In the north of France, the city of Arras is located in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. Many visit the city to enjoy the ancient architecture, the abbey, the cultural life and the cozy city center. It is not for nothing that it is called the “pearl of Flemish architecture”. During the Christmas period, Arras is visited by a large audience for the huge Christmas market that is organized every year. The square on the Grote Markt and other places in the city center are completely shrouded in Christmas atmosphere.
Besides a beautiful and impressive town hall, the city of Arras also has fascinating sights such as the Wellington quarry, interesting cycling and walking routes and two thousand year old remains of the city of Nemetacum. In short, there is plenty to do, see and especially experience in the French city of Arras.
Top 10 Things to Do in Arras
#1. Place de Héros
According to Ezhoushan, the two most beautiful squares of Arras are the Grand Place and Place des Heros. The latter is smaller than the Grand Place, but has the beautiful town hall with belfry on the square. The buildings around the Place des Heros were mainly built after the First World War. The city suffered a lot of damage at the time, but in the end it was also successful in reconstructing it. In the baroque facades you can see many decorations in the form of ornaments, bells and other images. Beneath the square is a system of corridors in which Allied troops could stay during the First and Second World War.
The history of the belfry and the adjacent town hall of Arras dates back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. However, the First World War wreaked havoc in Arras and many of the historic buildings were destroyed. So is the belfry. Fortunately, they were able to restore it and it seems as if it never happened. Since 2005, the belfry of Arras has also been on the list of world heritage sites. Visitors can climb the belfry and enjoy expansive views of the city. There is also an elevator, but after that there are about forty steps to climb.
#3. Citadel Vauban
This military site was constructed between 1668 and 1672 to a design by Sebastien Prestre, Marquis de Vauban, and commissioned by King Louis XIV. It served to protect the city from outside attacks. However, it soon got the nickname of beautiful useless citadel. On the property are the oldest chapel of the city of Saint Louis, barracks and the arsenal.
#4. Grand Place
The enormous square with around the mansions built in Baroque style, provide a lot of prestige. People have gathered here for various purposes since the eleventh century. Whether it’s the market, announcements or festivals, it was and still is here. Many visitors will marvel at the graceful facades with the arched gallery below. The Christmas market takes place here every December. No other setting is imaginable for the city of Arras like this large square. The international music spectacle ‘Arras Main Square Festival’ also takes place on this atmospheric Grand Place square.
#5. Museum of Fine Arts
Via the forecourt of the Saint-Vaas Abbey you have access to the Museum of Fine Arts of Arras. The museum is part of the old abbey. The beautiful works of art, including Arras porcelain, tapestries, medieval sculptures and paintings, make a very fitting home here. The collection includes works by Rubens, Poerson, Jouvenet and Lebrun.
#6. Saint-Vaast Abbey and the cathedral
The partially restored Saint-Vaast Abbey was originally founded in the seventh century on the hill of Arras, which was then still called Atrecht. First it served as a Benedictine monastery and then it served as a hospital and even as a barracks. The Saint-Vaast Abbey acquired the greatest prestige in the eighteenth century. At that time, the cathedral and abbey formed the largest religious building complex in France. It was not until the nineteenth century that it was turned into a museum. Now we can enjoy works of art in the Museum of Fine Arts. In the cathedral you can admire valuable objects that have a religious significance.
#7. Les Boves
The underground tunnels of Arras are referred to as ‘Les Boves’. Already at the beginning of the tenth century, limestone quarries were excavated to create a tunnel system underground. Various buildings in the city have been erected with the excavated material. Over the centuries, the tunnels were given different functions. Around the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many goods were stored underground. And during the First World War, the British army spent a lot of time there. Subsequently, many civilians hid again during the Second World War. Now nowadays you can take a historical walk through those ancient tunnels. An experience that you will probably remember for a long time.
#8. Gallo-Roman site of Nemetacum
About two thousand years ago, the Romans founded the city of Nemetacum in France where the Gallic Atrebates lived. The city became known for the crafts that were carried out there and the thriving textile trade. Recently, several parts of this city built in the third century have been uncovered. Guided tours can be booked in July and August and you can learn more about this history.
#9. Cité Nature
A cultural and scientific center has now opened in an old miner’s factory, where you can learn more about subjects such as nature, food, health and agriculture. In addition to an exhibition space, there is also a large garden, various workshops are given and you can participate in fascinating discussions.
#10. The Wellington Quarry
In the former quarry of Arras, tunnels began to be excavated around the tenth century. In the meantime, we are talking about a twelve meter deep network under the city of Arras. Over the years, not only have many hard workers died, but also soldiers who fell during the Battle of Arras. In the ‘Career Wellington’ museum, extensive attention is paid to those who dug the tunnel, fought there and tried to take shelter there.