Top 7 Northern France Tourist Attractions

Cap Blanc Nez (c) A_Lein / Getty Images

Cap Blanc Nez (c) A_Lein / Getty Images - Credit: Archant

From astounding architecture and breathtaking landscapes to all out family fun, Northern France has a fantastic range of tourist attractions for you to visit on your next French holiday

A break in culturally rich Northern France will leave you re-energised and inspired. There is an array of fun activities to keep families occupied while couples will find plenty of quiet spots for the perfect romantic getaway. Whoever you are, expect a friendly welcome from the locals, who will be happy to share advice and suggestions of things to see in the region they so love. But to get you started we have a list of Top 7 Northern France Tourist Attractions for you to check out.

Asterix theme park

Plailly, Oise

Fans of the French classic comic Astérix, as well as anyone looking for adventure and loop-the-loops will love a visit to the Asterix theme park, a theme park built around the beloved French character and the history of the Romans, ancient Greeks, Vikings and Egyptians. It is a great family day out, with a variety of gentle rides for little ones, a few breathtaking roller coasters for bigger thrill-seekers and opportunities to meet favourite Astérix characters. Shows performed on-site include a circus-like arena battle between the 'Gaulish' and the 'Romans', a magic and illusion act, and a family show featuring a Roman soldier and live barnyard animals. Plus, new in 2019, visit the 4D cinema Idéfix Studios where moving seats, water, wind effects and smells immerse you in the Astérix story like never before.

Lille Old Town

The cobbled lanes of Le Vieux Lille were once the heart of the city and home to the Count of Flanders, and today the charming area is home to lively bars and restaurants and many luxury shops peruse. The main square, Grand'Place, still hosts markets, celebrations and events, and the restored facades, particularly the ornate 17th-century houses clustered around a courtyard at the Vieille Bourse (the old stock exchange), are something to be admired. Also on the square, the Théâtre du Nord occupies the former military Grand'Garde. Other Vieux Lille attractions include the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle - the building on Rue Princesse is listed as a Historic Monument and is open to the public as a museum, and the 13th-century Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse - founded in 1237 by the Countess Jeanne de Flandre, the hospital is arranged around two courtyards and a medicinal garden and is, today, home to a collection of paintings, tapestries and sculptures from the region.

The Somme Bay

Visit a coast with a difference, the diverse landscapes of the Somme bay change with the tides and the light but are always stunning, in fact the area is listed as one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Beaches reach out to the horizon at low tide, while water embraces the seawalls and salt marshes at high tide and tides can reach up to 10 metres on the spring and autumn equinoxes. Pretty villages such as Saint-Valery-sur Somme nestle among the wild dunes, marshes and saltwater meadows. Come for a relaxing break and a breath of salty air, and perhaps you will be inspired like the artist Delacroix, Degas and Corot that were influenced by the area. Food lovers will appreciate the fantastic seafood and local specialities such as salt marsh lamb and the famous frites-moules, while nature lovers and families will have a chance to spot seals and rare birds.

Château de Pierrefonds

Pierrefonds, Oise

On the edge of the Compiègne Forest, the Château de Pierrefonds is a fairytale-like wonder that has been featured as Camelot castle in BBC series Merlin. This magnificent château was originally built at the end of the 14th century by Duke Louis of Orleans, dismantled in the 17th century and recreated in the 19th century by the architect Viollet-le-Duc. It features everything you imagine a battle-ready castle should - a moat, a drawbridge, eight towers, grimacing gargoyles, arrow slits and even a dungeon. Audio guides are available in French, English, German and Dutch to help you explore. Visitors can also discover interesting exhibitions such as Pierrefonds - Histoires de Femmes, which celebrates the women who have marked the history of Pierrefonds for nearly 600 years, while Viollet-le-Duc et le Végétal is an exhibition of original drawings by Viollet-le-Duc on the theme of plants, both of which run until September 2019.

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Nausicaà - National Sea Centre

Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais

A trip to Northern France is your opportunity to visit one of the biggest Aquariums in Europe and discover the 1,600 species of fish and sea creatures in Nausicaà. Jaws will drop in fear and admiration of the sharks that swim in the aquarium waters, including one Bull shark that is the oldest resident of the Aquarium at 31 years of age! Learn how these gifted creatures are essential to ocean life-cycles. Over in Le Lagon Tropical enjoy the shimmering colours of hundreds of tropical fish and learn why we need to protect the planets coral reefs. The sea lion reserve, stingray touchpool and penguin beach also promise to become favourite holiday memories for visiting children.

Commemorative sites

There are several commemorative sites across Northern France. The museums and memorials remind visitors how British and French soldiers once worked side by side, they celebrate a lasting sense of camaraderie, and encourage a spirit of peace, unity and tolerance to all for future generations. The breathtaking 45-metre tall Thiepval Memorial in Somme, is inscribed with 72,000 British and South African names, and The 'Ring of Remembrance' in Ablain-Saint-Nazaire, honours 576,606 soldiers of 40 nationalities with names listed in alphabetical order regardless of rank or nationality. Tourists can also explore The Wellington Quarry in Arras, built by New Zealand engineers for use as living space in the war.

Amiens Cathedral

Amiens, Somme

Intricately and beautifully designed inside and out, the UNESCO listed Amiens Cathedral is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in France. Discover the cathedral as it would have looked in medieval times by visiting after nightfall during summer or during the Christmas season, and see the cathedral lit up in a sea of vibrant colours. Take your time to admire the fascinating scenes and statues of kings that have been carved into the façade. Inside, look for the 17th-century sculpture of a weeping angel and a Gothic choir screen made by local artisans in the early 16th century. Book in advance to take a guided tour of the Cathedral's towers and when you reach the top you will enjoy panoramic views over the city and its surroundings as well as enjoying a new perspective on the cathedral's flying buttresses, spire, roof and gargoyles.

Find more Northern France experiences here.