The Nord Lille ,and Pas de Calais, Arras!

So in the times of cold and snow , let’s go north, lol! This is an area I have visited while visiting family and then use them as a base. The wonderful towns of Lille and Arras.

I have written on these and other before and even the Christmas market in Arras is tops.

Lille is a great city often overlook and now really link by train from Paris and even London, Brussels, Amsterdam etc. The city center is wonderful and the shopping phenomenal.  Lille is a city in the Nord 59 departément of the region of Hauts-de-France. It is often calle the Capital of Flandres as it used to belong to the roman flandres which in turn belongs to the historic French Flandres, old territory of the Count of Flandres and not part of the Flemish speaking area.

The city of Lille has gone thru many monumental periods in its history and count as one of the cities most invaded in France. Lille has belong to the counts of Flandres, kingdom of France, Burgundian state, Holy Roman Empire ,the Spanish low countries before coming back to France taken by king Louis XIV during the war of Spanish succession. Theh city was again invaded in 1792 during the Franco Austrian war and very much touch by the two World wars. During WWI the city was occupied by the Germans from 1914 to 1918, and it was the English under Gen Birdwood that liberated the city in October 17,1918. The city was in ruins. Lille was taken in WWII since May 1940 by the Nazis and attach to the nazi commander HQ in Brussels and not from the Vichy regime, so totally detached from the rest of France. Lille is finally liberated again by the British on September 3, 1944.

It is for this reason that the city did not developed into a typical city center layout but a mosaic of districts with their own identity. The historic heart that today is composed of the old Lille and Center Lille or Vieux-Lille and Lille-Centre; these two districts are extensions of the city in the 17C to 19C. Then, coming the districts born out of annexations in the 19C such as the Bois Blancs, Vauban Esquermes, Wazemmes, Lille-Moulins, Faubourg de Béthune, Lille-Sud, Saint-Maurice Pellevoisin , and Fives as the better ones and then coming those born out of the 20C such as Hellemmes ,and Lomme.

Some of the things to see here are The Collegiale Church of Saint Pierre and its crypt, Church of Saint-Maurice, and Church of Sainte-Catherine, the old stock exchange or Vieille Bourse house or maison de Gilles de la Boë, Church of Saint Etienne, Church of Saint André, the wonderful Citadelle known as the Queen of Citadelles , the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille, new stock exchange or ouvelle bourse, city hall or hôtel de ville, and wonderful shopping train complex of Euralille. A memory lane shot in EuraLille.


Other wonderful streets to walk on and see old Lille are rue des Chats-Bossus, Place du Lion-d’Or, rue de la Monnaie, rue des Arts ,rue Saint Jacques, place aux Bleuets, or the house of old men or Maison des Vieux-Hommes built in 1624 at rue de Roubaix. And do not missed the Grand’Place this to me is Lille at its best. You wonderful art at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, B. 1885,the Théâtre Sébastopol B. 1903, and the Opéra B. 1907. The wonderful park of Bois de Boulogne in Lille next to the Citadelle,with a zoo, an attraction park. Not to leave out the other museums such as the native house/museum of Charles de Gaulle at rue Princesse, and the wonderful musée des Canonniers at rue des Canonniers house in an old convent tracing the history of the military actions in town and especially the sieges of Lille.

Some of the must dishes to try here in the northern cuisine mixing French and Flemish traditions are other than the local beer, The Flemish Carbonade, simmered beef stew with beer, often embellished with gingerbread; the Potjevleesch, a terrine of four white meats taken with jelly; the Waterzoï, chicken or fish stew with cream and small vegetables. The Petit Salé Lille, made only from lean ham, and the mussels and fries, a dish obliged to the great sale of Lille, are also part of the culinary heritage of the city. The city of Lille tourist page in French is here:

The tourist office of Lille in English here:

Then, we go down to Arras, a nice town with lots of war history to remember. Also, in my opinion , the best Christmas market in the dept 59. Arras is the historic capital of the departement 62 of Pas-de-Calais, in the region of Hauts de France; 45 km from Lille,and 160 km from Paris. We go here on the A1 who has an important exchange with the A26 here. And we do take the D 939. Trains to Paris Gare du Nord are regular. The core historical of the city is along the ramparts with the oldest construction there around the bell tower or beffroi,and by the beautiful Grand’Place.


A bit of history I like: the treaty of Madrid of 1526 attached Arras to the Spanish lower countries but was never respected by king François I and conflicts continue until the end of his reign. The city is conquered by king Louis XIII in 1640 and later siege by the Spanish in 1654 ; however , the attachement to France does not happenned until the Treat of the Pyrénées in 1659.

WWI or the Great War gives considerable damaged to the city and destruction of its heritage buildings as the town was only 10 km from the front. The beffroi is destroyed then the Cathedral and the palace of Saint-Vaast are bombarded in 1915. In secret the British built the stone quarries of chalk under the city to house the soldiers necessary for the battle of Arras of April 9 1917; the quarry of Wellington is open today to remember what heroic actions were taken place here. After the war, Arras was demolished in 3/4 of it and was rebuilt almost identical later. Arras had some damaged in WWII but not nearly as much than during the Great War 1914-1918.

Some of the things to see here are; well let me tell you this little town has a punch. Arras is a City of Arts and History designation, and member of the Vauban network; it has 225 monuments classified as historical monuments that makes it the 7th city in France! The wonderful place des Héros,rue de la Taillerie, and the Grand’Place form an extraordinary monumental group of buildings unique in Europe.

The bell tower or beffroi in the city hall or hôtel de ville was built between 1463-1554, destroyed by Germans in WWI it was rebuilt to the identical after the war. The huge abbey of Saint-Vaast rebuilt in the 18C in classical architecture today houses the fine arts museum or musée des Beaux-Arts d’Arras, and the municipal library. Originally founded in the 7C ; the Church became the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Vaast after the old cathedral was destroyed during the French revolution. The lower town has the district that link the city to the Citadelle, around the place Victor-Hugo, built in 1756 in an octagonal shape of which in the center an obelisk was placed. The Citadelle was built between 1668-1672 as a defense in square format as wanted by Vauban, to protect the kingdom from invasion by the Spanish low countries but was never attack.


There is a theater on the Italian model built in 1785 and renovated last in 2007. The fine arts museum has sculptures, objects of art, and painting collections from the Flemish, Dutch, Italian, and French schools . There is an agreement between the city and the chateau de Versailles to offered collaboration that will give the museum a royal domain look (of course).

The culinary traditions here are other than the beer… Chocolate Hearts: In the 12C the heart-shaped pastries were done and still do. In the 17C, the Gingerbread hearts became the “hearts of Arras”. Since the years 1950, they are made of chocolate, and they are great! Since the Middle Ages, the home grown pigs perpetuate the traditional recipe of the antler of Arras, elaborated from veal strawberries prepared by hand. The antler of Arras has its brotherhood and its annual feast. The city of Arras tourist page in French here:

The tourist office of Arras in English here:

There you have it, two wonderful towns of the North that needs to be visited more, and me included with relatives nearby. So much to see here you know ::)

There are factory outlets in the outskirts of Lille such as at Roubaix the Usines we have been with the family and they are pretty good if you know what you are looking for and prices. here is the link to the Usines:

Also,McArthur Glen factory outlet here:


Great shopping indeed just one for old memories’ sake at McArthur Glen. I remember when was preparing moving to France permanently, I met a collegue at the Novotel hotel at the airport at Lille-Lesquin to go over my resumé/CV in give it a French format; I drove from my wife’s older brother home in Caudry (see that recent post). The meeting went well, we still in touch ,and I got the job right away!! memories of 2003. Airport site here for the memories!!

And the Novotel hotel at Lesquin.

Enjoy your week, happy travels and good health to all. Cheers!

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2 Comments to “The Nord Lille ,and Pas de Calais, Arras!”

  1. I haven’t been to either of these two cities, but the culinary delights are a great advert for both of them. Arras is said to have a great WW1 museum and maybe we’ll visit one day. Thanks for sharing. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

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