Welcome to the region of Hauts de France
The Hauts de France region is welcoming and authentic, combining nature, culture and traditions. It offers a wide range of discovery and activity options for everyone. Seaside tourism with its coastline scattered with long beaches and sand dunes or the chalk cliffs of Tréport. Nature tourism, with several national parcs throughout the region's departments and the largest nature reserve forming part of the most beautiful bays in the world. From the Opal coast to the Picardy coast, from the Boulonnais to the Thiérache, from Flanders to the Artois basin, an exceptional diversity of landscapes dotted the towns and the campaigns of Hauts de France.
What will your hosting model be in the Haut de France region?
The new region was created in December 2014, the Hauts de France are located on the northern part of the hexagon. It is the result of the fusion of 2 regions that previously existed, Nord-Pas de Calais and Picardy that unite a total of 5 departments: the Aisne, the Nord, the Oise, the Pas-de-Calais and the Somme. The Hauts de France region is bordered to the west by about 170km of coastline, consisting of the North Sea and the English Channel. Its north/north-east border with Belgium is about 350km long and it also borders 3 French regions: Normandy, the Ile de France and the Grand Est region.
The 8 ancient lands of Hauts de France region
In France, natural regions or traditional countries are territories that have physical features and human occupation homogeneous over a period of time and the informations are likely to overlap in the same geographic space.
A traditional territory in France, following the route taken by the Gallic tribe of Atrebates, it mainly includes the Pas-de-Calais region, except for Boulonnais. The Artois limits have changed due to the vagaries of history, as well as to annexations or separations with the neighboring counties, the Boulonnais and Flanders.
French Flanders was divided into 2 counties, the Roman Flanders composed of the current district of Lille, about thirty communes of the Douaisis as well as some others of the Pas-de-Calais. Maritime Flanders included all the communes of the current district of Dunkerque and two more communes of Lille.
From 1477 to 1790, Picardy was a large province of the kingdom of France with more than 20 micro-regions. It is also a geographical and cultural territory linked by traditions, it is located in the northwest of France and bordered by the English Channel and the regions of the High Country. As a region, it will keep, between 1972 and 2015, the same name.
It is a natural region which gathers soils from France and Belgium with similar landscape and architectural features. The Thiérache is spread over the north-east of the Aisne department and extends over two other provinces, the Nord and the Ardennes, as well as over the Belgian provinces of Hainaut and Namur.
Located on the Manche coastal area, in the Pas-de-Calais department, the Boulonnais is a beautiful natural maritime and bocage region. Since the antiquity, Boulogne has been an important city in the north part of Gaule and during the Middle Ages, the area covers all the territory of the former County of Boulogne.
The French Hainaut
The region corresponds roughly to the current districts of Avesnes-sur-Helpe and Valenciennes, and its actual boundaries merge with those of a traditional country. The former county of Hainaut was ceded to France on 1659 and 1678, and became part of the Nord department from 1790.
The Avesnes-sur-Helpe region is the seat of the Avesnois, although Maubeuge, Hautmont and Fourmies are more densely populated. The region of Avesnois corresponds roughly to the current arrondissements of Avesnes-sur-Helpe and Valenciennes. The landscapes of the Avesnois are verdant, and constitute an exception compared to the rest of the department.
Located in the heart of the Parisian Basin, 80 km north of Paris, in the departments of Aisne and Oise, the Soissonnais is one of France's natural regions. The district is named after the Gallic people of the Suessions, who lived there in Antiquity. Four rivers naturally delimite the region: the Oise, Ailette, Ourcq and the Automne.
What are the 5 departments of the Hauts de France region
Department of Aisne (02)
Mixing nature and historical heritage, Aisne invites you to explore its area, with its cities rich in historical events and adventures. There are 5 tourist areas, the region of St. Quentin, Laon, Soissons, Thiérache and Omois, all of which have a predominance of green tourism.
Department of Pas de Calais (62)
It took his name from the strait that separates it from England, and it is one of the most populous French departements. It features a contrasted territory gathering an amazing touristic and natural patrimony. There are many monuments in the district, such as the belfries, listed by UNESCO.
Department of Nord (59)
This is the department including the most northern territories of France. The biggest city, called Lille, is both the regional and departmental capital. In the Nord, tourism is an important sector, ranking 5th at the national level, owing to a wealth of cultural heritage and well-known events..
Department of Oise (60)
It is the territory of vast woodlands and also the place where prestigious horse races are held. Its historic patrimony was enriched during the period when the region was favored by the royal court. Its tourism is more access on theme parks, such as Parc Asterix, the sandy beach, etc..
Department of the Somme (80)
In the Somme, you will find a lot of sites attracting tourists. Two zones stand out: Abbeville and the Picarde coast and the Amiens area with the Upper Somme. In addition, the area has a large number of places to visit, both historical and architectural, but also natural, with its wetlands and the Somme Bay.
Which are the 22 must-see cities in the Hauts de France?
Capital of the Somme, the city has the biggest cathedral in France, not far from there, the area of Saint-Leu, known as the small Venice of the North, is a district of artisans with its colorful houses. Jules Verne, the writer, spent 18 years in this city of exceptional inheritance, and his home is open to the public. Visitors from all over the world come to admire the finest monuments of the Picardy city, inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list.
Located in the national park of the Avesnois, the small town of Bavay is famous for its Roman vestiges. Visiting the site you will discover the ruins of a forum, a basilica and the cryptoporticus. In the museum the objects found during the excavation programs are exhibited. Former capital of the Gallo-Roman region, Bagacum developed more strongly during the Middle Age under the authority of the county of Hainaut.
In the Flemish plain, 9 km from the sandy beaches of Malo-les-Bains, the city is still entirely surrounded by medieval ramparts or reinforced by the Vauban structure. Snuggled up at the foot of its belfry, the town appears to be unaffected by time and every year goes on living the traditions of the past. The film "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" was shot here and many tourists come to explore this beautiful Flemish town.
Rodin's bronze sculpture of the Burghers of Calais reminds us of the Hundred Years' War, the beginning of a particular relationship with England. Today, Calais is the 1st passenger port in France and the bridge between both countries. The tunnel has reduced the distances and facilitated the trade by simplifying the crossing of the strait. Calais is reinventing its image today with the company of the dragon which wanders along its coastline.
An important town at the gates of Paris where the royal and the imperial cities have succeeded each other. You will discover medieval dwellings, buildings of Gothic style, the belfry and the first communal bell of France. An other important sight, in the forest of Compiègne, there is the symbolic Wagon of the armistice, where peace of the 2 great wars was signed, in 1918 and 1945, even if, in between, the wagon was moved !!!
The town of the famous corsair Jean Bart has a rich maritime history, gathered in the port museum of the old tobacco storehouse. In the city, 2 belfries are registered with UNESCO. In addition to its real estate assets, the fine sand beaches of Malo are just waiting for you! Every year, the carnival animates and colours the city streets in January and February during 1 month, where the fever rises and concludes by the hymn to Jean Bart the last day!
The particular character of Gerberoy is enhanced by the quality of the vestiges related to its past. It' s the village of a thousand rosebushes. Visiting Gerberoy means taking part in a sensory experience while discovering its colorful half-timbered houses, its collegiate church, or the ruins of its fortress with the ramparts and the cobblestone streets. During the first week-end of June, a romantic event takes place: the Rose Festival.
Montreuil sur Mer (62)
With over a 1000 years history, the city of the ramparts is like a real open air history book. Surrounded by 3km of well kept ramparts, we can walk along their entire length. A citadel, redesigned by Vauban, is enthroned in the center of the edifice and during summer "sound and light" spectacles feature Victor Hugo, author inspired by the town of Montreuil for the writing of "Les Miserables".
Formerly known for its textiles activity, Roubaix is now a pioneer in the mail order sector. The town is a former medieval city that has now turned towards the future, showing boldness and dynamism in the reconversion of its former industrial sites. For the lovers of beer and gastronomy, the proximity of several breweries, with their northern flavours, can only seduce the most refined of gourmets.
Saint Quentin (02)
The city founded by the Romans has an architectural heritage that recalls its importance over the centuries. There is plenty of heritage with buildings dating from the medieval period, art deco, or vestiges of the armed conflicts of the 20th century, there is enough for everyone. The epicureans may try the Picardy specialties such as ficelle, the famous badré pie, or even a delicious gratin of endives.
Capital of the Frankish kingdom, Clovis marked our schoolchildren's memories with his cult phrase: "Remember the vase of Soissons". The town has kept a good number of medieval monuments from its historical glory: the beautiful cathedral of St. Gervais and St. Protais, the remains of the Abbey of St. Jean des Vignes and its refectory, the abbey of St. Léger, which today houses the town's museum, presenting many relics of the past and the fine arts.
Being the third most important city in the Pas-de-Calais, Arras is renowned for its belfry and its two magnificent paved squares: the Grand Place and the Place des Héros. Surrounded by 155 houses of Flemish baroque style, they make the pride of Arras citizens and the admiration of visitors. Located at 12 meters underground, the Boves are ancient chalk quarries dug in the 10th century, which form a huge network of galleries open to a guided tour.
Prefecture of Oise, Beauvais is at the north of the Parisian basin, about 80km from Paris. It was economically prosperous up to the 18th century, with the famous Beauvais sheet. Now tourists are mainly attracted to Beauvais for its historical and architectural wealth. Road markings have been created throughout the city to direct visitors to some of Beauvais' most remarkable monuments.
Boulogne-sur-Mer is full of historical treasures, composed of 2 distinct sections, the upper town standing behind its 13th century ramparts and the lower town facing the sea. In the tourism sector, the port of Boulogne, European leader on the fishing market, is not short of ambition. The imperial city is also home to the biggest crypt in France, and each year the camp of Boulogne, which gathered up to 200.000 soldiers, is commemorated.
Located on the top of the mountain, 176m above the Flanders plain, the charming town of Cassel is a great attraction for the carnival of Shrove Tuesday and Easter. The collegiate church of Notre-Dame de la Crypte, a listed UNESCO site, was erected around the 10th century. It has been burned and profaned many times but has always been rebuilt on its foundation. In the castle park, the last surviving of the 24 windmills of the commune.
The country of the Gayant children, the giants of tradition, has kept many traces of its rich historical and religious background. From the top of its superb belfry with 62 carillons, after the climbing the 195 steps (about 60m), you will have the chance to admire the panoramic view on the roofs of the city and the surrounding landscape and perhaps to test your carillon player skills !
The upper town of Laon, is surrounded by 7km of ramparts, and is home to an impressive medieval city with more than 80 listed or classified monuments. Its Notre-Dame cathedral dominates the hill and the surroundings, its facade is sublime and the elevation of the nave impressive. Learn about the city's history with a local or go on an underground adventure with an audio-guided tour along an lively route.
Lille is the regional capital and the largest city in the Hauts de France with an amazing architectural heritage. The central square and the pedestrian streets around are in the pure Flemish style and also in the arched Lille style. The buildings are rather uniform and the styles don't clash. If you are there, in early September, do not miss the "braderie de Lille", the street market of Lille.
Witness of the architectural transition from Romanesque to Gothic art, Noyon is a must-see. Having a prestigious and rich past, the city has obtained the label "Ville d'Art et d'Histoire" (City of Art and History) and possesses an outstanding cultural, historical and natural heritage. City of the crowning of Charlemagne and Hugue Capet, the 18th century fountain, on the town hall square, marks the wedding, in 1770, of future Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
Saint Omer (62)
Just in the east of Pas de Calais, the town has a very high quality heritage with several remarkable buildings such as its 13th century Gothic cathedral, the Benedictine abbey of Saint Bertin dating from the 7th century. The pretty alleys which border the cathedral will lead you to the quays and its beautiful houses. Benefit aboard a bacôve to see the incredible marshes of Audomarois and its market garden.
In the old district, as you stroll along the paved streets, bearing the names of old professions, you will see the beauty of the 17th and 18th century houses and mansions. Beyond the monumental Gothic, Senlis still preserves 800m of its ancient Gallo-Roman walls. Senlis, which saw the coronation of Hugues Capé, has retained its medieval atmosphere with the royal castle and the royal chapel of St. Frambourg, restored by the Cziffra Foundation.
First seaside resort of the Opal Coast, its beautiful seafront has a beautiful and long dike for outdoor walking. The charm of Wimereux is mainly characterized by its Anglo-Norman cottages from the Belle Époque and by the beach huts lined up on the beachfront. The major attraction of the resort is the development of the beach sports and other aquatic activities related to the environment.
What are the 6 National Parks of the Hauts de France?
In addition to the national spaces, there are regional parks and numerous other protected green areas that are being created on the initiative of the local and territorial collectivities or municipalities.
The Scarpe Escaut Park (1968)
The first Regional Natural Park created in France, it spreads on 43.000 hectares. The Scarpe River runs through it and is no longer used for the transport of goods, but mainly for leisure tourism. The Scheldt is channeled and crosses the park to Belgium, on about 25km. Located in the heart of the park, the Raismes/Saint-Amand/Wallers state forest offers walkers the possibility of discovering a wide variety of remarkable sites. The thermal site, of St. Amand les eaux, may also be visited. The strong diversity of habitats and landscapes of the alluvial valleys of the Scarpe and the Scheldt harbor a remarkable biodiversity. Some 120 emblematic species have been listed, thus requiring measures to protect the natural areas where they are found.
The Parc des Caps et Marais d'Opale (1986)
Marshes, hills, hedgerows and coastline... Welcome to the Caps et Marais d'Opale ! This territory covers about 200.000 hectares with a unique palette of landscapes. A giant park spread over 5 areas and 154 municipalities that are home to 80% of the region's biodiversity. (1) The Audomarois marsh, near Saint-Omer, is the last cultivated marsh in France. (2) The limestone hillsides, hills that mark the geological past of the territory. (3) The bocages of the Boulonnais, pastures bordered by hedges that form a natural grid. (4) The valleys of the Aa and the Hem, two rivers that have strongly structured the territory. (5) The Opal Coast, a coastline made of dunes, beaches and cliffs, with the sites of the Two Capes (Gris-Nez and Blanc-Nez) which are classified as a Grand Site de France.
The Avesnois Park (1998)
Wooded meadows, deciduous forests, orchards in bloom, winding rivers, aquatic spaces, mills on the water's edge, elements that make the Park an exceptional territory. The Avesnois Park is part of the large family of Regional Nature Parks in France. It is composed of the public and state forest of Mormal who is the biggest forest massif in Nord-Pas de Calais region. It also includes the network of canals and ponds preserved from the walls of Le Quesnoy, and of the beautiful state forest of Abbé Valjoly, with its very hilly relief and the Val Joly lake which is suitable for water sports activities. The communes of the region regularly set up awareness and information programs on the flora and fauna to be preserved and on the maintenance of the built heritage.
The Oise Pays de France Park (2004)
Made up of the Halatte, Ermenonville and Chantilly forests, the Park's territory is covered by 20,000 hectares of forest, forming the Trois Forêts massif. The patrimonial interest of the territory lies in the great diversity of the original natural habitats that it shelters, limestone grasslands, moors, wetlands and a high number of rare animal or plant species have been identified, about fifty protected vascular plants and forty insects of patrimonial importance. The office of the Park Oise Pays de France is installed in the Château de la Borne Blanche (RER D stop), on the edge of the forest of Chantilly, it is an ideal starting point of excursion. The House of the Park is open to the public in week for any information you need.
Marine Natural Park of the Picardy Estuaries and the Opal Sea (2012)
The French Office of Biodiversity (O.F.B.) manages the Marine Natural Park, created on December 13, 2012. The Marine Natural Park of Picardy Estuaries and the Opal Sea covers an area of 2,300 km² off the departments of Seine Maritime, Somme and Pas-de-Calais. Its northern limit is located in the town of Ambleteuse, and its southern border at Le Tréport. It includes 34 coastal municipalities, over 118 km. The Park extends out to sea as far as the maritime traffic separation device, in the middle of the Strait of Calais. Fed by 7 coastal rivers, 1 marine river and multiple currents, the Natural Park is an important biological crossroads. It hosts numerous animal and plant species, within a great diversity of habitats: salt meadows, sandy plains, rocky flats, etc.
The Baie de Somme Picardie Maritime Park (2020).
Located in the northwest of the Somme Bay, the nature reserve opens onto the Manche between the tip of Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont to the north and the tip of Hourdel to the south. It is essentially composed of a maritime zone that is divided into two major habitats. (1) The mudflat constitutes a reserve of invertebrates feeding numerous species of birds. At low tide, sea seals like to rest on the foreshore and its sandbanks. (2) The salt meadows take place where halophilic (salt tolerant) plant species succeed one another from the saltwort to the sea lilac meadows and protected species such as the Obione pédonculée, the Elyme des sables and the Creeping Willow. The terrestrial part includes the Ornithological Park of Marquenterre and constitutes a mosaic of environments at the same time dry and wet, soft and brackish. Discover all the zones HERE.
What are the 10 specialties of the Hauts de France not to miss?
The local products of Les Hauts de France, relate the marriage between earth and the sea, and behind their apparent simplicity they hide a culinary style in the image of the region. The gastronomy here is full of character and authenticity, it breaths the coastline, the large plains, the fields and the orchards. Cooked with love, the riches of the land are a wonder of sweetness, of finesse and delicacy, with potatoes, chicory, beer, cheese, and fish, they are all delicious, not to be missed.
The fried mussels
Emblematic of the braderie of Lille, each year, more than 400 tons are consumed! The delicious moules-frites are one of the most popular dishes served in the Nord-Pas de Calais, with various original sauces, it represents a great mood for a stay in the North. Mussels and French fries can be found in all the traditional brasseries and here they are excellent !
Salt meadow lamb
The Somme Bay, alongside Mont St. Michel, is the only region to produce salt meadow lamb, which grazes in salt meadows. The mollières, the high parts of the meadows covered by the sea during the high tides, are the characteristic of those areas where a strict pasture management is applied in order to respect the natural balance. The maritime flora influences the quality of the meat and makes it taste so good.
The ficelles picardes
Became an unavoidable specialty of the Picardy region, it is a pancake au gratin, filled with mushrooms, hams, shallots and a creamy bechamels sauce. According to the tradition it should only be filled with fresh cream. The Picardy ficelle is a starter created by Marcel Lefèvre's know-how in 1950, to be served to the notables of the region, on the occasion of the exhibition of La Hotoie. However, its notoriety was made by Louis Pollenne who made it known.
The andouillette of Arras
It dates back to medieval times, made with pork frison, which has a refined flavour and low fat, shallot, parsley and mustard, each pork butcher has his little secret to add. This delicious food can be served hot, grilled or cooked with lentils or potatoes and white wine. Every year in August, the city of Arras holds a big parade to celebrate the andouillette.
A terrine of 4 mild white meats in jelly, the rabbit, the veal, the pig and the poultry which are confit and stewed, which one has beforehand marinated in white wine or beer. The "potch" is usually prepared the previous day for the next day and is usually served with French fries to melt the jelly in the heat. If you are just in town, do not miss out on this famous local dish. So are you ready for this experience? Get your forks ready!
Chicory au gratin
Endive au gratin is a winter dish, very popular in the north of France. Endive is grown from October to April, the pearl of the north is often prepared in the oven, with ham, béchamel and grated cheese, a real delicacy! It is healthy vegetable, high in fiber, high in water, vitamins and minerals and very easy to digest, making it a good ally for a varied and balanced nutrition.
The Flemish carbonade
Just watching it simmer gently in the pot without a lid, letting the scent evaporate and tickle your nostrils, the desire to devour it becomes pressing. Basically, this recipe is a sweet-sour beef stew, you have to choose pieces of beef and let them simmer in the beer, a blonde, amber or brown beer of your choice, with spices and some other ingredients. Enjoy this dish with a mug of beer and French fries.
Maroilles is the only cheese from the Hauts de France to be AOC, obtained in 1976 and PDO in 1996, it is described as "the finest of strong cheeses". A cow's milk cheese with a soft, washed rind and a full-bodied taste. In the kitchen, the Maroilles pie is a delicacy with a fine taste, a home-made leavened pastry on which are placed thin slices of Maroilles with its rind. It is ready in 20 minutes of baking, and all you have to do is to go to table and enjoy a good local beer with it.
The Picardy Flamiche
A delicious pie filled with a mixture of leeks and fresh cream available in many traditional restaurants in the region. A delicious dish to try! A good flaky or shortcrust pastry, leek whites in butter, eggs, fresh cream, salt and pepper, all browned in the oven! It makes you dream, doesn't it? As a main course, it is often served with sauteed potatoes with a white wine.
In the early 20th century, the Nord and Pas-de-Calais regions had up to 2,000 breweries. The availability of wheat, barley and hops in the region are the major assets for this successful and traditional activity. Since then, the number has decreased, but the forty breweries that remain have turned to producing beers with a stronger character. Now, as for the wines, tourist circuits are available to discover the northern beer route.
What are the 10 most important sites to discover in the Hauts de France ?
Abbey of Ourscamp (60)
Situated close to Noyon in the upper valley of the Oise river, the abbey of Notre-Dame d'Ourscamp was founded in 1129, and is one of the oldest Cistercian foundations in Picardy. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The only thing that remains from this superb gothic art monument is its impressive skeleton of stone.
Blockhouse of Éperlecques (62)
Situated in the woodlands close to the village, this blockhouse is the biggest in northern France with 33m high, 95m wide and 216m long ! This huge structure was built in 1943 to ensure the production of liquid oxygen and to serve as a base for the V2 rockets that were to be launched on London.
The rebirth of a deserted castle, under Napoleon III it finally appears as it is known to us. First built by Duke Louis of Orleans in the late 14th century, it was demolished by the 17th century and then left totally abandoned. The ruins were acquired by Napoleon 1st and rebuilding work was undertaken in 1858 under the supervision of Violet Le Duc, who used it as a set for the film "Les Visiteur".
Cupola of Helfaut (62)
This Second World War bunker was destroyed in 1943 before ever being used and almost caused another massacre. The Coupole of Helfaut-Wizernes is a former German hidden base that was supposed to store V2 rockets and to send them against London. It has become a memorial and historic center about the secret weapon and the lives of the french people under occupation.
Hortillonnages of Amiens (80)
Close to the historical center, this is a 300-hectare area where pretty small floating gardens surround by waterways were used in the past for vegetable growing. Every Saturday morning, the market gardeners of the hortillonnages are present in the Place Parmentier and in June, a big festival is organized as in the past, a market on the water. To discover the hortillonnages, there's nothing like the horn boat, used in a respectful attitude to nature. A guided tour will take you through the Hortillonnages with electric boats.
Abbey of Valloires (80)
Located in Argoules, in the verdant Authie valley, the Cistercian abbey of Valloires dates back to the 12th century. Its 9-hectare park is laid out with a beautiful decorative garden of more than 5,000 different varieties of plants, flowers and shrubs that will activate all of your senses while visiting the floral garden.
One of the jewels of French heritage, this castle is divided in two parts, a small castle of the 16th and the big one of the 19th. In the 115 hectares of the park, splendid gardens and flower beds have been laid out with water surfaces and small houses. The royal stables are now the site of Chantilly's equestrian museum.
Historical mining center of Lewarde (59)
The bigest mining museum in France, it is located in the former Delloye pit. By visiting it, you will experience 3 centuries of coal mining. On your way around, you will find out different dressing rooms (room of the hanged), the showers, the lamp room, the galleries and a dozen coal extraction sites. The museum has permanent exhibits with beautiful replicas and material on the life of coal miners.
The forest of Saint-Gobain (02)
This mysterious and majestic deciduous forest extends over 9,000 hectares in a hilly setting dotted with ponds. It shelters a marvelous heritage, both built and natural, that can be explored on marked paths in hiking or biking. You can also discover a fauna as well as 2 old abbeys, the one of Prémontré founded at the 12th, then rebuilt at the 18th and Saint-Nicolas aux Bois from the 14th century.
In the city of Boulogne sur Mer, Nausicaá invites you to travel deep into the ocean to explore the wealth of underwater biodiversity worldwide. On 10.000 m², fish, aquatic invertebrates or even mammals live in about 70 aquariums. With more than 58,000 aquatic specimens and 1,600 different species, Nausicaá offers a lovely visit, both playful, pedagogic and scientific, suitable for all age levels, in order to make us aware of how to deal with the oceanic world and the vital resources that sustain life.