Dig deep into learning at the Louvre-Lens!

We first come to Lens, in Northern France, to visit the Louvre-Lens, a northern wing of the great Louvre-Paris. This magnificent museum, built on a former mining pit, has an intrinsic heritage. The site itself has been classified by UNESCO for its history and culture recognizing it as a territory of unsuspected wealth. Here, the secrets of coal country are yours for exploring!

Climbing to the top of a spoil tip

It’s hard to miss them! Less than three kilometres (about two miles) from the Louvre-Lens, two black pyramids attract the eye. These are Loos-en-Gohelle’s twin spoil points, or terril on the Base du 11/19, one of the five mining heritage sites preserved in the Hauts-de-France. A terril (pronounced terr-ee) is an artificial mountain born of the accumulation of residues during the extraction of coal. In Loos, the extraction stopped in 1986. The twins then stopped growing, but they still peak at 186 meters (610 feet), making them the highest in Europe! It's possible to climb them through groomed trails, with a little effort—and good shoes. From the summit of 74-A, the nickname for one of the twins, proves that a picture is worth a thousand words: the 360° panorama of the mining basin explains it all, from tower, metal easel, pit tile, mining cit to soccer field and more. 11/19 Base in Loos-en-Gohelle (External link)

Deep in the heart of the mine

The overalls are still hanging in the bathroom—renamed the hanging room—the lamps still in the lampisterie, a horse neighing in the stable.The extraction machine with its impressive coils pulses—you are about to descend into the bowels of the earth to experience the daily work of miners for three centuries. The historical mining centre of Lewarde, on the site of the old Delloye pit, offers a more real than natural immersion. On floor -480, the elevator stops. No trace of natural light, lighted galleries stretch as far as the eye can see—welcome to the heart of the mine! You will only be asked to extract your ton of daily coal to earn your return to the open air. After your visit, you'll have more context and understanding for the different exhibitions of the most important Museum of the Mine in France, only thirty minutes from Lens. Historic Lewarde Mining Centre (External link)

Making the past resonate in music

More than 60 years of mining, 4.8 million tons of coal brought back from the pits, 2,500 employees at the peak of activity—the 9-9bis, in Oignies, 20 minutes from Lens, is one of the major sites of mining heritage in Northern France. It's not just a memory, however: at the definitive end of its operation in 1990, it was converted into a living museum to preserve the footprint of the past while building a theatre of great audacity. The Métaphone, which hosts concerts and performances, is also a gigantic instrument with its 'sound' skin made of wood, glass and metal panels. Organs, percussion, xylophones, cymbals and rain sticks installed on the exterior walls of the porch complete the score. It breathes and whispers an echo to the history of the unique heritage! 9-9bis in Oignies (External link)

Sleep in a former ''Coron'' at the Louvre-Lens Hotel

A three-minute walk from the Louvre-Lens Museum, the Louvre-Lens Hotel is housed in former miners' village, coron, in French. This former coron has become an impressive accommodation of 52 rooms since December, 2018. The metamorphosis is all the more successful as the past continues to be embodied in the choice of colors and materials. Black charcoal lime painting, exposed bricks, railway crossing floors, a tin bar—the inspiration is clear, without being costume-y, and sublimates the originality and elegance of the place. Ideal for an authentic stay in Northern France, as a couple or as a family.

Learn at the Cité des électriciens

On May 17, 2019, the oldest mining city of the Hauts-de-France, in Bruay-la-Buissière, will find its former liveliness. Built in 1856 to house miners in pit 1, the Cité des électriciens has preserved its original organization with voyettes (small roads), carins (outbuildings) and garden around 43 dwellings, a precious testimony of the mining habitat. Converted into an Interpretive Center with free walking routes on nearly 1,000 square meters (10764 square feet), and about twenty interactive spaces, it will also host exhibitions, artist residences and offer package stays in urban gites. The Cité des Électriciens in Bruay-la-Buissière (External link)

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Getting to Lens in Northern France