Northern France Tourism : official website

The citadel in Montreuil-sur-Mer, looking out over the Canche valley

Towns completely enclosed by walls

Marshal Vaubin’s cherished ‘pré carré’ principle can be seen from De Bergues to Maubeuge, and from Gravelines to Avesnes-sur-Helpe. It was comprised of a double line of walled towns to protect the new boundary between the kingdom of France and the Spanish Netherlands. Many of these towns are still completely enclosed by walls today. On La Côte d'Opale, you can tour Gravelines by electric barge, or visit Bergues on the ‘Ch'ti tour’ which takes you to the film locations for Dany Boon (which needs no further introduction!). Further south, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Montreuil-sur-Mer have kept their medieval enclosures and are great places for a lovely walk enjoying the history and scenery. Finally, there is Le Quesnoy in the Avesnois - a little architectural and historical gem that's worth the detour!

Bergues: an aerial view of the town. The belfry and walled area
  • Aerial view of the walled town of Bergues and its famous belfry, listed by UNESCO
  • © Philippe Frutier

Citadels, ports and forts

Nord-Pas de Calais contains several citadels which the inhabitants (as well as tourists) use as a place in which to relax. The ‘Queen of Citadels’ in Lille took just three years to build (1667-1670). It is designed as a small town enclosed by five bastions, forming a star shape. Both walkers and joggers enjoy the space here on a Sunday. The UNESCO listed citadel in Arras is known as the ‘Beautiful Useless One’, as it never saw any military action. It plays a cultural role today with the ‘Main Square Festival’. Another citadel to see is the one in Calais - a former military stronghold complemented by the Risban and Nieulay forts. Tourists can also admire the majestic military gates in Lille, Cambrai and Maubeuge.

People strolling in front of the entrance gate to Lille citadel
  • Lille citadel attracts many walkers and joggers who enjoy going around it.
  • © Nord Tourisme

Fortified Site Days 2015

The organisation responsible for raising the profile of fortified sites in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region organised Fortified Site Days on the last weekend in April. These gave residents and tourists alike the opportunity to discover or rediscover a centuries-old, unique heritage. Now in its second year, the theme of the event is Nature and Architecture.