City Breaks

City Focus: Arras

Check out the beautiful city of Arras in northern France for the perfect day trip this winter.

Arras is a beautiful winter destination and the capital of the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France. Just 1 hour and 10 minutes by car from Calais, it’s the ideal place for a day trip this winter, whether you’re exploring the nearby war monuments or picking up some festive French treats. With two historic squares, a wonderful winter market and a thriving restaurant scene, there’s plenty to see and do in Arras. Check out my guide to the city and don’t miss out on the best bits of Arras.

Arras Cathedral

A visit to Arras Cathedral gives you just a taste of the city’s 2,000-year-old history. Built in the 18th century, it’s considered to be an incredibly important religious structure and is beautiful both inside and out. With a nave over 30 metres high, you’ll be straining your neck to appreciate the intricate details found throughout the Cathedral. It’s been rebuilt a number of times, with the original cathedral of Arras constructed between 1030 and 1396 but subsequently destroyed in the French Revolution. I recommend taking a guided tour to appreciate this building in all its glory.

Arras Cathedral by night
Arras Cathedral by night

Grand Place and Place des Héros

The two squares in Arras feature Spanish and Flemish inspired buildings, making the squares popular with tourists. They are used to host the annual Arras fireworks display, and during Christmas time, the large Grand Place is home to the fantastic Arras Christmas market – the Village de Noël. Taking place between 25th November and 30th December, the market boasts approximately 100 stalls, an ice rink, carousel, street shows and cooking demonstrations. Although slightly smaller, the Place des Héros is equally pretty and features the city’s Town Hall. Year-round on Wednesdays and Saturdays, both squares feature an open-air market, with the Saturday market being especially popular.

Places to eat

Arras is packed with fantastic restaurants, so for someone like me who loves food, it’s a brilliant destination! While I often travel with my dog, the following restaurants might not allow pets, so it’s a good idea to call ahead and check.

Le Petit Rat Porteur

Offering traditional local cuisine in a cosy setting, La Petit Rat Porteur is loved by locals for its basement, which has pretty vaulted ceilings, and friendly staff. The menu is made up of French classics such as Maroilles cheese cooked in pastry, and there’s a brilliant set menu for just €14, which features mains such as chicken aiguillettes and beef tartare, followed by delicious French desserts like crème brulée.

La Faisanderie

A more formal restaurant, La Faisanderie can be found on the corner of Grand place, situated in one of the square’s pretty baroque houses. It’s known as one of the most famous restaurants in Arras, so it’s a good idea to book ahead if you’d like to eat here. Food is served in an atmospheric cellar space, with a brilliant wine list and amicable staff. Specialities include scallop carpaccio, duck foie gras and, a personal favourite of mine, quiche. Its location makes this restaurant easy to find and is a great place to stop for dinner after a long day exploring the city.

The baroque houses that have made Arras famous.
The baroque houses that have made Arras famous.
Take a day trip to Arras today and discover one of northern France’s most enjoyable cities. With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, you can travel from Folkestone to Calais in just 35-minutes. From there, Arras is just over one hour’s drive away.