The Vieille Bourse building in Lille. -
Flickr user Yann Caradec
Coming from France, I’ve had the opportunity to
spend lots of time exploring the whole country. From the sun-bleached beaches
of the south, to the rolling fields of the Loire Valley, I’m lucky to have seen
some of the most magical places France has to offer. Now, with three kids and a
busy lifestyle, I take short breaks – with the family, of course – to Northern
France. There are plenty of reasons to visit this lovely part of the country –
here are my top seven.
For most people seeking
out a city break in France, Paris is the obvious choice, but sometimes the
lesser-known choices are, in many ways, better. An underrated city, a little
over an hour’s drive from Calais, Lille
has so much to offer. Highlights include: the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Jardin
Vauban, the beautiful Vieille Bourse building and the fascinating Lille
2. Calvados Sample calvados, a delicious apple brandy.
© Flickr user Dominic Lockyer
If you haven’t had the pleasure of trying
calvados, then you’re missing out. Produced in Lower Normandy for centuries,
this apple brandy is a must-try for anyone visiting Northern France. Calvados
is made from specially selected apples, which are then made into cider and distilled
into brandy. The brandy is then aged in oak casks to give it its distinctive
Arras is the
capital of the Pas-de-Calais department in France, and it takes 1 hour, 10
minutes to get there by car from Calais. Like Lille, Arras is often bypassed in
favour of other cities, but it has a lot to offer. Take a look inside the
beautiful cathedral, brush up on your history at the Carrière Wellington museum
and enjoy a picnic at Les Jardins de Séricourt.
4. Côte d'OpaleCap Blanc Nez on the Côte d'Opale.
© Flickr user Maurice
If you’re more of a beach-lover than a
city-breaker, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Northern France. One of my
favourite spots is the Côte
d'Opale (the Opal Coast). Stretching for approximately 75 miles, the Côte
d'Opale is made up of beaches, rugged dunes, cliffs and estuaries. Relax in the
sun on Le Touquet’s beach or go for a walk along the cliffs at Cap Blanc Nez. Musée du Louvre-Lens.
© Flickr user Yann Caradec
Love art? Then you’ll
love Northern France! Especially now that Lens, which is just a short drive
from Calais, has its very own Louvre. Built on the site of an old mine, and
opened in 2012, Le Musée du Louvre-Lens features amazing masterpieces from the
Louvre’s wider collection in Paris. Discover the wonderful art, explore the
fantastic grounds and finish up with a bite to eat at the café.
6. Boulette d'Avesnes
Another of Northern France’s delicious
delights, Boulette d'Avesnes is a type of cheese produced in Avesnes, a small
village near the Belgian border. This soft cheese is made using parsley,
tarragon, pepper and cloves, and is hand-shaped into a small cone. It has a
strong smell and flavour, and is a particularly popular amongst my family –
even the little ones will give it a try!The view from the Château de Coucy.
© Flickr user Joost Pals
My seventh and final reason to visit Northern
France is the Château de Coucy in Picardy. Built in the 13th century
and part-restored six centuries later, the Château de Coucy is a great place to
spend a day out with the family. Take your time exploring the ruins, which are
set in the Normandie-Maine Regional Natural Park, before heading to a nearby
town for a bite to eat.
visit Northern France?
Shuttle takes just 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais. Just hop in the
car and go!