Northern France: what to do, what to see…

Stunning, surprising, full of life, vibrant—no wonder Northern France is so beloved. From the old city of Lille to the kite festival at Berck, and from Dunkerque to Wissant, there’s something here for everyone, especially for those who like surprises. Enjoy a traditional meal and move on to the Villa Cavrois, or take in the Braderie de Lille market before visiting the museum. Whether on a family trip or visiting solo, the hardest part is choosing what to do next!

Not to miss sights in Northern France

• Chantilly Castle

From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, the castle has preserved its exceptional and imposing setting. Visit the various galleries of paintings (the second greatest collection of antique paintings after the Louvre) and stroll through the romantic gardens, expecially the one designed by André Le Nôtre, as well as the great stables of the 18th century and the horse museum.

• The Lewarde Museum

The historic mining center, located in the heart of the mining basin, recounts the story of this mine, the daily life of miners, taking you into the galleries of the Delloye pit.

• The Louvre-Lens

Since 2012, the Parisian museum has been extended to Lens, where more than 200 masterpieces are shown in the Galerie du Temps, which covers Antiquity, the Middle Ages and modern times. It's an incredible visit in a unique space!

• The Tripostal in Lille

As its name suggests, the Tripostal is an old post office building from the 1950s. In the heart of Lille, today it's an original place of art and life, which hosts exhibitions of contemporary artists and performance.

La Piscine, museum of art and industry André-Diligent de Roubaix

Housed in an Art Deco-style pool, this unusual museum showcases 19th and 20th century sculpture, the Roubaix Group (artists of contemporary art), and organizes temporary exhibitions.

• Amiens Cathedral

This gigantic cathedral is one of the most beautiful models of sacred Gothic art. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, it was restored in the 19th by Viollet-le-Duc. The portals and their 700 fine sculptures of saints and apostles are adorned with a thousand colors during the night show Chroma.

• The walled city of Montreuil

In Montreuil-sur-Mer, 1000 years of history await: the ruins of the castle of Philippe Auguste, the citadel of the 13th century rebuilt by Vauban in the 17th, the beautiful mansions of the 18th, the remains of the Battle of the Somme during the Great War and the American painters of the early 20th.

• The Canadian Vimy Monument

The memorial was erected at the very site of the terrible Vimy battle that took place during WWI in April 1917 between Canadian soldiers and the German army. It dominates the plain of Douai with its two huge white stone pillars.

• Le Touquet and the Opal Coast

The big seaside resort unfolds its ribbons of beach, between dunes and forests. In the streets behind the waterfront, there stand the beautiful villas of the early 20th century, so popular with the British. From Belgium to the Bay of Somme, the Côte d'Opale offers nearly 200 kilometers (124 miles) of beaches, punctuated with historic sites and preserved natural areas.

• The Grand Place of Arras

Place of great markets from the 11th century, the square is lined with many gabled houses of baroque-Flemish style, mostly rebuilt after WWI. Push up to the nearby Place des Héros and climb to the top of the belfry for a breathtaking view.

Things to do in Northern France

• Get lost in Old Lille and chat with students

While strolling in the historical district of Lille, you will cross more than a thousand years of history, around the Notre Dame of the Treille cathedral, in the cobblestone streets, up to the Citadel. While historical, the atmosphere is cheerful, stocked with restaurants and bars that are very popular with the many students of Lille.

• Watch a football match at the Bollaert-Delelis stadium in Lens

This legendary stadium has existed since 1932 and can welcome more than 38,000 spectators. The arena received UEFA Euro football matches in 2016, and at every meeting of the Racing Club, the Lensois are there and ready to cheer!

• Admire the dance of Berck's kites

The International Meetings of Kites are a global meeting of the discipline, held every year in April. Watching the hundreds of "canvas birds" of all sizes fly through the azure sky above Berck, twisting and cutting through the wind, is amazing, particularly when viewed from the beach.

• TMingle with the crowd at the Dunkerque Carnival

The first festivals here took place in the 18th century to mark the fishermen's departure to Iceland, and the tradition has continued. Today, the carnival is very popular—the carnival goers attend in costume and made up. Everyone follows the Drum Major, joining "bands," in music, from one district to another. At the end, there's a "herring toss" in front of City Hall!

• 'Chiner' at the Braderie de Lille

The first weekend of September, the city center is converted into gigantic flea market, a medieval tradition. The market is the golden opportunity to chiner (to look for second-hand good deals) among the 62 miles of stands and the millions of visitors!

• Discover sand yachting in Wimereux

Near Boulogne-sur-Mer, on the Côte d'Opale, Wimereux beach is an ideal spot to practice sand yachting. At low tide, you sprint along the sand, propelled by the wind!

• Watch a sunset in the Bay of Somme

Lovers of open air activities, the Bay of Somme is for you! Ranked among the most beautiful bays in the world, it is a sanctuary for seals and a stopover for migratory birds—an exceptional landscape on 4500 hectares (11120 acres), to walk or cycle.

• Find a passion for powerkiting in Wissant

This slip-sliding sport is practiced with a traction wing equipped with a bar, the first step towards Kitesurfing. Thanks to the power of the wind blowing along the beach in Wissant, great speed is guarenteed!

• Explore the citadel of Lille

It is called the Queen of Citadels, built by Vauban on the order of Louis XIV, to defend the city at the end of the 17th century. Star-shaped, it is superbly preserved, in brick and sandstone.

• Be amazed by the cultural space of Saint-Sauveur train station

This former freight station has been transformed into a venue for artistic events, concerts and film screenings, for young and old alike. This 23 hectare (57 acres) industrial wasteland reinvents into a cultural oasis.

Getting to Northern France