.

This is when the roses that climb the walls of these houses are in bloom.

The man to praise for this colorful and fragrant display is the impressionist painter Henri Le Sidaner, who fell in love with Gerberoy and moved there at the turn of the 20th century.

When he started planting roses in his garden and around the old fort the rest of the village joined in, and these bushes became a fixture.