Towns of Pas de Calais
The northern coast of France is often overlooked by travellers, being bypassed as they head for the more illustrious regions of the country. Curious tourists, however, will discover that Pas de Calais is home to a number of enchanting resorts and towns where a sense of authentic French life can be experienced.
Overlooking the English Channel, and with a port that once welcomed cross-Channel travellers, Boulogne-sur-Mer is a fascinating town that epitomises northern French culture. From extensive art galleries and museums, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the 12th-century Belfry, there is plenty to see and do in the region. More modern attractions include the Nausicaa, or National Sea Centre, which offers a detailed insight into marine life, as well as live demonstrations to entertain travellers both young and old.
The earliest records of Saint-Omer may not have appeared until the seventh century, but it was through the construction of the magnificent Abbey of Saint that the town came to prominence. The Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, meanwhile, which originates from the 13th century, provides visitors with a grand monument to discover, with the cobbled streets and pretty lanes that surround it being the perfect setting for an enjoyable tour.
Further inland, the city of Lille is a historic town, graced with a magnificent 17th century architecture. The influence of the Flemish is clear, not least in the residential areas, while the modern cathedral provides a striking contrast to the more traditional elements of the region.
As the capital of the Nord-Pas de Calais region, Lille is a cosmopolitan city that has undergone significant change in recent times, transforming itself from a predominantly industrial area into one that embraces high culture and modern trends. Whether it’s exploring the renowned artwork of the Palais des Beaux Arts, visiting the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle, or simply wandering through the enchanting centre of the Grand Place, a visit to Lille provides a fascinating glimpse of the city’s – and the region’s – steady development.