A visit to Hauts-de-France, the northernmost region of France, is a must-do on any travel itinerary for visitors wishing to be steeped In culture, nature, architecture and heritage.
Although Hauts-de-France may be better known for its battlefields and memorial sites, it’s a destination with diverse appeal:
from resplendent Gothic cathedrals to 18th century châteaux, galleries and fine restaurants.
This region of northern France, encompassing the departments of Aisne, Nord, Oise , Pas-de- Calais and Somme , extends from Normandy in the west, Paris Ile-de-France in the south, and Grand Est to the east. It includes the port city of Calais, the impressive gothic cathedrals of Picardy and the famous beaches and battlefields of the Somme.
Regal Relics in Amiens
A trip to Amiens , just two hours north of Paris, takes visitors to the unmissable landmark that is the 13th century Notre-Dame Cathedral, celebrating 800 years in 2020.
Amiens Cathedral Copyright F.Leonardi
France’s largest Gothic construction has more to offer than simply the landmark itself: there is a museum which is home to relics such as the head of Saint John the Baptist and the votive crown of Paraclete.
Travellers looking for places to explore beyond museums and churches may consider a trip to the famed floating gardens nearby, Les Hortillonnages d’Amiens, waterways that were created by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
Amiens hortillonnages copyright Celine Francoise
After an extensive and ambitious renovation, the Museum of Picardy reopened in March 2020. Built between 1855 and 1867 during the reign of Napoleon III, the Museum of Picardy was the first building built in France specifically as a museum of fine art and classified as an historical monument in 2012. Rich collections from Amiens, which cover the history of the western world from prehistory until the present day, have been redeployed in a revamped setting and punctuated with magnificent ancient decor.
Rich collections covering the history of the western world to the present day at Musée de Picardie Copyright C. Pegard
Jules Verne’s home is a must to visit. The house is where the famous writer lived for 18 years in Amiens and where he wrote most of his work. You will discover a luxurious private 19th century mansion, and learn about Jules Verne, his life and his " Extraordinary Voyages ".
Amiens Saint Leu area copyright F. Leonardi
Just an easy hour’s drive south into the valley of Nonette will take travellers to the historic town of Chantilly . Once the domain of Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale, son of King Louis-Philippe I, today it is home to an impressive château, 115 hectares of stunning gardens and the Great Stables, the largest of their kind in Europe. Travellers can get a glimpse into the private world of the Duke of Aumale by visiting Les Galeries De Peintures (The Art Galleries) that feature 550 paintings hung just as they once did in the 19th century – works from Raphael, Poussin, Delacroix and many others. It’s well worth stepping inside the magnificent 19th century Grand Apartment of the Musée Condé to experience how the Duke of Aumale once lived in great splendour. Or, enjoy a guided tour of the 115 hectare gardens (via the tourist train).
Chateau de Chantilly Copyright Martine Savart
An 18th century masterpiece of extraordinary proportions in the same locale is the Grandes Écuries (Great Stables). The former ‘palace for horses’ was built from 1719 to accommodate 240 horses and 500 dogs, and is the largest of its kind in Europe. Why not delve deeper into a world that explores the relationship between horse and man inside Le musée du Cheval (The Living Museum of the Horse).
The famous Chantilly Forest affords itself to superb walks, horse riding and cycling. Historic Chantilly is home to the Great Stables, the largest in Europe.
Dine, Stay and shop at the Chateau of Chantilly
Busy feet and curious minds can enjoy a welcome break at either La Capitainerie restaurant, in the heart of the Château, or at Restaurant du Hameau for visitors that prefer a tranquil lunch at the gardens (and a taste of authentic Chantilly whipped cream ). Extend your visit with an aperitif at one of several nearby historic hotels – or even stay overnight.
Chateau of Chantilly and horse riding
A stay of elegance and grandeur is assured at the five-star Auberge du Jeu de Paume (aubergedujeudepaumechantilly.fr/en/ ) in the heart of the gardens, or a Michelin-star meal at La Table du Connétable that opens up onto the gardens. The central Hotel Campanile (www. campanile.com/en-us/our-hotels/france/hauts-defrance/ hotels-chantilly ), Best Western Plus Hotel Du Parc Chantilly ([www.bestwestern.fr/en/hotel- Chantilly-Best-Western-Du-Parc-93375] and a 10-minute walk to the Chateau, Hôtel Le Chantilly, a 10-minute walk to the Chateau, (www.hotel-lechantilly.com/en/ ) offer comfortable modern rooms at excellent rates.