From Paris to Amiens: Daytripping into History
One of the most common questions I hear from people who are planning a trip to Paris is, “What day trip do you recommend?” Versailles, of course, is the most popular choice, followed closely by Giverny. Both cities are well worth the train ride and price of admission, and if you can make the trips, I highly urge you to do so. However, if you’re looking for a less crowded option, then Amiens should be at the top of your search list.
Located in the Picardy region of France, Amiens has played a major role in the history of the country as it is ideally located between major French cities. (It also happens to be the birthplace of Président Macron and his wife Brigitte!) The Somme River cuts through the city making the area fertile, and its northern location makes for cool summer days and mild winters. Amiens is also known as the “Venice of the North” because it has a series of canals making for a charming and relaxing setting, especially given the fact that the Quartier St-Leu is still lined with medieval structures. As with most mid-sized and larger French cities, the train station is ideally located near the city center and main sites. You won’t need to hire a taxi or car unless you’re planning to explore further reaches.
Top 5 Sites to See in Amiens
The Entire City is Your Classroom
History buffs will recognize Amiens as the site of the Battle of Amiens. The battle started on August 8, 1918 and began the Allied offensive that led to the eventual end of the First World War. The city is a living museum with documentation of the war covering many public spaces. If you are a student of 20th Century history, Amiens is your real-life classroom not to be missed.
The Ultimate in Gothic Architecture
If you’re among the throngs of fans who love gothic architecture, then get thee to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens! Built in the 13th Century to house the head of John the Baptist, Notre-Dame d’Amiens has experienced its fair share of history, from the wedding of Charles VI to war battles. As of 1981, the cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also the largest cathedral in France.
Address: 30 Place Notre Dame, 80000 Amiens, France
In case you want to sample regional beer and food after touring the cathedral, Les III Maillets Brasserie et Traiteur is definitely worth your time. It’s located next to the cathedral, and you can sit and gaze at all the gothic glory of Notre-Dame d’Amiens whilst sipping un café or une bière. If you’re hungry, you MUST try their Flamiche Picarde, a regional leek pie that I still dream about.
Let’s Get Literary
So, you’re a literature fan? Did you know that Jules Verne lived in Amiens for eighteen years? The author of Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Journey to the Center of the Earth settled here after falling in love with and marrying Honorine de Viane Morel. The city of Amiens is proud of its most famous literary resident, and you can discover a personal side of Verne by visiting his home.
Address: 2 Rue Charles Dubois, 80000 Amiens, France
Floating Gardens—Say What?
Is gardening your passion? Well, you’re sure to enjoy one of the most unique sites I have ever witnessed, the hortillonnages, a maze of floating gardens built into the Somme River. Visitors can ride small boats through canals to get an up-close view of the floating vegetable and flower gardens and tiny homes dotting the landscape. Gardeners sell their fruits and vegetables on Saturdays, a tradition held over from Roman times. This activity is a must-do!
Address: 54 Boulevard de Beauville, 80000 Amiens, France
En pleine air
No trip to Amiens is complete without dining en pleine air in the Quartier Saint-Leu. Home to lively restaurants, cafés, bars, and shops, you can both begin and end your day in this part of the city with regional dishes that will leave your taste buds wanting more. The Place du Don is an excellent starting point for a regional beer or two. Then, head across the bridge to the Quai Bélu for a lovely assortment of restaurants lining the water. (We stopped for lunch at Al Patat’rie, a restaurant that specializes in baked potatoes in just about every way you can imagine. I still crave their food! Address: 27 quai Bélu, Amiens)
Upon arrival at Gare d’Amiens, walk straight out of the station and cross Boulevard de Belfort. This will take you directly to the city center in less than five minutes.
The Tourist Information office offers many maps with very helpful staff to help you navigate through the city. This is a highly recommended starting point before you head out to explore the city.
Address: 23 Place Notre Dame, 80000 Amiens, France
Bring a jacket, even in the summer, as the evenings can be cool.
Upon your return to Gare du Nord, make sure to have cash and coins on-hand. Many of the machines did not take credit cards, and we saw lots of panicky people who couldn’t get out of the station to catch the Métro or RER. Also, this is a very busy station. Please guard your valuables as you make your way through.
Bon voyage, mes amis!