Amiens _ Place du Don et Cathédrale Notre-Dame © CRTC Hauts-de-France - AS FlamentAmiens _ Place du Don et Cathédrale Notre-Dame © CRTC Hauts-de-France - AS Flament
©Amiens, Place du Don et Cathédrale Notre-Dame |CRTC Hauts-de-France - AS Flament

Amiens, tranquillity guaranteed

There is greenery in abundance – from the floating gardens of Les Hortillonnages and the city centre gardens to the River Somme, which flows gently around the foot of the cathedral towards Quai Bélu and Saint Leu, one of the city’s most diverse and trendy quarters. The town centre is a place of exceptional heritage, and includes the stunning UNESCO listed cathedral and Picardy Museum, as well as being plentiful with local produce, much of it grown in Les Hortillonnages. Amiens combines the best that life has to offer with all the charm you’d expect from one of France’s greenest cities. A green haven just two hours from Paris.

Northern France _ Amiens _ Hortillonnages Garden © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Stéphane BouillandNorthern France _ Amiens _ Hortillonnages Garden © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Stéphane Bouilland
©Northern France, Amiens, Hortillonnages Garden|CRTC Hauts-de-France - Stéphane Bouilland

A stroll in Saint-Leu quarter

Start with a stroll around the Saint-Leu quarter, the oldest part of the city, to get a feel for the true character of this serene destination. Small, colourful houses surround the foot of a real showcase of Gothic architecture in France: the Notre-Dame cathedral, whose towers soar into the sky.

Small restaurants and bars with terraces line Quai Bélu and serve the famous ficelle picarde, savoury crepe packed full of cheese, ham and mushrooms. If you’re an early riser, the Saturday morning market is well worth a visit and sells products grown in Les Hortillonnages, the floating gardens a stone’s throw from the city centre. The market is a real treat for the eyes – and it’s also full of delicious aromas that will make your mouth water.

 Les Hortillonnages (floating gardens): a haven of peace in the city of Amiens

If you visit Amiens during the third week of June, you’ll be able to visit the market gardeners’ show – a special week when you can buy direct from gardeners who meet you in their specially designed boats – or barques – which are laden with beautiful produce. If you want to find out even more about Les Hortillonnages, you can head to Rue Chaussée Jules Ferry for a boat trip on one of the traditional barque à cornets. Slowly float among the 741 acres (300 hectares) of islands that have been cultivated for 800 years – let your eyes wander and enjoy the slower pace of life.

During the International Garden Festival each summer, a boat trip around Les Hortillonnages takes on an added dimension as the gardens are transformed into a gigantic contemporary art gallery. You can even dock to take a closer look and play Robinson Crusoe while you  explore the art installations conceived by young landscape gardeners and designers from around the world.

If you’re enjoying the greenery, why not extend your visit? There are lovely places nearby to stay or dine out.

A gourmet walk to make you smile

Tempted by afternoon tea? Then head to Dasi Frères in Rue de Beauvais. It’s a real institution in Amiens, which has since 1954 been selling their own exclusive blends of organic teas and coffees inspired by the Picardy Museum and the floral patterns and fruit garlands that can be found along its arches.

Recently restored, the Picardy Museum has served as a model for other museums in the region since the 19th century. It offers an enchanting setting where the light plays with a full spectrum of colours from the most subdued to the most vibrant.

Before leaving, pay homage to a famous local son, the author Jules Verne, whose house can be found in the centre of town. You can go around the world much faster than in 80 days during a visit here.

Searching for something a bit greener? You’re spoilt for choice with the Jardin des Plantes, the oldest botanical gardens in France, and Parc Saint-Pierre on the water between the Les Hortillonnages and the centre of town. Alternatively, take a peaceful stroll through the landscaped Cimetière de La Madeleine, one of the oldest in France and the final resting place of Jules Verne, among other French luminaries.

CHROMA- bringing colours to the cathedral

In  December, and also throughout the summer months, the facades of Amiens’ cathedral magically come to life in a show called Chroma? As night falls, the sound and light show returns the cathedral it to its medieval splendour, when it was painted in glorious technicolour.

Local's tip

Samuel CramponSamuel Crampon
©Samuel Crampon
X marks the spot for the best camera shot in town

If you’re a keen photographer whose first thought arriving in a new destination is where to capture the best shot, I can recommend just the right spot for you to head to in Amiens. You’ll find it in Parc Saint-Pierre, or to be precise just north of the lake. When you get there, turn towards the cathedral and voilà  ̶  is it or is it not the most sublime view? Like me, I’m sure you’ll find that the interplay of colour and light creates something of an Impressionistic canvas, with March skies seeming to offer the best palette, from shades of blue to the deepest black.

Samuel Crampon, local guide and expert on heritage in and around Amiens

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