The rather modern and flowing lines of this complex of swimming pools, spa (beauty and fitness) contrast with the imposing and very traditional architecture of Arras’ central square – La Grande Place.
For more info see www.aquarena.fr/
With its elegant squares of houses with intricate Spanish-Flemish baroque façades, UNSECO listed belfry and Vauban fortifications, classical eighteenth-century buildings and Art Déco delights, Arras is one of the most architecturally interesting towns in France. Take this mélange of styles, add a dash of northern French tradition and you have a delightful place to visit for those in search of heritage, culture and fun in equal measures.
The traditional heart of the ancient Artois province in northern France, Arras was heavily bombed during the First World War with 80 per cent of the town tragically destroyed. After the war a period of reconstruction ensured that Arras’s spirit and patrimony were restored and this era of reconstruction led to Arras becoming one of France’s leading Art Déco towns. The ornate style can be spotted in many of the façades of the town’s buildings and has been incorporated into elements within buildings that were rebuilt after the First World War, such as the Cathedral and the Hôtel de Ville.
The Belfry and Hôtel de Ville are two more treasures of Arras, dating from the 15th and 16th centuries respectively. Work on the Belfry commenced in 1463 but it was only completed 93 years later. For centuries the 75-meter high Gothic tower was a symbol of the town until it was destroyed in 1914. Following the war it was rebuilt entirely and this Unesco-listed monument is still of the town’s main attractions.
Beneath the streets and squares of Arras lies a secret world. Galleries known as Les Boves have been in use over a thousand years; originally chalk quarries, the 12-meter-deep tunnels were traditionally used for refuge and storage. In the First World War they sheltered Allied soldiers as they waited to launch the Battle of Arras in 1917. Take a guided tour of Les Boves to see the other side of Arras or visit the Wellington Quarry, where thousands of Allied soldiers were sent 20 metres below ground to prepare for a surprise assault on the Germans in 1917.
The region’s Flemish heritage is visible in the harmony of the 155 baroque façades, which date from the 17th and 18th centuries and line Arras’s two main squares, the Grand’Place and the Places des Héros. These great squares have been centres of commerce for centuries and the tradition continues today. Arras’s christmas market, which takes place in the Grand’place is considered one of the best in northern France; you can read more about the market in our Christmas market feature.
For gastronomes, a visit to Arras is the perfect opportunity to sample some of northern France’s specialities. The region produces around 30 cheeses, including the Coeur d’Arras, a symbol of the town and a mild mannered cousin to the mightily pungent Maroilles. For charcuterie fans, the andouillette has been a regional delicacy for centuries. Each August the Confrérie de l’Andouillette in Arras honours the sausage in a festival. The taste isn’t for everyone but fortune favours the brave so why not try some in one of Arras’s many traditional cafés and restaurants.
A visit to a café in Arras isn’t complete without ordering a large glass of chilled regional beer. There are 21 breweries in the region, so why not try sampling all their offerings during your stay?
As a ‘4 Flower’ town, Arras has plenty of green spaces however if you feel like venturing into the Artois countryside, you’ll find a rural region of farmland, peaceful waterways and pretty villages. The traditional white stone villages of the Artois are typically set around the church; ones to visit include Rivière, Grosville, Avesnes-le-Comte, Hauteville and Pas-en-Artois.
For more information on Arras go to www.visitarras.com