North East France: tourism and sightseeing
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The north-east of France, with the Picardy, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine regions, is often passed through quickly by visitors rushing towards the south of France and sunnier climates - but take a moment to slow down as you pass through! The region contains lots of interesting sights and towns well worth exploring!
Travel guide and tourism in north-east France
The north-east of France is most often associated with the monuments commemorating the First World War trench warfare that took place in the region, and as being the region where Champagne comes from.
While these two characteristics still play a large part in the tourist industry, there are also lots of other highlights for visitors to explore in north-east France including
- attractive beach and seaside resorts such as le Touquet
- large areas of forests and unspoiled natural environments
- picturesque villages, including several that are listed among the 'most beautiful villages in France'
- historic town centres such as Lille and Nancy
- important architectural masterpieces such as the cathedrals at Amiens and Reims
Below we only mention a few of the highlights in each of the regions here in the north-east of France. You can then find much more information about each region and department in the individual travel guides.
The Lorraine region is situated near the French border with Luxembourg and Germany. At the heart of Lorraine is the important 18th century town of Nancy, a designated UNESCO world heritage site centred around the impressive Place Stanislaus.
To the north of Nancy, the town of Metz is another popular destination with visitors, attracted by the cathedral, town ramparts and the interesting historic town centre.
The Lorraine region is also visited by visitors interested in seeing the battlefields, cemeteries and memorials of the First World War. These continue to attract a large number of visitors interested by the terrible events of the trench warfare that ravaged much of this part of France, including the most famous at the Somme and Verdun.
The historic villages of Rodemack (15 kilometres north of Thionville) and Saint-Quirin (50 kilometres west of Strasbourg) are also both in the Moselle department of Lorraine and listed among the 'most beautiful villages of France'.
See Lorraine Travel Guide for more information and highlights
Picardy is the region of France to the north of Paris. The most popular destination in the region is Amiens where you can see an interesting town and also the largest gothic style cathedral in France. There are several important cathedrals across Picardy, including those at Laon and Soissons.
No visit to France would be complete without exploring some of the local villages, and Picardy is no exception with several picturesque villages to explore. Both Gerberoy (in the Oise department) and Parfondeval (in the Aisne department) are classified among the 'most beautiful villages of France'.
As you explore Picardy you will discover many of the UNESCO listed belfries of France that are found all across the region (and elsewhere in northern France).
Picardy also includes a region of coastline, with popular resorts here including Fort-Mahon-Plage.
The Nord-Pas-de-Calais region is the coastal region of north-east France, and is also the most northern point in mainland France.
The region is best known for the resorts at Le Touquet and Boulogne. Both of these resorts are quite active all year round because of their popularity with visitors from Paris, the UK and from other countries in the region.
The important French town of Lille is also in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, with many buildings of interest in the area around the central Grand Place and the exceptionally high quality Museum of Fine Arts.
Several of the larger towns in the north of France are very well known for their Christmas markets in the weeks before Christmas which are popular both among French and overseas visitors. One of the largest of these French Christmas markets is held in Lille.
Perhaps it is less well known that Nord-Pas-de-Calais also has many scenic highlights, including Cap-Blanc-Nez and Cap-Gris-Nez on the coast and officially listed among the 'Grand Sites of France', and two Regional Natural Parks.
See Nord-Pas-de-Calais travel guide for more information and highlights
The Champagne-Ardenne region of northern France is most visited for its association with champagne and the wine industry, which is based around the town of Epernay (where you will also find plenty of opportunities to sample and buy the champagne).
At Sedan you can visit what is claimed to be one of the biggest castles in Europe!
Less well known but quite fascinating to enthusiasts of church architecture, the region between Saint-Dizier and Troyes offers an opportunity unique in France to see a series of half-timbered churches.
See Champagne-Ardenne travel guide for more information and highlights
Map of North East France and places to visit
French version: North East France (Francais)