Amiens
© Renaud Visage
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Amiens

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

Our Editorial team's advice

Built by the Romans under the name of Samarobriva, the city of Amiens stretches along the Somme just a stone's throw from Paris. Now the capital of the region, it houses France's largest Gothic cathedral. With the Saint-Leu district, the Hortillonnages marshland gardens and the city centre, you're sure to be won over by the warm hospitality of its inhabitants, not to mention its gourmet specialities!
This is one dynamic city, which hosts a wide variety of events and many festivals throughout the year.

To see

City of art and history, Amiens boasts an impressive cultural heritage. Among the must-see sites is the impressive Amiens Cathedral, built between 1220 and 1288. It is one of the largest Gothic buildings every constructed. Its sculptures are as remarkable as its architecture, and gave rise to the 'Amiens Cathedral Light Show', which reproduces the original medieval colours of the doorways thanks to the magic of light.

French writer Jules Verne lived in Amiens from 1882 until his death in 1900. Nowadays you can visit his house, where you will be immersed in the famous author's imagination and daily life. A real memorial, the Jules Verne House invites visitors to discover the writer's private life and daydreams, through more than 700 objects and documentary heritage material.

To get a better understanding of the heritage of the Picardy region, head to the Musée de Picardie. Built between 1855 and 1867, the museum retraces the history of art and technology from the Paleolithic era to the 21st century. Don't miss the Amiens International Film Festival in November, the Intentional Jazz Festival in early June, and the Amiens comic festival, 'On a marché sur la bulle'.

Lastly, take a walk around the St-Leu district. It is the oldest part of Amiens. Historically it was the poor district of the city, where the tanners, butchers and dyers worked. Nowadays, the art galleries, bookshops, boutiques and antique shops are found here alongside the district's inhabitants, who live in small, narrow, colourful houses that have been given a new lease of life. It is also the student area and the heart of Amiens' nightlife, with plenty of bars and restaurants.

To do

Thanks to the student population, Amiens was awarded the title of 'Most Sporty Town in France' by the newspaper L'Equipe in 1999. Its top-quality sports facilities make it possible for the city to offer a whole host of activities and pastimes to both inhabitants and visitors alike.

An 18-hole golf course just 15min from the city centre, bike hire, horse and cart tours of the Battle of Hamel battlefield, introductory hang-gliding and canoe-kayak lessons, excursions on the river, horse riding, introductory airplane and helicopter lessons, and ULM and glider sessions are all available in Amiens.

Near the city centre, 741 acres of marshes are divided into gardens by the canals. These are the Amiens Hortillonnages. You can navigate them in a flat-bottomed boat. Every week, the Hortillonnages market gardeners gather at the Port d'Amont, at the foot of the cathedral, for the water market.

pros

  • +  The small gardens and the St-Leu district.
  • +  The number and diversity of the entertainment and cultural events.
  • +  Its exceptional architectural, historical and cultural heritage.

cons

  • -  The weather in autumn and winter.
  • -  The feeling of not being safe in some of the districts.
  • -  A car is absolutely necessary if you want to travel outside of the city.

To think about

The Amiens Tourist Office offers a range of themed weekends. Visitors can discover the city via the waterways and marshes, the wine soils and gastronomy of Picardy, and Amiens Cathedral. A special relaxation programme and a variety of children's activities are also available.

Facilities for guests with reduced mobility have been developed to enable visitors to access the activities, transport, accommodation and restaurants in the city. In fact, Amiens received the 'Tourism and Disability' label in 2008. For more information, go to the city of Amiens website at

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To avoid

To really take advantage of the city of Amiens, it is best to visit in springtime or summer. The climate changes radically with the seasons.

The city centre in the evening. The city centre in the evening is deserted and not very safe, with the possibility of dangerous encounters. Stick to the St-Leu district, which is more lively and pleasant at night.

To try

Don't try to resist; let yourself succumb to the delights of the local specialities!

The production of Amiens macaroons dates back to the 16th century. These tasty treats are made using Valencia almonds, honey and bitter almonds. Made famous by Madame de Sévigné, the recipe for Amiens duck pâté was created in 1643. It is traditionally made with a whole duck, which is stuffed and cooked in the oven in pastry. A crêpe with ham, mushrooms, shallots and cream; these are the main ingredients in a 'ficelle picardie'. The creation of this regional speciality dates back to around 1950.

Other than these typical Amiens specialities, you can also find the symbolic dishes of the Picardy region in many of they city's restaurants: ratte and vitelotte potato parfait with smoked fish, Candor asparagus with smoked eel from the Somme, sweet and sour salad, chicory casserole with smoked meats, leek tart, pheasant in cider, mallard with rhubarb, lamb shank stew with chanterelle mushrooms, and many more.

To bring back

In terms of gastronomy, visitors can try the cider, 'ficelle picardie' (Picardy string pancakes), rabbit cooked with cider, and Rabote - a delicious dessert made from apples and cinnamon.

Baie de Somme seal cuddly toys can be bought at the aquarium at Nausicaa.

Other souvenirs include lace and porcelain.