Amiens is a great place to spend a weekend. It’s an introduction to French life in a northern French town that has a long history and much to offer visitors. We take a look at some of the top attractions in the city.
Maison Jules Vernes
Amiens was once home to the great French writer Jules Vernes who rented a large house there. He was a prolific writer of travel guides and imaginary aviation. His house remains, a museum that pays homage to the great man.
Maison Jules Vernes is a substantial house on the edge of the city centre. Vernes and his wife lived there between 1882 and 1900. The house contains many of their possessions. Many of his famous books originated from the house including ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea’. Visitors can see the actual desk where this novel was written, surrounded by a vast array of his other, celebrated works. The library features his personal collection of books by Walter Scott, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and many other distinguished authors.
Vernes book ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ featuring Phileas Fogg has been translated into more languages than any other French publication. He was fascinated by travel – especially by air and sea. Strangely he never visited many of the countries he featured in his books, but his vivid imagination made up for his lack of experience. The floor in his office features a map of the world displaying the fictitious balloon route.
The museum also displays models of flying machines as imagined by Vernes before aircraft were invented.
Amiens Cathedral stands proud and tall in the centre of the city like a timeless sculpture. The edifice is vast, and the architectural features take your breath away. You simply can’t help but be impressed by its majesty and presence.
The Cathedral is one of the world’s greatest examples of Gothic architecture. It is the largest ecclesiastical edifice in France spreading out over 7700 square meters.
Outside and inside, the church is encrusted with fabulous, influential examples of religious sculpture and artworks. During the hours of darkness in the summer months, Amiens Cathedral is brilliantly illuminated over its façade to present a sharp, bright symbol of time and hope everlasting.
Amiens’ Picardy Museum is a large and imposing building exhibiting many great works of art. The accent here is very much on regional history, achievement and culture.
The poignant background of modern warfare associated with the timeless Somme River flowing through the city is not neglected. The nearby Somme basin was the location of some of the most vicious savagery and greatest loss of life a single battle during the Great War.
Amiens is also home to one of the first skyscrapers in Europe, the Tour Perret. A real coming together of the old and the new in the city. The Tower, a residential and office building, which is illuminated at night, stretches to a height of more than 100 meters, as high as the spire on the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral. The two constructions blend wonderfully together on the city skyline.
Amiens is full of light, vigorous commercial activity and sparkling energy. Restaurants, bars, market activity and river life embellish its culture. It’s an unpretentious sort of place that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously.
Bob Lyons is an ex-pilot turned travel writer who is also a total Francophile.