Amiens is renowned for its magnificent Gothic cathedral, the largest in France, and, inevitably, a World Heritage Site.
Attention, understandably, focuses on the cathedral and its precincts. But north of the cathedral, the Place du Don is a delightful cobbled street with 16th-century houses. Pavement tables identify those that have bars and cafés; others sell antiques, and one is a tiny shop where the traditional Amiens puppets, the Cabotans are made. In the Puppet Theatre, these roguish marionettes, led by a Punch-like character, Lafleur, take a cheeky dig at society in the old language of Picardie. Keep an eye open for announcements about their performances; you don't have to understand all the language to come away with sides aching from laughter.
Quai Bélu: the Saint-Leu district with colourful, half-timbered small houses is a lively place with many cafés, restaurants and bars. © ATOUT FRANCE/CRT Picardie/Sam Bellet
Saint-Leu district. © ATOUT FRANCE/CRT Picardie/Didier Raux
Nightime is not the best time to explore the canalside quarter of St
Leu, the old weavers' and dyers' district, but it is certainly the
time to be here for the spectacle of café and restaurant lights reflected in
the Somme, for the buzz and for some of the best, and least expensive, food in
town. During the day, St Leu is formidable, a beautiful display of colourful
stucco, half-timbered and brick façades, endlessly varied and attractive.
Oddly, but lovably bizarre.
Not so far away, just along the Boulevard de Beauvillé, you can tour the Hortillonages, a fascinating 50km labyrinth of marshland canals that embrace hundreds of smallholdings where, less than a century ago, thousands of people lived and worked.
Inevitably, all this sitting in a punt, watching birds and fresh air is working up a huge appetite; time for ficelles Picardes (pancakes filled with ham, mushrooms and white sauce). Thankfully, St Leu is only a few minutes away; Jules Verne commented prophetically 'Amiens in 2000, an ideal town'. How right he was.
Jules Verne lived in Amiens for a time, from 1882 to 1900. The house, at 2, rue Charles-Dubois, where he lived was completely renovated in 2006, and today is one of the finest writers' houses open to the public in Europe. From the ground floor to the attic, the house evokes the personality, inspirations and memories of Jules Verne. Here, you find the authentic atmosphere of a private hotel with its furniture of the 19th century.
West front of Notre-Dame cathedral. © ATOUT FRANCE/CRT Picardie/Sam Bellet
Office du Tourisme, 6 bis, rue Dusevel, 80000 AMIENS.
Tel: 03 22 71 60 50
Comité du Tourisme de La Somme, 21,
rue Ernest-Cauvin, 80000 AMIENS
Tel: 03 22 71 22 71
The city lies 133km (83 miles) from Paris; 418km 261 miles) from Cherbourg, 227km (142 miles) from Le Havre, and 158km (98 miles) from Calais.
It is a beautiful and relaxing city, set in outstanding countryside.