Arras is found to the south-west end of the Pas-de-Calais department and south-west of Lille in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France. Amiens and Paris are to the south of the town.It is an attractive city built on a deep bed of chalk and limestone that from medieval times onwards provided the building materials for the homes, workplaces, churches and public buildings in Arras.

The city initially avoided damage by the advancing German army in 1914, but when the British won the town back a bombardment followed that demolished the towering spires for which Arras was once famous and devastated some of the most beautiful Flemish-style squares and buildings in France.

Exploring Arras

The highlight of Arras is its old-town centre which has been carefully and attractively restored, mostly to the exact plan and design of the original town, following the very great damage suffered during the First World War. This has been so successful that Arras is now classified among the official French Towns of Art and History.

The best way to explore the centre of Arras is to follow the guided path indicated by 'nails' in the pavement, that passes all the major sites of interest.

Town hall in the centre of Arras

There are two large open squares that dominate the town center. The larger of these is the Grand Place and the smaller is the Place des Heros. Both are surrounded by Dutch style (baroque) houses and mansions above arcades at street level, and have the attractive style and curved rooflines typical of the town, creating an attractive ensemble.

Altogether there are more than 150 of these baroque style houses around the central squares in Arras, including the house that originally acted as the inspiration for the design of the town centre at 47, Grand Place.

It is in the smaller of the two squares that you will find the Town Hall and the entrance to the belfry, which dominate the end of the square and are the architectural highlight in Arras.

The Town Hall and belfry were rebuilt after the First World War to exactly the same design as the earlier buildings (16th century) that had been destroyed during the fighting and the belfry is now of the belfries of France that has been designated as a World Heritage site. You will understand what a remarkable achievement it is when you see the decorative stonework of the facade and the three rows of mansard windows!

After ascending the belfry, and still in the town hall, you can descend into the subterranean world below with rooms and tunnels carved out of the ground below and learn about the history of the region. This remarkable achievement was much developed during the First World War when more than 20 000 soldiers occupied this underground world while preparing to launch the Battle of Arras.


The citadel in Arras dates from the 17th century, when the town was an important regional military centre. Reinforced by Vauban, the citadel is best explored by following the footpath that passes along the walls. A particularly poignant site is the "Mur des fusillées" where the nazis shot more than 200 members of the French resistance during World War Two.

Next to the fortifications you can also stroll through the large Jardin Minelle, a peaceful public park with a wide range of trees and plants based around a central lake. You will also discover several other large parks and gardens here, and as a result Arras is now listed as a 4* ville fleurie.

Important religious monuments in Arras include the cathedral and several churches. The 18th century cathedral was built on the site of an earlier cathedral which was is said to have been one of the architectural gems of France, but was unfortunately destroyed during the revolution. In neo-classical style, the interior of the cathedral is particularly interesting, taking inspiration from ancient temples.

Next to the cathedral, the Abbey Saint-Vaast was rebuilt in the 17th century and is a very substantial collection of religious buildings. The abbey is now home to the important Museum of Fine Arts in Arras, with its extensive range of paintings and other objects, including many works of art by Flemish and French artists.

More surprisingly, and also built as a consequence of the damage caused during the war, there are a good number of art deco style buildings in Arras. You will see these typical 1930's style facades in many of the streets around the town centre.

Mansion in Arras town centre

Attractions nearby

There is a poignant war cemetery and memorial towards the edge of the town. A fascinating insight into the lives of soldiers in Arras in the First World War is provided by the Carriere Wellington Museum which opened in 2008.

Further evidence of the First World War can be seen at Cambrai, east of Arras and site of the first ever tank battle, and at the war cemetery at memorial sites at Peronne, to the south of the town.

Explore elsewhere in the North East France. You can find more travel ideas in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais guide.

See also Find Arras hotels

Photos of Arras

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Arras Carriere Wellington

Arras Carriere Wellington

The Carrière Wellington museum in Arras is a series of tunnels that were used during the First World War, now brought to life with historical artefacts

Arras Carriere Wellington guide


Douai has a pleasant old town and one of the most impressive belfries in France

Douai guide
Les Jardins de Sericourt

Les Jardins de Sericourt

Beautiful garden to visit in the village of Sericourt.

Les Jardins de Sericourt guide


Remarkably for the town that was the site of the world's first ever tank batle, Cambrai is very interesting to explore with lots of historical monuments and a high quality museum

Cambrai guide


The town of Péronne is above all known for its impressive Museum commemorating life in the Somme during the First World War

Peronne guide


The renaissance of Lille over the last 20 years has transformed an industrial town into one of the most rewarding cities in northern France to vist

Lille guide

Tourist classifications for Arras

Arras has received the following tourist classifications: listed town of Art and History ; village in bloom (ville fleurie) 4*

Address: Arras, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, 62000, France || GPS coordinates: latitude 50.28, longitude 2.77

Plan your visit to Arras, Pas-de-Calais

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Arras citadelle (Vauban fortifications): heritage site
  • Beffroi et hôtel de ville d'Arras (Belfries of Belgium and France): heritage site
  • Beffroi de Douai (Belfries of Belgium and France): heritage site (24 km)
  • Réserve naturelle régionale du Marais de Wagnonville: site of natural beauty (25 km)
  • Beffroi de Lucheux (Belfries of Belgium and France): heritage site (27 km)
  • Beffroi de Béthune (Belfries of Belgium and France): heritage site (29 km)
  • Parc du château de Sericourt: remarkable garden (32 km)
  • Beffroi de Doullens (Belfries of Belgium and France): heritage site (33 km)
  • Beffroi de Cambrai (Belfries of Belgium and France): heritage site (35 km)
  • Cambrai: town of art and history (35 km)
  • Réserve naturelle régionale de la Tourbière de Vred: site of natural beauty (36 km)
  • Réserve naturelle régionale du Pré des Nonnettes: site of natural beauty (38 km)

Market days in Arras, France

Regular market(s) are held in Arras each Wednesday & Thursday & Sunday & Saturday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Arras (Francais)