Lille is that the largest city of French Flanders and features a distinctive Flemish character. Known for its vibrant culture, happening ambiance, and friendly people, Lille may be a surprisingly pleasant urban destination with lovely architecture.
The main town square, Place du Général de Gaulle , is lined with elegant Flemish Baroque monuments like the Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange). The nearby Rang du Beauregard buildings exemplify an ornate Lilloise Neoclassical style. The Flemish influence is additionally seen within the hearty local cuisine, featuring typical Belgian dishes like Moules-Frites (mussels and French fries) and gaufres (Belgian-style waffles).
Art enthusiasts will have plenty to explore in Lille at the Palais Beaux-Arts and a number of other museums outside the city: the Musée Louvre-Lens, which shares its collection with the Louvre in Paris; the Lille Métropole Musée d’Art Moderne in Villeneuve d’Ascq, which displays works by Braque, Modigliani, and Picasso; and a singular collection of fine arts and ornamental arts within the town of Roubaix.
On the primary weekend of September, the Braderie de Lille (Flea Market) brings together many stalls selling vintage items and antiques. Bargain hunting at the Lille marketplace is one among the foremost popular things to try to to within the city.
The historic capital of the Artois province, Arras has the architectural heritage to prove it. Arcaded squares, high-gabled burghers’ houses, and exquisite old churches reveal the authentic character of this Flemish town.
The Cathédrale d’Arras, originally the abbey church of Saint-Vaast, was rebuilt within the 18th century in awe-inspiring Neoclassical style. Another building of the previous Benedictive monastery of Saint-Vaast now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts. This museum features a diverse collection , from medieval sculptures to Dutch and French paintings. Highlights are the masterpieces by Jean-Baptiste-Camille, Corot, Charles Le Brun, Delacroix, and Rubens.
During war One, the world around Arras was the scene of heavy fighting, which is now commemorated by several military cemeteries and memorials. The Vimy Memorial pays homage to the Canadian Expeditionary Force members (more than 11,000 men) who fought and died in France during the primary war . A grandiose and evocative limestone monument, the Vimy Memorial stands on the Vimy Ridge, where the pivotal Battle of Vimy Ridge took place; this 107-hectare piece of land (12 kilometers north of Arras) was granted by France to Canada for its accomplishment of capturing Vimy Ridge during the April 1917 Allied offensive.
Calais provides a gateway to England as a port on English Channel and therefore the start line for chunnel (or “Chunnel”) train rides to England. The high-speed Eurostar train travels through the chunnel (crossing English Channel’s Strait of Dover during a 50-kilometer undersea tunnel) and takes one hour to arrive in London. English Channel crossing by ferry takes one hour and half-hour from Calais to Dover, England.
In this spectacular seaside location along the Opal Coast, the world around Calais boasts expansive sandy beaches, which are popular for surfing and sailing, also as other outdoor activities like hiking and cycling.
For those spending time in Calais (rather than simply traveling through), must-see attractions are the UNESCO-listed Flemish Renaissance-style Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) and therefore the nearby group of Auguste Rodin’s sculptures, Les Bourgeois de Calais, which commemorate the siege of Calais in 1347 by English , and occupation until 1558.
Next to the leafy Parc Richelieu, the Musée des Beaux-Arts displays paintings and sculptures from the 16th century to the 21st century. Among the masterpieces are works by Rodin , Derain , and Picasso . The Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode (on the Quai du Commerce) features a superb lace and fashion collection.
As France’s largest fishing port, it’s fitting that Boulogne-sur-Mer features a superb aquarium and sea museum. The Nausicaá aquarium is that the largest in Europe, home to 58,000 sea creatures, including 1,600 different species. Nausicaá especially appeals to families with kids, who are bound to enjoy the touch pool and entertaining eared seal performances.
Near the Nausicaá aquarium is access to an exquisite sandy beach, along the Boulevard Sainte-Beuve. The beach features a boat club and a promenade, which is right for taking a seaside stroll. During summertime, beach tents, lounge chairs, and parasols are available for rent; in July and August, lifeguards are on duty. The town host the Fêtes de la Mer (Festivals of the Sea) per annum in July.
The oldest a part of Boulogne-sur-Mer is that the Ville Haute (Upper Town), a medieval walled town. This historic area brims with old-world charm, seen in its atmospheric cobblestone streets and picturesque squares. Highlights of the Ville Haute include the UNESCO-listed belfry, dating to the 12th century; the Notre-Dame Basilica, which includes a Romanesque crypt; and therefore the 13th-century fortifications with four gated entrances.
Tourists will enjoy walking along the “Promenade des Remparts” (ramparts path) to admire panoramas of the town and its gardens. Another interesting spot to explore is that the Rue de Lille, a pedestrian street lined with restaurants, antique shops, and little boutiques.
With its tranquil, bucolic setting; pedestrian alleyways; and charming half-timbered houses, the medieval village of Gerberoy is one among the “Plus Beaux Villages” (“Most Beautiful Villages”) of France. Many buildings throughout the town are adorned with rose vines. Gerberoy is additionally famous for its Fête des Roses (Festival of Roses), which has been held within the village per annum since 1928.
In keeping with the village’s love of flowers, the post-Impressionist painter Henri Le Sidaner (who settled in Gerberoy) created magnificent Italian terraced gardens that he used as an outside art studio. Classified as a “Jardin Remarquable” (Remarkable Garden), the Jardins Le Sidaner are open a day except Mondays from April through September.
Near the garden is another must-see landmark, the Collégiale Saint-Pierre, which is adorned with 17th-century Aubusson tapestries. The church dates to the 11th-century but was renovated in later centuries.
Surrounded by remnants of medieval walls, the picturesque town of Bergues is traversed by winding canals, which lend a typical Flemish ambiance. Bergues is most famous for its belfry, considered one among the best in France. The UNESCO-listed Beffroi de Bergues features an unusual open design, with 50 bells that chime to mark the hours. because the town’s top tourist attraction, the Beffroi de Bergues also has an exhibition space and music room.
Housed within the old Mont-de-Piété (municipal pawnshop), the Musée du Mont-de-Piété displays paintings and drawings by Flemish and French masters, including George de La Tour , Charles Le Brun, Poussin , Anthony Vandyke , and Maerten van Heemskerck.
7. Musée Louvre-Lens
The Musée Louvre-Lens is an ultramodern museum space during a tranquil park. The Musée Louvre-Lens doesn’t have its own collections, instead, the museum exhibits different rotations of masterpieces from the Louvre in Paris. The museum’s 3,000-square-meter gallery features natural lighting and an innovative presentation of artwork. Many exhibits specialise in specific themes or highlight the common denominators of artwork spanning different time periods and artistic styles.
It’s easy to urge to the museum from Lille ( a 30-minute drive) or Paris (90 minutes by train). The railway station in Lens offers free shuttle rides to the museum.
Cambrai may be a quiet historic town with remnants of medieval fortifications and impressive cultural heritage. A relic of the old ramparts, the 14th-century Porte de Paris once provided an entrance into the previously walled town. The Eglise Saint-Géry is noteworthy for its blend of French classical and Dutch Baroque architectural styles, also because the famous Entombment painting by Rubens.
Not-to-be-missed are Chapelle du Grand Séminaire, renowned for its Baroque facade, and therefore the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, which contains exceptional works of art, including Trompe-l’oil paintings by Martin Gheeraerts and marvelous stained-glass windows.
Art lovers will appreciate the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which has a superb assortment of 16th- to 19th-century Dutch and French paintings, and therefore the Musée Matisse, which displays over 80 paintings by Matisse (donated to the museum by the artist).
Many cultural attractions are found just outside of Cambrai, including the Musée des Dentelles et Broderies de Caudry (Museum of Lace and Embroidery), housed during a 19th-century lace factory in Caudry (15 kilometers from Cambrai). This museum presents the local history of lace fabrication and embroidery arts along side craft demonstrations and fashion exhibits.
9. Saint-Omer and therefore the Marais Audomarois
Cobblestone streets and stately old townhouses reveal the normal character of this historic town . one among Saint-Omer’s most elegant 18th-century townhouses, the Hôtel Sandelin, is now a museum with a superb collection of European paintings, also as decorative arts. Other must-see landmarks are the 13th-century Eglise Saint-Denis, which features a majestic Gothic tower, and therefore the Cathédrale Notre Dame, a splendid Gothic monument built between the 13th and 16th centuries.
In the surroundings, the Marais Audomarois (marshland) is among the simplest places to go to in northern France for fishing (allowed with an area fishing association card) within the gentle rivers. Taking a ship ride through the marshland’s waterways is differently to get the wetland scenery, with its lush flowers and market gardens. There are several options for tourists: traditional artisan-crafted wooden boats led by an area boatman, rowboats and canoes for rent, and guided boat tours.
For those who’d wish to explore the land aspects of the world , the Audomarois Forest has scenic trails for hiking and cycling.
Just 14 kilometers from the Belgian border, Dunkerque (Dunkirk) is France’s northernmost town, on the North Sea near the Strait of Dover. Dunkerque has a crucial commercial port, also as ferry boat access to Dover, England. During the Second war , Dunkerque was the scene of a dramatic military rescue as boats of Allied troops were delivered to safety.
Every year before Ash Wednesday , the Dunkirk Carnival transforms the town into a wild and crazy scene of unbridled celebration. Thousands of revelers show their festive spirit, wearing colorful costumes; some carry whimsical umbrellas on long handles. The three-day carnival includes gregarious processions, musical entertainment, and joyful balls.
Douai is an old university town, originally founded by the Spaniards. The central features of the town are the UNESCO-listed Belfry, a masterpiece of Gothic that dates to the 14th and 15th centuries, and therefore the Place d’Armes, also called the Grand Place.
Douai also features a renowned museum, the Musée de la Chartreuse, housed during a 17th-century convent. The museum’s fine-arts collection includes masterpieces of Flemish, Dutch, Italian, and French painting. Highlights are the works by Véronèse, Rubens, Courbet, Renoir, Sisley, Corot, and Pisarro, also because the precious Polyptyque d’Anchin by Jean Bellegambe (created between 1509 and 1513).
12. Abbaye de Vaucelles
The Abbaye de Vaucelles may be a remarkable 12th-century abbey founded by Saint Bernard , which was one among the most important Cistercian monasteries within the world. Two of the first buildings remain the Monks’ Quarters (an 80-meter-long wing with a chapter house, oratory, and chapel) and therefore the Palais Abbatial (Abbot’s Palace); both buildings are beautifully restored.
Among the foremost prestigious historical monuments in northern France, the Abbaye de Vaucelles is hospitable the general public from March through October. Art expositions and other events are held here throughout the year. The abbey is found 12 kilometers from Cambrai.