Arras and the pays d’Artois good living in the heart of history
Ideally situated at an equal distance from the great capitals of Northern Europe, less than two hours from London and Brussels and just 50 minutes from Paris, the Pays d’Artois is the favoured destination for lovers of wonderful getaways seeking escape for the length of a relaxing weekend, an event-filled week or inspiring holidays. The unique architectural environment of the Artesian capital, the timeless charm of the surrounding countryside and the characterful villages of the Pays d’Artois create a backdrop that is out of time, shaped by 20 centuries of history, where nature and heritage combine their gifts to nurture an authentic gentle lifestyle and to cultivate the art of wonderful encounters.
The unusual history of a universal city
At the crossroads of the great movements of civilisation since Antiquity, Arras has twenty centuries of experience in the art of playing host … Two millennia of eventful history have endowed the Artesian capital with inestimable treasures and countless preserved remains which, even today, shape its heritage and urban landscape. Exploring the city is rather like browsing an open-air museum where the art of living draws new sources of inspiration on a daily basis. The strategic rear base for Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus at the dawn of our era, prosperous Late Empire Gallo-Roman city, major artistic and financial European capital in the Middle Ages, cradle of civil and communal freedoms in the Gothic Age, Spanish pied-à-terre in the middle of the Baroque Period, stronghold of the Sun King in the French Baroque era, city of light in the eighteenth century, a romantic refuge in Verlaine's century, global battlefield and Martyred Town of the Great War, model child of the Great Reconstruction… The adventure of Arras is a true distillation of European history.
A share in humanity’s heritage
Boasting no fewer than two UNESCO World Heritage listings (for its Belfry and its Citadel), Arras is passionate about assuming its share in humanity and preciously cultivates the eclecticism of its heritage, offering visitors a near-complete panorama of the history of art and architecture: Gallo-Roman archaeological site, Medieval abbey, citadel and military district of the Grand Siècle, the Great Century, Baroque marketplaces, classically inspired lower town district, Art Deco shopping streets... the choice is endless and a certain sense of hedonism invites you to leave things until another time, to sample more delicacies or take refuge in a cosy nest, in town or in the countryside.
A backdrop crying out to host events
In the minds of the people of Arras, the architectural jewels are just made to be occupied, lived in… with an authentic gift for good living. Faithful to its artistic and trading origins, Arras is a lively city all year round, with colourful markets, café terraces, traditional restaurants, unique eateries, themed bars, food outlets, artisan creators and fascinating boutiques which draw visitors into a warm and friendly atmosphere. Not a month goes by without a festival, a traditional celebration, a major exhibition, an urban installation, in addition to hundreds of cultural and artistic events scheduled every year.
A history entwined with the Pays d’Artois
The long-established agricultural capital is never very far from its original cradle. The Artois countryside begins just a few hundred metres from the historic centre, beyond the boulevards that mark the location of the former fortifications. Inextricably linked with the legendary breadbasket of France, it is savoured as a natural extension of the good living to be had in Arras. The Scarpe Valley, which crosses the Pays d’Artois from west to east, constitutes the backbone of the territory, almost entirely dedicated to open-air leisure and fitness activities. On either side, vast plains and the first Artois hills extend as far as the eye can see. This is the home of châteaux, attired in their eighteenth-century splendour, the remains of once-powerful abbeys, hamlets of white stone offering glimpses of discreet farms with square courtyards, small village squares decked with flowers, some overlooked by characteristic churches with the emblematic flèches à crochet pointed spires… all punctuate walking routes that run through landscapes of astonishing variety. It is also the land of Mother Earth, where market gardeners, livestock farmers, fish farmers, beekeepers and ecofarmers perpetuate and renew the age-old tradition of short supply circuits between town and country. From north to south, and passing through the east of Arras, it is also a land of remembrance, where hundreds of military cemeteries and monuments to all nationalities tell the story of a global battlefield at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Visit the squares of Arras
Squares for emotion… The epicentre of the city’s famed art of living, the squares - with their centuries-old and colourful markets, their café terraces, their restaurants nestling in cellars or under archways, their themed bars, their shops offering delicacies and local specialities - seem to have been designed from the outset to create endless enjoyment and exchanges. The uninterrupted run of the 155 Baroque facades surrounding the Grand’Place and the Place des Héros form an architectural ensemble that is without peer in Europe, providing a sumptuous setting for the Town Hall and its Belfry. Behind-the-scenes visits of this exceptional décor are possible, “from cellar to attic”: from the underground circuit of the Boves to the prestigious Town Hall function rooms and the first level of the Belfry, to take in a panoramic vista over the city and its surrounding countryside.
The Grand’Place of Arras
Originally developed to host enormous markets, from as far back as the twelfth century the Grand’Place has been an essential place of exchange for a flourishing international trade. It was the home of a grain market which was “one of the largest in France” in the eighteenth century. The wheat sheaves sculpted on the facades are an indication of this local agricultural wealth. Also witness to 1,000 years of history, down the centuries it has seen a succession of tournaments, jubilant entrances by princes and sovereigns, military reviews and more besides… Les Trois Luppars (House of Three Leopards), the oldest house in Arras (1467), with its pas de moineaux, or “sparrow step”, gable constructed entirely out of brick, served as the basis for the alignment of the houses on the squares. However, from the seventeenth century the Gothic style of the facade gave way to the Baroque style with barrel archways and Flemish gables. After the bombardments of the Great War, many houses were gutted and left in ruins. This was the fate of one side of the Grand’Place, which was then reconstructed identically.
The Place des Héros
Formerly called the Petit Marché (Small Market) it continues to fulfil its nine century-long role of holding the Wednesday and Saturday morning markets. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the houses on the Place des Héros and the Grand'Place were rebuilt in brick and stone with Flemish gables. Strictly enforced town planning rules gave rise to this architectural ensemble of 155 Baroque facades overlooking the two squares. After the ravages of the First World War, the architect Pierre Paquet undertook an identical reconstruction and restored this urban landscape, unrivalled in Europe. It has been called the Place des Héros in tribute to the resistance fighters of Arras who were shot during the Second World War. Markings on the ground trace the former position of the Chapel of the Holy Candle in the centre of the Place des Héros. Built in 1200 on the market square, the chapel with its 28-metre high pyramid tower, held the reliquary of the Holy Candle of Arras. This chapel was demolished in 1791.
Starting in 1463, the construction of the Belfry was completed almost a century later in 1554, under the oversight of the architect Jacques le Caron, who surmounted it with the crown of the Emperor Charles V. At the very top stands the lion of Arras, the city's heraldic beast. 75 metres tall, the Belfry is the symbol of municipal liberties. Destroyed by German artillery in October 1914, it was reconstructed à identically by Pierre Paquet between 1924 and 1932. Access to the first level of the Belfry, starting from the basement of the Tourist Office, by lift (+ 40 steps) to a height of 55m for a panoramic view over the town.
The Town Hall, an Art déco masterpiece
Constructed in the early sixteenth century in the purest Flamboyant Gothic style, the Town Hall housed the market hall and the aldermen’s chamber. Two wings were later added to complete the building. One to the south, of Renaissance inspiration, in 1572. The second to the north, decorated with numerous decorative motifs, was constructed under Napoleon III. Destroyed during the First World War, it was identically reconstructed by Pierre Paquet, Architect-in-Chief for Historical Monuments. The Town Hall invites you into its prestigious function rooms, created in the aftermath of the First World War. The interior of the Town Hall exemplifies the Art Deco style, honored during the reconstruction. Admire the paintings, sculptures and wrought ironwork executed in the 1930s by the greatest craftsmen of their art and which adorn the Guard Room, the Reception Hall, the Wedding Hall and the Council Chamber.
Tasting of local beers and cheeses
Share a gourmet moment, in the prestigious function rooms of the Town Hall, around an essential of the territory, a beer and cheese tasting and discover typical products of our region. We have selected for you three beers brewed in Artois. Come and taste them and enjoy the 3 regional cheeses that go with them.
The Wellington Tunnels
20 metres below the pavements of Arras, discover the Wellington tunnels, a site immersed in memory and emotion. In November 1916, the British started preparing for the 1917 spring offensive. Their stroke of genius: to have the New Zealand tunnellers connect up the town’s chalk extraction tunnels to create a real network of underground barracks large enough to accommodate up to 24,000 soldiers. After a 20-metre descent in a glass-fronted lift, the audio guided and escorted visit plunges the visitor into the site’s atmosphere. A strategic location as well as a living space, the Quarry, named Wellington by the New Zealand sappers, preserves the memory of those thousands of soldiers quartered underground just a few metres from the front, before launching themselves onto the field of battle on 9th April 1917 at 5.30 in the morning, in a surprise attack on the German positions. Through the projection of a film, coming to the surface in the soldiers’ footsteps bring the shock of battle to life. Site accessible to persons with reduced mobility.
Gala Dinner at the Arras golf course
Cocktail Reception & Banquet at FAIRWAY HOTEL & SPA – ARRAS GOLF COURSE