Amiens_ Les Hortillonnages_ Balade en barque © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Stéphane BouillandAmiens _ Les Hortillonnages _ Balade en barque
©Amiens, les Hortillonnages, Balade en barque |CRTC Hauts-de-France - Stéphane Bouilland

The Hortillonnages: gardens in Amiens – an island labyrinth

In Amiens, 300 hectares of greenery and water nestle together just a stone’s throw from the city’s famous cathedral. They provide a way of life for the local “hortillons” or market gardeners, and give pleasure to visitors who glide around in flat-bottomed paddle or electric motor boats that ensure the delicate environment is protected!

Northern France _ Amiens _ Hortillonnages Garden © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Benjamin TeissedreNorthern France _ Amiens _ Hortillonnages Garden © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Benjamin Teissedre
©Northern France, Amiens , Hortillonnages Garden |CRTC Hauts-de-France - Benjamin Teissedre

Meet the growers from Amiens’ floating gardens

These 40 miles of picturesque garden canals “or rieux” are blessed with flowered banks, a wide variety of fauna and a peaceful serenity disturbed only by the great crested grebes. It’s not just beauty that visitors can discover among this rich tapestry of canals and gardens – it’s also possible to meet some of the gardeners (hortillons) who have been the soul of the exquisite Hortillonnages for millennia. Like René Nowak, a local gardener for 38 years. Each year, this fertile land provides him with a 35-tonne harvest of pumpkins, in addition to other vegetables – “everything you need to make a good soup,” he says. “Carrots, leaks, turnips, cabbage and celery, as well as vegetables from our past, such as Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips. Here, each market gardener respects nature – for example, we only use natural plant food and horse manure for fertiliser. We must respect our land – it has been created by humans to feed humans”.

Guided visits in traditional boats for 45 minutes from 1st April to 31st October

Further info

In the characterful old ‘Saint-Leu’ district, La librairie du Labyrinthe is a bookshop for readers who love the notion of bohemia and enjoy meandering through literature and artistic expression. For owner Philippe Leleux, the name of the bookshop is no accident: “A labyrinth is at the heart of this bookshop and vice versa. There are references to the labyrinths of the cathedral, the alleys of the Saint-Leu quarter and to the Hortillonnages, our local labyrinth of water”.

More ideas for meandering the waterways near Amiens

Explore the Somme by electric boat

Enjoy a guided boat trip from Long, north-west of Amiens. This small village is a perfect marriage of cultural and natural heritage. Visit the gothic revival church and the 18th century chateau – now classified as a historical monument – and its 20 hectares traditional French gardens. There is also a restored hydro-electric power station – the first built in France – where you can stay the night in tourist accommodation.

 

Local's tip

Samuel CramponSamuel Crampon
Focus on Amiens at the end of the 19th Century

 

Take a walk around Amiens keeping a look out for some of the monuments dating back to the end of the 19th Century. Start at the foot of the clock in Place Marie Sans Chemise (but don’t bother searching for the name of the square on a map because that’s its unofficial name! Just ask a local where it is instead!) The clock is in fact a faithful reproduction of the original and was installed in the year 2000. After that, head to the magnificent building that is the Cirque d’Amiens [circus] ‒ checking out the old ticket office and the famous ironwork canopy. Not far from here is Maison de Jules Verne, easily identifiable thanks to its observatory tower. Heading back towards the centre of town, turn into Rue des Otages dominated by Hôtel Bouctot-Vagniez’s bold architecture. Round off the tour by setting foot in the historic setting of Marott’Street café, its metal structures reminiscent of the Eiffel tower. We’ll say no more – you just have to go!

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