Capital of the Somme, Amiens is a small but charming city that can easily be explored on foot.
Situated halfway between Beauvais and the English Channel, Amiens is one of the most important cities in the new French region of Haute-France, which merged Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie after the 2016 reform.
Renowned for its incredible Gothic cathedral, the largest in Europe, Amiens turns out to be a pleasant surprise, thanks to its charming canal districts, water gardens and lively evening life.
The city of Amiens is home to Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral, Notre Dame d’Amiens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But it is also the city of Jules Verne, where the famous writer lived the last 34 years of his life. And if you are a lover of good food, you will not be disappointed: the ficelles de Picardie, delicious crepes with ham, mushrooms, shallots and cream, followed by the inevitable Amiens macaroons and duck pâté, await you.
Dating back to the 13th century, the cathedral was built to house a holy relic, the head of Saint John the Baptist, transported to France after the Crusades and still kept inside the church.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Notre-Dame Cathedral is the largest Gothic building ever constructed . Its dimensions are gigantic: with an internal volume of almost 200,000 m3, twice that of Notre-Dame de Paris, the cathedral is made up of vaults over 42 metres high, with an overall length of 145 metres.
At the entrance, three huge Gothic-style portals depict the Last Judgement, while the entire façade is decorated with scenes from the Old and New Testaments: Amiens cathedral, in fact, is famous for being a sort of stone Bible, narrated for the illiterate people through the bas-relief sculptures placed on the façade. There are more than 700 statues to contemplate: every character, every chimera, every four-leaf clover has its place and tells a story.
Once through the entrance you will be left speechless by the magnificence of the majestic nave and the carved wooden choir with more than 4000 figures. The rampant arches and cross vaults, thanks to which the Cathedral is flooded with light, give a sense of openness and upward momentum. In autumn, the soft light of the setting sun passes through the beautiful stained glass windows and spreads 1000 colours on the stone slabs of the cathedral.
The cathedral also hides another masterpiece: the octagonal labyrinth that runs along the floor of the nave. By following the black lines, you can identify two paths, symbolising the possible paths from which man must choose. The path that leads to the Light, which starts on the left, the side of evil, and ends on the right, the right side, and the path that leads into Darkness, which starts in the west, where the sun sets, the dark area, and ends in the east, the bright way of the Lord. An unbelievable play of lines spanning an impressive total length of 234 metres.
For a 360° view of the city, we recommend climbing the 300 steps of one of the towers: the effort will be amply rewarded by the panorama from above that will open up before your eyes. Moreover, from June to September, at nightfall, the façade of the cathedral becomes a magical canvas on which a marvellous 50-minute sound and light show is projected.
Born in Nantes in 1828, Jules Verne was living in Paris when he first travelled to Amiens in 1856 to attend the wedding of a friend. After falling in love with the bride’s sister, Honorine de Vianne, a young widowed mother of two daughters, he married the following year and settled definitively in Amiens in 1871.
In 1882, Jules Verne and his family moved into a 19th century mansion on the corner of rue Charles Dubois and boulevard Longueville. It was in this house, where he lived for eighteen years, that Verne wrote most of his Extraordinary Journeys, comprising 62 novels and 18 short stories.
After a major renovation, Jules Verne’s house now offers a museum space where the fictional world and the daily life of the famous writer from Amiens mingle. There are books that belonged to the author and more than 700 objects that evoke Jules Verne’s personality, sources of inspiration and memories. The house-museum offers an amazing tour through the extraordinary universe of Jules Verne: from Phileas Fogg to Captain Nemo, from Around the World in 80 Days to Twenty Thousand Places Under the Sea. Each room leads inside his literary travels, right up to the attic full of posters and extravagant models.
Jules Verne‘s life is deeply connected to that of the city of Amiens. The author, in love with Amiens, took an active part in local public life. In 1888, he was elected town councillor and remained so for sixteen years.
To learn more about his history, you can follow a one-and-a-half-hour circular walking route through the heart of Jules Verne’s ‘ideal city’ (you can find the map at the Tourist Office). You will thus be able to follow in his footsteps and find the main monuments of Amiens that marked the author’s life: the town hall, the rue de la République, the Louis Aragon library, the circus, the Saint-Martin church and the cemetery de la Madeleine, where Jules Verne was buried in March 1905.
The historical centre of Amiens seems to take us back to the Middle Ages with its cobbled streets and Gothic houses standing proudly on the cathedral square.
However, most of the buildings have been rebuilt: in fact, this part of the city suffered significant damage during World War II, and in particular from 18 to 20 May 1940, days during which Amiens was heavily bombed and 60% of the urban fabric was destroyed.
The city centre is very lively and pleasant, with wide pedestrian paths: during your visit, admire the magnificent Dewailly clock, the Bell Tower, the beautiful town hall and then continue to Place Gambetta and Rue des 3 Cailloux if you feel like shopping.
The oldest part of Amiens is actually located slightly off-centre and can be discovered by walking through its streets, which will take you back to the Middle Ages. At that time, water and mills provided the energy needed for the activities of weavers, dyers, tanners and millers. For this reason, the Saint-Leu district, also called the little Venice of the North, is criss-crossed by several canals overlooked by the Amiénoises, brick and stone houses with typical external staircases that are very reminiscent of the buildings in Amsterdam.
Today, the charm of the historic district of Saint-Leu invites you to stroll through its picturesque streets with colourful, wooden and brick houses. Here you will find designer boutiques, stalls, booksellers and second-hand goods dealers in a unique atmosphere that has been renewed since the redevelopment of this former working-class district in the heart of the city. It is the right place to have a drink on the terraces overlooking the canals and to enjoy the sparkling nightlife with theatres, concerts and shows.
Don’t miss the Saturday morning water market (or hortillonnages market). Organised by local horticulturists and the Hortillons, the market revives the tradition of horticulture in 19th century Amiens. In addition, once a year, in June, as part of the Fête dans la Ville, a market is held on the water in traditional costume: horticulturists sail down the Somme in flat boats laden with vegetables, fruit and flowers.
The old towpath of Amiens runs along the Somme from its source to the bay and offers exceptional views. It takes you from the Saint Leu quarter to the Hortillonnages. You will discover small bridges, canals traversed by boats, buildings overlooking the water and enchanting corners to photograph.
The towpath was once used to pull boats with horses. The river draws a mosaic of natural environments, the ecological richness of which is now widely recognised for its biodiversity. If you have time to spare, we recommend that you walk or cycle along it, following the Canardière circuit, for a bucolic stroll among houses and grounds that are traversed exclusively by elegant and colourful footbridges.
The Quai Bélu is one of the most enchanting corners of the city, with its colourful houses of typical Amiens architecture reflected in the water. Strolling here is a real treat.
But it is also the most recommended place to dine on the banks of the Somme with a superb view of the cathedral: it is a concentration of small bistros and restaurants. You will be spoilt for choice and at sunset the atmosphere is simply unique.
At the gates of the Saint-Leu district, there is an exceptional mosaic of floating gardens, intersected by canals. These are the Hortillonnages: surrounded by water and consisting of a multitude of small cultivated plots, the gardens are only accessible by boat thanks to a network of small canals, the rieux.
The Hortillonnages d’Amiens have existed since ancient times. They are located in the former naturally marshy bed of the Somme. These atypical places of cultivation and horticulture supplied and still supply Amiens with fruit and vegetables, but also peat for heating. Today, more than a thousand owners share this 300-hectare green space for their horticultural activities or for gardening, fishing and nature observation: this green environment, lulled by the flow of water, invites contemplation and rest.
The area can be explored through guided tours on traditional boats thanks to the Association for the Protection and Preservation of the Hortillonnages, with a 45-minute tour in the middle of the canals. For the more adventurous or the romantically inclined, rowing boats can be rented from Ô Jardin‘. For walkers, we recommend the 13.5-km-long Circuit de la Canardière : a 3½-hour walk in an idyllic setting that encourages serenity and peace.
In addition, from May to October, the Hortillonnages lend their bucolic setting to the International Garden Festival: local artists place their creations in the heart of the gardens, creating a poetic journey and an unusual, amusing or critical, but always original look at the environment, history and future of these floating gardens. They also invite reflection on the theme of sustainable development and environmental conservation.
Inaugurated in 1867 under the eyes of Jules Verne, the Picardy Museum is an architectural jewel, built on the model of the Louvre Museum. It houses important collections of statues, sculptures and paintings, tracing the history of art from prehistory to the present day.
In addition to masterpieces of local heritage, there are also paintings by Italian painters, including a painting by Tiepolo, Flemish painters such as Hals and Van Dyck and Spanish painters such as Picasso and Miró. Not to be missed are the extensive sections dedicated to Greek and Egyptian art, which house 400 objects from the excavations in Abydos. Throughout the year, the museum organises temporary exhibitions, conferences and events.
The Saint-Pierre Park is the city’s green lung, located a stone’s throw from the Saint-Leu quarter: with its 22 hectares of nature, it is the perfect place for a bucolic stroll.
Sports fields, playgrounds, and paths along the lake await you for a moment of relaxation and recreation, right in the heart of the city.
In the Hotoie district, the Amiens Métropole Zoological Park welcomes you to a 6-hectare island of greenery: it is home to more than 100 animal species and nearly 500 ambassadorial animals of vulnerable ecosystems. The park plays an important role in the protection of endangered species and the advancement of scientific research.
Most of the animals come from other disused European zoos. The most endangered species are relocated as part of international conservation programmes. The Amiens Zoo is home to almost 30 species considered endangered in the wild.
At the same time, it finances numerous in situ conservation projects at international level: protection of red pandas in Nepal, rehabilitation of Asian hornbills in India, reintroduction of the African tortoise in Senegal, protection of the pinched tamarin in Colombia, etc.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Throughout the month of December, the city is adorned with magic. Ranked in the top 15 of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe, the one in Amiens is definitely worth a visit.
At the Amiens Christmas market , more than 130 chalets set up in the historic centre await you. You can warm yourself up with mulled wine, taste traditional sweets, listen to Christmas carols, ice-skate and admire the giant Christmas tree shining with a thousand lights. The event is made even more special by the Chroma sound and light show, which uses the façade of the Gothic cathedral as a magical canvas: 50 minutes of pure wonder.
Twice a year, in April and October, on Place du Beffroi and in the Les Halles district, Amiens awakens to the festive atmosphere of its traditional réderie, or flea market.
With over 80,000 visitors, the Grande Réderie d’Amiens has become the second largest event of its kind, after the Braderie de Lille. From five o’clock in the morning, 51 streets, covering an area of 15,000 m², are invaded by bargain hunters who come not only from Upper France, but also from all over Europe and even Canada and Australia.
In a festive atmosphere, as many as 700 professionals set up their stalls overflowing with antiques and second-hand objects, where you can unearth your little treasure: whether it’s a comic book, a zinc watering can, an unobtainable 45 rpm vinyl or that beautiful cherry wood table you’ve always dreamed of, no one ever goes home empty-handed.
Amiens is the ideal destination for a romantic getaway or a weekend getaway full of attractions.
Located right next to the city centre, the Saint-Leu neighbourhood is very easy to reach: the train station is nearby and is perfect for those who want to enjoy Amiens by day and by night. Once a working-class neighbourhood, its narrow, colourful houses have now become galleries and craft workshops. It is now designated as the student quarter and is lovely to explore on foot but especially by boat along the canals bordering the city, hence its nickname the Little Venice of the North. At night it lights up with its party atmosphere. In addition, the accommodation prices are quite reasonable.
Art and history enthusiasts will opt for accommodation in the city centre, which brings together the greatest monuments of Amiens. It is a lively area, well served by the SNCF station, but if you come by car, parking will be more complicated. Rates are identical to the Saint-Leu district.
If you are looking for quieter accommodation, we recommend the Henriville district, where Jules Verne lived. Located to the south of the city centre, accommodation is less numerous than in the other districts, as it is predominantly residential but also very cheap.
The Saint-Pierre district is located north of the Saint-Leu district. It contains a large park of 22 hectares of greenery, much appreciated by the people of Amiens. It is a residential area, and there is little housing but at very reasonable prices.
Amiens is located about 140 km from Paris. The most convenient way to get to Amiens is to land at one of the many Parisian airports. You will find numerous direct flights to the International Airport of Paris Orly, Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport or Paris-Beauvais Airport.
The closest airport is Beauvais, where you can take advantage of the Oise Mobilité bus line 601 that will take you to the city in about an hour.
If, on the other hand, you land at the city airports of Paris (Orly and Charles de Gaulle), you could rent a car at the airport to move around freely and explore the north of France: the city of Amiens is in fact only 1.5 hours by car from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
Finally, if you prefer to use public transport, you can easily reach Amiens by train.
What's the weather at Amiens? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Amiens for the next few days.
Not far from the Belgian border, Amiens is located in the Somme department in the Haute-France region.