Most people only see Northern France from behind a car window as they drive south towards postcard-pretty Provence or the chateaux-studded Dordogne. But look beyond the flat, barren expanses edging the A26 to discover hidden depths. Secret valleys cradle farm-to-fork foodie spots, the cliff-lined coastline edges sandy beaches, and the region’s rich history is there at every turn. That’s not to mention a string of picturesque towns with unexpected sights, from Amiens’ sky-piercing cathedral to Boulogne-sur-Mer’s medieval charms. Here’s what we love about about Northern France holidays.
When to go
Visit in spring or autumn to avoid heavy crowds and jam-packed roads, but be warned – the weather, like Britain’s, can be unpredictable.
How to get there
Eurostar runs seven trains a day from London St Pancras to Lille (1hr 20mins) and three trains to Calais (1hr); Eurotunnel also runs from Folkestone to Calais (35mins).
Alternatively, P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways run frequent services between Dover and Dunkirk (2hrs) or Calais (1hr 30mins).
French national rail network SNCF connects the towns of Lille, Boulogne, Dunkirk and Calais, although a car is advised for making the most of the northern region.
Northern France is dotted with important war monuments and memorial sites, from Dunkirk’s battlefields to the world’s largest French war cemetery at Notre-Dame de Lorette and the 40-mile Circuit of Remembrance from Péronne to Albert.
There are plenty of places to visit in Northern France for foodies. Lille is brimming with eateries serving local specialities, from crêpes at Le Repaire du Lion and gaufres (waffles) at 17th-century pâtisserie Meert to regional goodies in the historic food hall and bistrots galore on Rue des Bouchers. Calais is peppered with excellent restaurants while, further afield in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, independent food and drink producers are scattered throughout the hills.
Paris may be France’s pièce de résistance, but a wave of museums and galleries have put the north on the arts map. Lille’s Palais des Beaux-Arts is a fine-arts institution (check out the pieces by Rubens and Goya), while former mining town Lens hosts an outpost of the iconic Louvre. Lesser-known gems include Roubaix’s La Piscine museum set in an opulent Art Deco swimming pool, and LaM in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, which traces defining art movements – don’t miss the Modigliani.
- Roubaix is stepping out of the shadow of neighbouring Lille as a top cultural destination, not only with La Piscine museum but also Le Vestiaire, a textile factory filled with pop-up design boutiques, and Ateliers Jouret, a complex of artists’ studios.
- The sleepy hilltop hamlet of Cassel, 19 miles southeast of Dunkirk, is a great example of a Flemish town, with ramparts encircling its mansion-lined Grand Place and narrow cobblestoned streets.
- Fringing the Forest of Compiègne in Oise, the fairy-tale Château de Pierrefonds, with its soaring turrets and moat, is one of the finest places to visit in Northern France.
Now that you’ve had a taste of what we love about Northern France holidays, why not check out our Top 5 places to visit in Northern France? Or if you’ve already been swayed, why not have a look at our villas in Northern France? Our friendly concierge team are always happy to help!