Northern France Tourism : official website

Valenciennes, the Place d'Armes lit up and viewed from above at dusk

A town to discover on foot…

It is as you walk through the heart of the old town that you will best capture the atmosphere and spot the hidden treasures of Valenciennes. To see Valenciennes, start at the Place d'Armes, at the imposing work sculptured by Jean-Bernard Métais. This 45m high needle symbolises the former bell tower, now disappeared. More than 2000 words spoken by the townspeople of Valenciennes were collected and carved into the metal. Go to the tourist office situated in one of the rare 16th century wooden houses to be seen in northern France. There are 3 in the town.  Stroll calmly through the old town. As you follow the pretty cobbled streets, stop at the small squares, in the shade of the trees, or in the narrow alleys around the former Beguine convent.  

Valenciennes, Town Hall lit up at night showing architectural detail
  • Valenciennes: the Town Hall at night
  • © Pascal Morès

The streets are truly a museum

One of the striking things about Valenciennes is the extraordinary wealth of works of art in its streets and squares. An open-air museum where ancient heritage and the most modern works of art happily combine. Here are a few you may chance upon on your walks... Stop at the pretty "Square du Rieur", the cheeky work by Félix Desruelles flows again. The Watteau fountain, near the church of Saint-Géry, by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, is one of the most beautiful in France. Explore the "Place du Neuf Bourg, surrounded by beautiful old houses. In the middle, "Avant les Livres", a magnificent sculpture by Henri Derycke. Finally, just before you go into the Museum of Fine Arts, pause in front of the imposing "1.2.3.4.5" by Norman Dilworth. 

Orange steel work of art outside the Fine Arts Museum, Valenciennes
  • Valenciennes: artistic sculpture in the park next to the Fine Arts Museum
  • © Lightmotiv
It has preserved its long history with its share of good and bad times, its sense of rebirth.

Reopening of the Museum of Fine Arts

It is impossible to disassociate the Museum of Fine Arts, which was re-opened after refurbishment, from Valenciennes and the Nord-Pas de Calais region. A refurbishment which includes, in particular, an entirely new route round the sculpture gallery. The display of new works enriches the collection of works by Carpeaux, a son of Valenciennes. As regards paintings there are the permanent collections of major artists such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens, and, of course, Watteau.  The painter from Valenciennes is the subject of the grand opening exhibition - "Rêveries Italiennes" - in place until January 2016. Highlight of the event, the display in public, for the first time, The Water Fall, a recently discovered work.

Valenciennes - Fine Arts Museum, sunny façade, light cloudy blue sky
  • Valenciennes - the Museum of Fine Arts
  • © Rémi Vimont

A packed cultural programme

More than a national theatre, Le Phénix at Valenciennes is truly a European hub of contemporary creative activity. Some hundred theatre, circus, dance, and music events for all audiences are on the programme. Two festivals are on the billboard: The Next Festival and the Festival du Cinéma. The Next Festival, from 13 to 28 November, assembles an international programme of dramatic art around theatre, dance, and performance. 30 performances are scheduled at 15 different cultural venues in Northern France and Belgium. 5th Festival du Cinéma. An occasion which each year brings together the great names of the 7th Art such as Gérard Darmon, or André Dussolier. Competing are documentary scripts, fiction, and productions including some for young audiences. 

Valenciennes - Le Phénix theatre,big, red; modern design; curved lines
  • Valenciennes - Le Phénix theatre
  • © Pascal Morès

The Saint Cordon procession, a thousand years old

The Saint Cordon procession is one of last processions in France with a thousand year history. Every second Sunday in September, the statue of Notre Dame du Saint Cordon is carried through Valenciennes along the former line of the ramparts. The procession was begun following a virulent plague epidemic in 1008. The Virgin appeared to a hermit and asked for the people to assemble the night before her birthday. On 7th September, in the evening, she appeared surrounded by angels. They had a cord that they placed around the ramparts. The epidemic ceased immediately. The miraculous cord has now disappeared. But for more than 1000 years, in memory of the divine protection bestowed on the town, the procession makes it way through the streets around the old ramparts which have since disappeared.

Valenciennes - Notre Dame du Saint Cordon, Virgin flanked by two angels with the famous cord encircling the ramparts, stopping the spread of plague
  • Valenciennes - procession of Notre Dame du Saint Cordon
  • © Lightmotiv

Valenciennes as seen by … lovers of good food!

The taste buds won't rest... and numerous are the good restaurants in Valenciennes which offer the great classics such as the succulent Lucullus. A "mille feuille," served as a starter, which alternates slices of smoked tongue with foie gras. Lovers of traditional recipes can also choose the Goyère de Valenciennes. A tart made with Maroilles cheese on a bed of sweet or savoury pastry. Those with a sweet tooth can try the Carpeaux cake made with chestnut cream, marrons glacés, and macaroons.  Not forgetting the Sottises de Valenciennes, the younger sisters of the Bêtises de Cambrai, (both sweets), and now a creation of pastry chef Philippe Guilbert. 

2 slices of Lucullus on a plate with a small ramekin of onion comfit
  • Slices of Lucullus with its onion comfit
  • © Lucullus SAS
See also …
The romantic soul of the Parc de la Rhonelle

Ideal for a rest, the Parc de la Rhonelle has retained the essence of gardens of the Belle Epoque. It has some nice surprises such as the magnificent Joueur de bille, a work by Elie Raset.

Parc de la Citadelle and Écluse des Repenties

Make time for a walk through the lovely Parc de la Citadelle. A picturesque place: The Écluse des Repenties