Northern France: what to do, what to see…


Northern France

Vue aérienne de Lille et sa grande roue illuminée
© benkrut / Istockphoto - Vue aérienne de Lille et sa grande roue illuminée

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 25 January 2024, updated on 20 April 2024

Stunning, surprising, full of life, vibrant... no wonder Northern France is so talked about. From the old city of Lille to the kite festival at Berck, and from Dunkerque to Wissant, there’s something here for everyone, and especially those who like surprises. It’s just as easy to enjoy a traditional meal and move on to the Villa Cavrois, or take in the Braderie de Lille market before visiting the museum. Families are spoilt for choice... and so are the memories. 

Visits you cannot miss in Northern France

Cadre exceptionnel pour le château de Chantilly, chef-d'oeuvre architectural parfaitement conservé.
© Thomas Launois - AdobeStock - Cadre exceptionnel pour le château de Chantilly, chef-d'oeuvre architectural parfaitement conservé.

• Chantilly Castle From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, the castle has preserved its exceptional and imposing setting. We visit the various galleries of paintings (the second collection of old paintings after the Louvre), the romantic gardens including the one designed by Le Nôtre, the great stables of the 18th century and the museum of the horse.

• The Lewarde Museum The historic mining center, located in the heart of the mining basin, recounts with emotion and pedagogy, the ages of the mine, the daily life of miners, and takes you into the galleries of the pit Delloye.

• The Louvre-Lens Since 2012, the Paris museum has been decentralized in Lens, and exhibits more than 200 masterpieces in the Galerie du Temps, which covers Antiquity, the Middle Ages and modern times. A visit in a unique space!

• The Tripostal in Lille As its name suggests, the Tripostal is an old post office building of the 1950s. In the heart of Lille, it is today an original place of art and life, which hosts exhibitions of contemporary artists and performance.

• The swimming pool, museum of art and industry André-Diligent de Roubaix Housed in an Art Deco-style pool, this museum, unlike any other, showcases 19th and 20th century sculpture, the Roubaix Group (artists of contemporary art), and organizes temporary exhibitions.

• Amiens Cathedral This gigantic cathedral is one of the most beautiful models of Gothic sacred art. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, it was restored in the 19th by Viollet-le-Duc. Detail the portals and their 700 fine sculptures of saints and apostles, which are adorned with a thousand colors during the night show Chroma.

• The walled city of Montreuil In Montreuil-sur-Mer, 1000 years of history await you! The ruins of the castle of Philippe Auguste, the citadel of the 13th century rebuilt by Vauban in the 17th, the beautiful mansions of the 18th, the remains of the Great War during the Battle of the Somme and the American painters of the early 20th.

• The Canadian Vimy Monument The memorial, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2023 alongside 138 other memorial and funerary sites, was erected at the very site of the terrible Vimy battle that took place in April 1917 between Canadian soldiers and the German army. It dominates the plain of Douai with its two huge white stone pillars.

• Le Touquet and the Opal Coast The big seaside resort unfolds its ribbons of beach, between dunes and forests. In the streets behind the waterfront, there are the beautiful villas of the early 20th century, so popular with the British. From Belgium to the Bay of Somme, the Côte d'Opale offers nearly 200 kilometers of beaches, punctuated by historic sites and preserved natural areas.

• The Grand Place of Arras Place of great markets from the 11th century, the square is lined with many gabled houses, baroque-Flemish style, mostly rebuilt after the war of 14-18. Push up to the nearby Heroes' Square and climb to the top of the belfry for the breathtaking view.

Essential activities in Northern France

Parmi les temps forts des Hauts-de-France, les Rencontres internationales de cerfs-volants de Berck, en avril.
© Morane - AdobeStock - Parmi les temps forts des Hauts-de-France, les Rencontres internationales de cerfs-volants de Berck, en avril.

• Get lost in Old Lille and meet friendly students While strolling in the historical district of Lille, you will cross more than a thousand years of history, around the cathedral Notre Dame of the Treille, in the old paved streets, towards the Citadel. In addition, the atmosphere is cheerful, restaurants and bars are very popular with the many students in Lille.

• Watch a football match at the Bollaert-Delelis stadium in Lens This legendary stadium has existed since 1932 and welcomes more than 38,000 spectators. It has received Euro football matches in 2016, and at every meeting of the Racing Club, the Lensois are setting the mood!

• Admire the dance of Berck's kites International Meetings of Kites are a global meeting of the discipline, every year in April. What a great sight to see hundreds of "canvas birds" of all sizes fly into the sky of Berck, according to the wind! Installed on the beach, you will enjoy these magical moments ... and maybe master the art of flying them.

• To mingle with the crowd at the Dunkirk Carnival The first festivals took place in the 18th century to mark the departure of fishermen to Iceland and the tradition has continued. Today, the carnival is very popular, one goes there disguised and grim, one follows the Drum Major, joining "bands", in music, from one district to another. Be careful of the jet of herring in front of the City Hall!

• Bargain hunt at the Braderie de Lille The first weekend of September, the city center beats to the rhythm of this gigantic flea market, a medieval tradition. A golden opportunity to find a collector's item or antiques, among the 100 kilometers of stands and the million visitors.... !

• Discover sand yachting in Wimereux Near Boulogne-sur-Mer, on the Côte d'Opale, the beach of Wimereux is an ideal spot for practising sand yachting. At low tide, you will run fast to the sand, propelled by the wind!

• Watch a sunset in the Bay of Somme Lovers of the great outdoors, the Bay of Somme is for you! Ranked among the most beautiful bays in the world, it is a sanctuary for seals and a stopover for migratory birds. An exceptional landscape on 4500 hectares, to walk or cycle.

• Have a passion for powerkite in Wissant This sport of slips is practiced with a wing of traction equipped with a bar, first step towards Kitesurf. Thanks to the power of the wind blowing on the beach of Wissant, strong emotions are guaranteed!

• Furrow the citadel of Lille It is called the Queen of Citadels, built by Vauban on the order of Louis XIV, to defend the city at the end of the 17th century. Star-shaped, it is superbly preserved, in brick and sandstone.

• Be amazed by the cultural space of Saint-Sauveur train station This former freight station has been transformed into a venue for artistic events, concerts, cinema screenings, for young and old alike. When a 23-hectare industrial wasteland reinvents itself as a popular space, it is no doubt, successful.

By Rédaction

The magazine of the destination unravels an unexpected France that revisits tradition and cultivates creativity. A France far beyond what you can imagine…