August 15, 2016

visit-northern-france-hero 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.

1. Lille

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 Flea Market.

2. Calvados

calvados, a delicious apple brandy

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 flavour.

3. Arras

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'Opale

Cap Blanc Nez

Cap 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.

5. Musée du Louvre-Lens

Musée du Louvre-Lens

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!

7. Château de Coucy

Château de Coucy

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.

Want to visit Northern France?

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle takes just 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais. Just hop in the car and go! 

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