Located in the heart of Picardy, historic Amiens has everything for the short breaker – olde-worlde ambience and a modern spirit, plus cultural attractions in abundance. Don’t miss these five spots.
Perhaps the prize attraction for any first-time visitor to Amiens is the UNESCO-listed Cathédrale Notre-Dame – the tallest complete cathedral in France, which measures a whopping 42 metres high. The entrance to the cathedral is covered with statues, some of which reveal traces of the building’s original colour. Among the statues and carvings on its portals are martyrs holding their own severed heads and scenes depicting the positive and negative characteristics of each of the zodiac signs.
During the summer and around Christmas, Amiens Cathedral is illuminated at night, to show how it would have looked in its original colours, back in the Middle Ages. Guided tours in English.
The Great War and how it affected Amiens is the subject of a wide-ranging new season of concerts, exhibitions, guided tours and theatre productions. A themed trail in three parts will lead visitors from the train station to the city centre, to the cathedral and other sites around the city. Among Us will feature archive images of both soldiers and civilians projected onto public buildings, Views of the Great War will allow visitors to discover the history of Amiens on billboards, before looking around them in order to get an in-situ perspective. In French only.
Amiens grew up around the banks of the Somme and the relationship formed between its citizens and the river can still be experienced today. The city’s floating gardens – known as hortillonnages – are only accessible by barques à cornets, the same boats used for taking the fruit and vegetables produced there to market. Be sure to wave to any gardeners who are out tending their patch as you motor through the allotments by boat!
The Hortillonnages Festival, which runs from June to October, sees sculptures, musicians and other artists planted among this watery world. The area looks its best at this time of year and the sheer artistry on display across the area attracts many visitors. The 2016 festival’s theme is ‘Art, Cities & Landscape’ with 38 works by young landscape architects, artists and European architects on display.
The floating gardens are accessible from Amiens station, the cathedral and the city centre on foot, bike, bus or taxi. To not miss anything at the festival, make a stop at the Tourist Offi ce by the cathedral or at the Île aux Fagots on the tow path.
Jules Verne, the celebrated author of Around the World in Eighty Days and many other tales, lived in Amiens from 1882 to 1900. Visitors are now free to explore the author’s former home and spend the morning getting to know his wife Honorine, his maid Rose and various characters from his books, by way of over 700 objects on display. These artefacts reveal the inspiration behind some of Verne’s best-loved books. The beautiful mansion house on Rue Charles Dubois has a tower and was fully renovated in 2006. Inside, there are four floors to discover, complete with 19th-century furniture – it’s almost as if Verne never left.
EVENING AMBIENCE, HISTORIC SETTING
Amiens is a lively place at night, with some 25,000 students bringing the place a real vibrancy. At the foot of the cathedral, nestled in the arms of the River Somme, stand the colourful houses of the Saint-Leu district, the historic heart of the city. But thanks to major renovation efforts, where once stood the workplaces of dyers, weavers and tanners, the façades now host bars, restaurants, pubs, antique shops and booksellers. Sate your hunger after a day’s sightseeing with a ficelle Picarde, a local speciality savory crêpe filled with cheese, mushrooms and ham and baked in the oven.
For more info, visit www.visit-amiens.com
From France Today magazine