Explore the region’s history, natural heritage and enjoy many outdoor activities
Related article: Top of the World, Nord-Pas de Calais
Follow four self-drive Remembrance Trails to visit memorials to and cemeteries
of the fallen from WWI. For an overview, visit: www.lens14-18.com. Tourist offices can advise on tourism professionals accredited as Northern France Battlefield Partners. To research fallen ancestors from the Commonwealth, visit www.cwgc.org. Fans of World War I poets should head to Wilfred Owen’s last resting place and memorial at Ors. And for a unique immersive experience, go underground at Wellington Quarry in Arras, where 24,000 Allied soldiers lived in medieval limestone quarries before emerging in darkness before enemy lines in 1917. The sign pointing up the steps to the exit is a real heart-stopper.
A Lille City Pass gives free entry to museums and heritage buildings as well as public transport in Greater Lille and shopping and restaurant discounts.
Douai, to the south, boasts some glorious buildings – take a river trip through 200 years of history, enjoy the fine art at the Chartreuse Museum and view the old town from the bell tower.
France’s leading sea life centre, Nausicaá in Boulogne is a delight for all ages, with a strong conservation message. Discover 300 years of mining history at Lewarde Historic Mining Centre, once the Delloye pit and now the largest mining museum in France.
There’s tradition of a different sort during the Flemish Carnival season, which kicks off in February in Dunkerque with marching bands, families of carnival giants and lots of good-natured noise.
Enjoy beach and water sports along the Opal Coast from sand-yachting and sailing to windsurfing and kite- surfing.There’s golf too – the courses at Le Touquet, Hardelot and Wimereux are among the best in France. Choose from eleven 18-hole and three 9-hole coastal courses as well as inland courses such as at Arras. Websites: www.golfnorthernfrance.com; www.letouquetgolfresort.com/en; www.hardelotgolfclub.com/en/
Serious walkers can pick up a stage or two of the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome, which crosses Pas-de-Calais for 250km between Calais and Rocquigny. Or take a leisurely walk with a donkey for a few hours or a weekend. Too energetic? Hire a traditional 2CV at Clairmarais.
There are no mountains here but you can go skiing or snowboarding all year round on a former slag heap at Loisinord in Noeux-les-Mines and try water sports on the lake below. Or take a nature walk at Rieulay through the new flora and fauna covering a former slag heap.
The Mont des Récollets Garden at Cassel is an award-winning reconstruction of a Flemish Renaissance garden. Pas-de-Calais has many private gardens that are open to visitors in the summertime but for year-round interest, tour the garden rooms and topiary at Les Jardins de Séricourt near Frévent.
Benefit from some insider knowledge with a free guided tour from one of Pas-de-Calais’s 60 volunteer greeters, some of whom – like Collette Martel – speak English. Suitable for singles, couples and family groups. Book ahead.
From France Today magazine