24 hours at the Royal Hainaut Spa & Resort in Valenciennes

Hotel or museum? Both! The Royal Hainaut & Spa Resort Hotel in Valenciennes is first and foremost a former royal hospital from the 18th century, a historic monument with outstanding architecture. And recently, an equally exceptional 4-star hotel with a chic and baroque decor, but firmly anchored in the 21st century. A choice address for a cultural stopover in the footsteps of artists inspired by the Hauts-de-France.

8.30 pm: Dinner of heads at La Galerie

Under the patronage of Louis XV, whose portrait hangs on the wall, you can savour every detail of the theatrical setting of the brasserie La Galerie, with its red velvet and chandeliers standing at attention. On the plate, back to reality: the cuisine, generous and inventive, gives pride of place to local produce. Lucullus de Valenciennes "à notre façon", a sort of foie gras cake with smoked beef tongue or braised beef chuck "like a Flemish carbonade"... The action could just as easily take place in one of the estaminets of which the Hauts-de-France region has the secret...

9am: Princely sweets

We hesitated, then left the cosy cocoon of the room to explore the breakfast buffet. We don't regret it for a second when we imagine the princely feast that awaits us.... Freshly squeezed fruit juices and cereal mixes promise to get the day off to a good start. As for the viennoiseries, they are a must: it was Marie-Antoinette of Austria who introduced the croissant to France in the 18th century, it was first Viennese! As tradition dictates in the North of France, you can't afford to miss a royal snack in the afternoon: chocolate, strawberries, whipped cream... the waffle is here in all its glory!

10:30 am: Heading for the Fine Arts Museum

Ready for a bath of culture and beauty? The Musée des Beaux-Arts has the second largest collection of Flemish painters after the Louvre! Between two masterpieces by Rubens, you can admire the works of local children: Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Napoleon III's favourite painter and sculptor, and Antoine Watteau, the singer of gallant fantasies... Still thirsty for culture? Head for the Jesuit library: a dazzling case preserving 2000 manuscripts, including the Cantilène de sainte Eulalie (9th century), the first poem in French!

1pm: Star lunch at Le Musigny

A name, Musigny, which is also the appellation of a Burgundy wine, a half-Chinese, half-black Spanish chef trained at the Bocuse Institute in Lyon and at Guy Savoy's... This shows how culture shock is practised at Emmanuel Hernandez's gastronomic table (1 Michelin star). The taste buds hesitate between unmissable dishes such as the Musigny-style beef fillet with truffle purée, and "sensation" or "intuition" dishes, which bring together flavours from around the world. But at the end of the meal, we fall for the "Ch'ti dessert" - Cambrai beetroot mousse, juniper sorbet and chicory crème brûlée.

2 p.m: Culture bath at the Spa

At the edge of the Spa's turquoise pool, which stretches between the Hainaut blue stone arches inherited from the 18th century, you can do double duty: a culture bath and a rejuvenation bath! You can soak in the fumes of the hammam studded with golden tesserae, like a starry sky, before taking a bite out of the refined menu. To stay in keeping with the tone of this place designed by Louis XV, opting for a "beauty secret at court" facial is an obvious choice. This is an exclusive product from Mademoiselle Saint-Germain, the 100% made in France cosmetic brand that gathers its ingredients from the vegetable gardens of Versailles. Royal of course!

7pm: Aperitif in the main courtyard

Will you choose the indoor or the outdoor area for your aperitif? At the Atrium Lounge, there is no need to ask this question. The vast glass roof adjoining the 18th century façade allows you to immerse yourself in the sumptuous decor of the courtyard without setting a foot outside. To salute the extraordinary destiny of this building, which was once a charity hospital, the headquarters of the occupying armies and a charming hotel, we try the favourite cocktail of the Ch'tis: the Picon bière, with its skilfully measured bitterness. Petrified chairs against a backdrop of old stones, the group of sculptures "L'Humanité" in the background sums up the soul of the place...

Getting to the Royal Hainaut Resort & Spa, Valenciennes