Cambrai, Nord-Pas-de-Calais: tourism & sightseeing
Visit Cambrai (Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France)
Cambrai is in the Nord department of the Nord Pas de Calais region, south-east of Arras and north of Saint-Quentin. The story of Cambrai is forever part of the story of the First World War, where it was infamously at the centre of the world's first tank battle. Not surprisingly this did little for the architecture of the town!
Despite this tumultuous past the town is interesting to visit and has several interesting monuments to offer the visitor - to the extent that the town is now oficially classed as a 'town of art and history'.
The town hall (pictured above) is a 19th century classical style building with a decorative clocktower (automated characters emerge to ring the hourly bell) that faces on to the large central cobbled square in the centre of the town and is a good place to start your visit to Cambrai.
There are several large open squares that dominate this part of Central Cambrai: the Place de la Republique, the Place Aristide Briand, the Place du 9 Octobre and the Place du Marché, and the surrounding streets in the centre contain various interesting houses, typically dating from the 18th century.
The religious monuments are the highlight of a visit. The cathedral, built at the end of the 17th century to replace an earlier cathedral, is in the classical style popular at the time and has a noteworthy facade and tower, and contains a famous organ.
Also within the cathedral is an icon called 'Notre-Dame-de-Grace' which shows the Virgin mary and child and has been an important site for pilgrims since medieval times. It is also part of a ceremony that takes place in Cambrai each 15th August.
The interesting church of Saint-Gery is the oldest in Cambrai in origin, although the current building was constructed in the first half of the 18th century in the classical and baroque style. Inside the church is a painting by Rubens - La Mise au Tombeau.
The Chapel of Jesuits opposite the cathedral is also worthy of a visit, with its ornate facade and interior being one of the best examples of baroque architecture in the region.
After admiring these religious monuments take a look at the Tourist Office - it is based in a very fine medieval house dating from 1595, and the wooden sculptures that once decorated the outside of the building can now been seen inside.
The belfry of Cambrai and originally of St Mary's Church dates from the 15th century and is one of those listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the category 'Belfries of France and Belgium'. It is the dominant feature of the main square though many of the buildings on the square are built in the Flemish style and give to the square its attractive appearance.
Parts of the historic ramparts of the town can also be seen in Cambrai, including the Porte de Paris, a substantial medieval gateway into the historic town.
The best place to see these ramparts is along the Boulevard de la Liberté which runs along the southern edge of the town centre, while the Porte notre-Dame is to the north and the remaining parts of the 16th century citadel are to the east. The Chateau de Selles to the north-west is also one of the oldest parts of the city.
The Museum of Fine Arts is also very substantial and contains a wide range of items, including a statue by Rodin, several paintings by Velazquez and works by various other notable French and Flemish painters, and numerous other items covering the entire period from prehistory onwards. There are lots of impressive statues from the earlier cathedral of Cambrai, destroyed during the revolution.
In the Museum you can also see a 'sound and light' exhibit that explains the history of the town.
After exploring the town centre head to the extensive public gardens to the east for a stroll, and to see the modernist 'Palais des Grottes' centre.
Head east from Cambrai to Le Cateau - the birthplace of Matisse, and now home to a museum/gallery dedicated to the artist.
Note: Main photo courtesy of the Comité du Tourisme du Nord
You can find more local travel ideas in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais guide.
Map of Cambrai and places to visit
Visit near Cambrai with France This Way reviews
Cambrai is classified as a listed town of Art and History
Address: Cambrai, Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, 59400, France || GPS: latitude 50.16, longitude 3.23
Plan your visit to Cambrai, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Beffroi de Cambrai (Belfries of Belgium and France): heritage site
- Eglise de Notre Dame de Vaucelles (Les Rues-des-Vignes): religious monument (9km)
- Mastaing: ville fleurie 4* (17km)
- Guyencourt-Saulcourt: ville fleurie 4* (21km)
- Beffroi de Douai (Belfries of Belgium and France): heritage site (25km)
- Réserve naturelle régionale de la Tourbière de Vred: site of natural beauty (26km)
- Réserve naturelle régionale du Marais de Wagnonville: site of natural beauty (29km)
- Réserve naturelle régionale du Pré des Nonnettes: site of natural beauty (29km)
Market days in Cambrai, France
Regular market(s) are held in Cambrai each Wednesday & Saturday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Cambrai (Francais)