Welcome to France’s Northernmost Region

Hauts-de-France is France’s northern most state. It was formed by combining the regions of Nord-Pas-De-Calais and Picardy. oVer 6 million people live in the Hauts-de-France region.

About Nord-Pas-De-Calais

Located on France’s northern border with Belgium is the Nord-Pas-De-Calais region. Nord-De-Pas-Calais was featured prominently in both WWI and WWII. The vast network of memorials and museums attest to this fact. The region is just a few hours via train from Paris.

When visiting be sure to enjoy the fine selection of locally brewed beers. Yes, France makes great beer too, although this fact is usually lost when compared with France’s neighbors to the north and east. As with many areas of Europe, Nord-Pas-De-Calais has it’s share of Roman ruins.

The city of Lille is the last stop on the Eurostar before England. Many a weary traveler has missed the train station in Paris only to wake up, luckily, in Lille.

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The Picardy Region of France

In 486 A.D. France was born in the Picardy region when King Clovis made Soissons the first capital of the Frankish people. Later, Hugues Capet was crowned king of France here in Noyon in 987 A.D. The Capetians ruled France until the revolution ended their reign in 1792.

The capital of the Picardy region is the historic city of Amiens. The city has been honored by UNESCO for its rich architectural heritage. The region is full of Gothic cathedrals and buildings including the majestic Chateau de Chantilly. A visit to Chantilly castle is an easy and popular day trip from Paris.

The region begins about 30 km’s north of Paris and is replete with lakes, rivers, dunes, cliffs and beaches to the west. Visit the official tourist website for the city of Amiens to learn more about what the town has to offer.

Picardy Map

A map of Picardy in the Hauts-de-France region.
A map of Picardy in the Hauts-de-France region.

Lille – An underrated gem in Hauts-de-France and France’s 4th biggest city.

Located in northern France on the river Deule, the city of Lille was founded in the Middle Ages, with a charter dating back to 1066. Lille is the prefecture of the Hauts-de-France region.

The County of Flanders, which first appeared in written documents in the 9th century, was formed after the Treaties of Verdun (843). Lille became one of its capitals and a center of commerce.

The main square in Lille, France capital of the Hauts-de-France region.
The main square in Lille, France capital of the Hauts-de-France region.

The tragic death of Charles the Reckless (the last Duke of Burgundy) in 1477 put a sudden end to the splendors of the court at Lille. Years later, Louis XIV had to use all his power and determination to annex the city to France once and for all in 1667, during the war of devolution.

During the French Revolution, the city was besieged by the Austrians (1792) who were on their way to Paris to free the king. The Austrians did not succeed in their task and Louis XVI was executed in Paris on January 21st, 1793.

In the 19th century, the city became a major industrial capital; the city expanded rapidly and annexed five nearby towns. During this time the city grew to 120,000 inhabitants.

Being so close to Belgium, Lille endured heavy bombardment during WWI and WWII.

Today, with over 220,000 inhabitants, the city is part of an urban community of 87 towns, with more than 1.5 million people. The city earned a 2004 nomination as a “European Capital of Culture” by the EC.

Despite early Protestant revolts from pro-Calvinists, the city has retained its cathedral. Other sites include the botanical garden and probably the world’s biggest flea market, the first weekend in September, drawing traders from all over Europe.

The Eurostar stops in Lille which means easy access to London, Brussels and Paris.

Lille – Places to See

  • A Walk in the old town between Palais Rihour and llot Comtesse.
  • Charles De Gaulle’s birthplace
  • Sunday market at Wazemmes

For further reading we recommend: Welcome to Lille, France’s most underrated city

The City of Amiens in Hauts-de-France

Amiens, north of Paris and west of Lille, is a town of about 130,000, with a long and varied history, dating, like many French towns, to before the Romans arrived. Its useful location in the Somme basin made it a battleground of note not only in World War I and II, but right back to the Norman era, and before, that, caught the strategic interest of various barbarian tribes.

Traditional homes in Amiens, France.
Traditional homes in Amiens, France.

Surprisingly, Amiens features the tallest Gothic cathedral in France, topping even Notre Dame in Paris. As for industry, textile manufacturing in the 17th and 18th centuries (notably velour) was a mainstay, but wholesale fighting and bombardment during the two World Wars put the town into a long decline until the 1990’s, when a new university campus and a revitalization of the town center brought much-needed energy and investment.

A visit to the city would not be complete without a sampling of the local almond biscuits, savory puff pastries and duck pate. One of the odder historical notes about Amiens is the identity of a long-serving city council member in the early 20th century: none other than famed author Jules Verne, who married a local girl.

Visit the Hauts-de-France official tourism website for further information.