Hauts-de-France is a region of France created by the
territorial reform of French Regions in 2014, from a merger
of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie regions.
The new region came into existence on 1 January 2016, after the regional elections in December 2015. France's Conseil d'État approved Hauts-de-France as the name of the region on 28 September 2016, effective 30 September 2016.
The region covers an area of more than 31,813 km2 (12,283 sq miles), and comprises the departments of Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Aisne, Somme and Oise. The region borders Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia) to the north-east, the English Channel to the north-west, as well as the French regions of Grand Est to the south-east, Île-de-France to the south, and Normandy to the southwest.
The principal towns and cities are:
Lille – the capital of the region and an
appealing ex-industrial city with vibrant culture and lots of students
· Abbeville – small cathedral city with numerous gardens and parks
· Amiens – beautiful small city with a UNESCO-listed cathedral and picturesque canals to explore. The hometown of Jules Verne and Emmanuel Macron.
· Arras – good base for touring the battlefields of the Western Front, known for its wide market squares and typical Flemish architecture; the Christmas market is worth a look, too
· Beauvais – has a Gothic cathedral and an international airport
· Boulogne-sur-Mer – pretty coast and the Nausicaa aquarium
· Calais – Britain's gateway to France, home to a large seaport and the continental end of the Channel Tunnel. Many hypermarkets for those wanting cheap food and wine to take back to England
· Laon – an early Gothic cathedral perched on a hill overlooking the rather elegant town
Suffering significant damage during both world wars, the region is home to heavy industry, and climatically cold by French standards; it is not commonly regarded as a major tourist region, but that is probably doing the region a disservice it doesn’t deserve, not least because there are large tracts of beautiful countryside, fine local foods and beers, and many historical landmarks. War history buffs and those simply seeking to remember will find much to see. The lack of crowds is a plus for people in search of a slower pace.
Too many people passing through on the way to Paris and the south miss out, and yet there is a huge market for English-speaking tourists because of the location (across the water from England), and military interest (Allied war cemeteries and memorials).
Unlike most of France, this area is better known for its beer than wine. Luckily the beer is cheap. A particular local favourite is "Bière de garde," a type of French pale ale. Other good ones to try are 3 Monts and anything from Brasserie de Clerck.