Lens is a former mining town that over the last few decades has been busy reinventing itself. Some of the most defining characteristics of the city are the enormous slag heaps that are a legacy of its mining days. Rather than let them blot the landscape, Lens has made them into a feature, a haven for wildlife, growing plants on them and even vines – wine of the mines, called “charbonay” by the locals, a nod to the coal (charbon in French) once mined here.
Lens is football mad – the RC Lens team draws huge, enthusiastic crowds, famed for the fun atmosphere they create at matches. The stadium was commissioned by a director of the mines and was built by out of work miners.
Don’t miss the Louvre Lens, a branch of the world’s most famous museum in Paris with collections from the mother-ship. Strikingly different and strikingly good.
Lens City Guide
Best way to find your bearings: Head to the tourist office for a map and local bus service details.
Or wander: The town is famous for its art-deco style. Lens is close to several important War Memorial sites including Ablain-Saint-Nazaire French Military Cemetery, also known as Notre Dame de Lorette. A recently inaugurated memorial, the Ring of Remembrance lists the names of every soldier who died in the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais in the Great War, an incredibly moving monument.
Eating and Drinking: Plenty of cafés, brasseries and restaurants in the town. Head to La Chartreuse in Gosnay, about a 30 minute drive, for posh nosh in a stunning chateau hotel (actually it has 3 restaurants – all great).
Top Tip: Head to the tourist office for information and help to organise tours in the area to the key sites and sights. And, if you are ever in Lens on a Saturday and have the chance to watch a football match – do, the atmosphere is awesome, they really really love their footie here, as this video shows!