- the thematic guide to France
guide to Picardy and its tourist attractions
its short coastline on the Channel, at the
mouth of the river Somme, to a brief border with southern
Picardy is a region that has been at the heart of European history for
well over a thousand years. Its importance is reflected in its historic
heritage - including some of the finest mediaeval cathedrals in France,
some impressive chateaux, and many sites and memories of the
Since 2016, Picardy has been combined with the larger
region to the north, Nord–
Pas-de-Calais, to make up a larger region which has curiously
been given the name Hauts
de France, though it is probably the most
low-lying of all the regions in France.
Picardy - or Picardie as it is written in French - consists
departments, the Oise (60),
capital Beauvais; the Aisne
(02) capital Laon, and the Somme
(60), whose capital Amiens, is also the regional capital. In historic
terms, the southern part of this modern region, including virtually all
of the Oise department, was not part of the Province of Picardy, but
was added to the region when it was created in the twentieth century.
Lying in the historic centre of action
Europe, in the triangle between Paris, Amsterdam and London, Picardy is
an area with a very rich history. It was in this part of France that
were fought some of the most famous battles of French and European
history, notably the battle of Crécy, and the
battle of the
Somme. And in the course of the last thousand years, areas that are now
part of modern region of Picardy have been ruled over at different
times by the English, the Habsburgs, the Spanish and the French.
In past centuries,
the region was
relatively prosperous; its productive farmlands, including a large
expanse of flat or relatively flat land, created wealth in local towns
and cities, a wealth now reflected in the many fine gothic churches and
cathedrals of the region.
cathedral (12th century) , and city ramparts
In modern economic
terms, Picardy is a region that is divided quite distinctly into two
areas. The department of the Oise and the southern tip of the Aisne, in
the south of the region, are economically attached to the Paris region;
towns like Beauvais, Chantilly and Compiègne, though towns
in their own
right, form part of the outer circle of suburban Paris, with many
people commuting from here into Paris. Even Amiens, the regional
capital, is sufficiently close by commuter train to be home to many
people working in Paris; though in the case of Amiens, which is an
industrial and commercial city, people commute both ways.
As for the northern part of the region,
the departments of the Somme and most of the Aisne, these areas are
largely agricultural. Agriculture in the region is particularly
centered on cereals and crops. And while cereal production is the the
principal agricultural activity of the region, Picardy is also the
leading French region for the production of sugar beet (37% of
total national production), France being the world's largest
producer of sugar beet.
from Paris Gare du Nord , or from Lille, Calais or Boulogne
from the UK: the easiest way is to cross to Calais, then drive down
either of the motorways in the direction of Paris or Reims. Whether
taking the A16, the A26 or the A1 motorway, drivers driving south from
Calais will find themselves in Picardy within an hour.
Beauvais has an airport with direct low-cost flights from the UK.
Otherwise, Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport is just a few
kilometres from the southern limits of the Picardy region.
tourist attractions and
sites in Picardy
Thiepval (80): Sites and monuments to the victims of the
Great War, notably the Battle of the Somme. (see WW1 sites and map).
There are many more First World War sites and monuments in Picardy
(80): One of the finest of the main mediaeval gothic
cathedrals of France.
de Somme (80):
important wetland area at the mouth of the river somme, famous for its
wildlife (bird sanctuary).
there is also a small steam railway popular
(80) : Historial de la Grande Guerre - Museum of the
Great War. Trilingual displays,
Abbeville and Amiens. Prehistoric living history museum on the site of
a prehistoric settlement and Roman oppidum. Reconstructed prehistoric
near Laon (02): Caverne du Dragon - system of
underground caves and workings used by troops on both sides in the
First World War
Familistère Godin. Like Titus Salt's Saltaire or Owen's New
Godin's cooperative Familistère is a major example of a
project set up by an enlightened manufacturer for his workers, during
the Industrial Revolution.
old walled city perched on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding
plains. Fine early gothic cathedral (1150-1180) with remarkable
stained-glass windows; there is a funicular
railway from the train station up to the town hall.
(02) Small town with gothic cathedral containing fine
mediaeval stained-glass windows. Remains of the St jean des vignes
small town famous for its gothic basilica, largely rebuilt after the
first world war. Also famed for its ensemble of art-nouveau buildings,
also put up during the post WW1 rebuilding. The Musée
Lécuyer has a
major collection of works by the 18th century portraitist Quentin
(02): A large number of 16th century fortified churches
small towns and villages in this rural area. Several signposted tourist
tallest of the great gothic cathedrals that were built in mediaeval
France. Planned as the greatest cathedral in France, Beauvais cathedral
was never completed; but the part that was built (the choir and the
transept) is extremely impressive.
Magnificent chateau, rebuilt in the 19th century; the chateau houses a
museum, and is set in fine gardens and parkland that includes a famous
The Clairière de l'Armistice; the site of the signing of the
Armistice, that put an end to the first world war. Reproduction of the
railway carriage in which the Armistice was signed.
(60). Chateau de Compiègne, fine 18th century
(60): Mer de Sable. Wild-west theme park, with plenty of
rides and attractions.
(60): Parc Astérix. One of France's most
parks, bringing to life the world of Asterix the Gaul and his friends.
Le Crotoy, at the mouth of the Somme
Photo Mikeones -
Nineteenth century etching by Alphege Brewer -
Detail from the 14th century stained-glass windows of Laon cathedral
church at La Bouteille, Thierache, Aisne.
Picardy tourism site
► Selected Picardy hotels
booking at guaranteed rates from Hotels.com, Accor
and other reputable hotels sites. About-France.com
lists hotels with good visitor reviews.
** A convenient stop-off for travellers heading south
(or back north) on the A26 motorway between Calais and Reims.
** Modern two-star hotel located on the road betwen
the A26 motorway exit and the historic walled city of Laon
de la Basilique
Comfortable small hotel with well recommended restaurant, opposite the
basilica. A handy base for exploring the battlefields of the Great War
Mercure Amiens Cathédrale
Quality *** hotel in the centre of Amiens, opposite the cathedral. Ten
minutes' walk from the station. Air-con, bar, restaurant