Any time is perfect to head to Pas-de-Calais and soak up the region’s rich culture and heritage, its authentic homegrown cuisine, take a stroll on the beach and enjoy the captivating coastal scenery. But in Autumn, this area is especially good for a feel-good break. Relax and be invigorated by the fresh air and the flaming colours of autumn. Indulge in superb gastronomy and enjoy the many cultural and historic treasures.
Historic Cities and Cultural hotspots
Meet the Greeters and discover the secret hotspots only the locals know about. The greeter system operates across the region with volunteer guides showing you around ‘their’ France, sharing snippets of local history to groups of up to six. Completely free. greeters62.com/en/
Arras is the perfect small city to leave the car behind and take a stroll. The two main squares are unique in Europe, lined with columned arcades and 155 houses in sumptuous baroque Flemish style. The cobbled Place des Héros, is dominated by the UNESCO-listed belfry which tops the architecturally glorious town hall. Voted France’s favourite monument in 2015, the 75m high platform is the perfect perch from which to drink in the magnificent views over the town. And say hello to the giants, adored heritage figures of the north of France, who stand guard on the ground floor.
Medieval Montreuil-sur-Mer sits atop a hill overlooking the Dordogne-like countryside of the Seven Valleys – there is no sea despite mention of la mer in the name. Take a wander round the ramparts, visit the 16th century Citadel which was fortified by Louis XIV’s engineer Vauban, and stroll the cobbled streets and squares, squeeze through the narrow medieval alleyways, admire the ateliers and quirky boutiques, and stop for a mug of steaming hot chocolate in the main square in front of the pretty Italianate theatre. It was in this town in 1837 that Victor Hugo stopped for lunch and was so impressed by his experiences in the town, it inspired him to write Les Misérables.
The Louvre-Lens museum, a branch of the Louvre in Paris has an incredible collection of artworks from across the history of humanity that are shown in an astoundingly beautiful modern building. There’s plenty to do around the Louvre-Lens too!
Bring history lessons to life
Indelibly marked by two world wars, there are many major remembrance sites in Pas-de-Calais and many museums and monuments pay homage. 139 cemeteries and memorial sites on the former Western Front of World War One have been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as at 20 September 2023: 96 in France of which 14 are in Pas-de-Calais, 43 in Belgium – 16 in Wallonia, 27 in Flanders. visitpasdecalais.com/ww1-western-front-listed-to-unesco
In Arras, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Experience in Beaurains offers a fascinating glimpse into the organisation’s painstaking work maintaining Commonwealth cemeteries, monuments, and memorials around the world. And the nearby Wellington Tunnels are an immersive memorial to the Battle of Arras, a step back in time to the First World War.
La Coupole near Saint-Omer, a 55,000-tonne concrete dome with 18 feet thick walls, is where Hitler had a secret V2 rocket base built. Today it is a fascinating and haunting historical and scientific museum, and home to the most advanced planetarium in the world. With a unique 15m wide screen with 10K resolution, watch incredible 3D films from interactive seats.
In the port towns of Calais and all around the Opal coast you’ll find monuments, memorials and museums dedicated to the two world wars and offering a fascinating window to the past. Don’t miss the Atlantic Wall Museum in Audinghen, a German World War II fortress with its eerily undisturbed relics from uniforms to cutlery and cups. Outside is an incredibly well-preserved and rare railway gun.
Climb Napoleon’ Column in Wimille on the outskirts of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Here, in 1804 the great general and Emperor of France mustered his forces and had 2000 ships built, in sight of England. Though the planned invasion never took place, Napoleon began the tradition of the Legion d’Honneur medals, and the moment is marked by this immense column. Climb 263 steps for eye-popping views over the English Channel.
Azincourt 1415 Museum takes you further back in time and tells the tumultuous tale of one of history’s most famous battles: Agincourt. Brush up on the history of this monumental moment in time, where the battle was over in just hours, making the British victors and King Henry V legends for the rest of time.
Meanwhile you can get a feel for how a Lord lived in the 14th century at the wonderfully preserved fortified Chateau d’Olhain in Fresnicourt-le-Dolmen
The Opal Coast stretches for 75 miles and takes in golden sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, charming bays, ancient castles, seaside resorts, and authentic little fishing villages. Discover the Belle Epoque charms of Wimereux, the authentic charms of Audresselles and the historic castle and centre of Entente Cordiale in Hardelot. Enjoy a gentle walk or a bracing hike – along the cliff tops at Audinghen, new walkways take you safely across the cliff tops, protecting the environment and offering jaw-dropping views over the English Channel and the White Cliffs of Dover which are easy to see on a clear day. All that fresh air is going to build up an appetite – and you’re in luck because this area offers outstanding gastronomy.
You’ll find a huge range of restaurants in Pas-de-Calais from Michelin-starred to estaminets, Flemish style inns, and friteries where you can buy chips and sausages in a baguette, a favourite with the locals and the perfect food to sit on the beach and watch the views. Fish stars on many menus, Boulogne-sur-Mer being France’s biggest fishing port, and local dishes that are unique to this area that will definitely tickle your taste buds. Le Welsh – a cheesy concoction that is perfect for breezy days. Carbonnade Flammande, beef cooked in beer with gingerbread is absolutely delicious, ideal autumn comfort food. And how about beer tart (it tastes like treacle tart!), and sugar tart? They have a sweet tooth here in this part of France where sugar beet is a main crop, which is why you’ll find in Pas-de-Calais some of the very best patisseries in all of France.
Autumn in Pas-de-Calais is surprising – and delicious!
Find out more fabulous things to do in the Pas-de-Calais at: visitpasdecalais.com
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