Top Attractions and Things to do in Amiens
Amiens in Picardy is best known for its magnificent cathedral, with its stunning summer and Christmas light show. But this delightful city has much more to offer. The hortillonages is a marshy area where the postman still delivers mail by boat and there's a lovely old medieval quarter, Saint-Leu, originally an artisans' are, but today full of cafes and restaurants.
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Amiens and its summer light show
Amiens cathedral is the biggest Gothic cathedral in France, dominating the city with its massive west front. Built rapidly between 1220 and 1288 with no mishaps like towers falling down or catching fire (which happened pretty frequently), Amiens is an important and striking example of European Gothic architecture. The interior, in contrast, is peaceful and light with stunning later additions like the 16th-century choir stalls. The cathedral became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
Tip: If you visit during the summer months, don’t miss the sound and light evening show when the façade is lit up and there’s an explanation about the remarkable statues. It lasts 40 minutes and is a real showstopper.
Place Notre Dame
Tel.: 99 33 (0)3 22 71 60 50
Open April to September daily 8.30am-6.30pm
October to March 8.30am-5.30pm
Son et Lumière
Daily mid June to mid September and December 1-Jan 1, 2015
Times: June: 10.45pm
Take a boat trip through the marshy Hortillonnages market gardens
Since Roman times, the nearby marshy lands of the Somme river have provided Amiens with its market gardens. Cultivated on the banks of the extensive network of over 40 miles of waterways, ditches and rieux (the local name for the canals), the area covers 300 hectares and is one of the delightful surprises of the city. Farmers move around in punts designed for the narrow canals and in June dress up in traditional costumes and gather in Amiens for a special marché sur l’eau (water market).
You can walk through the area on an extensive footpath from Parc Saint-Pierre or Beauvillé bridge. The canals are lined with old ginguettes (local outdoor cafes for music and dancing) and bridges take you over the water. Or take a trip through the canals on a boat which you’ll find at 54 boulevard Beauvillé (tel.: 0033 (03) 22 92 12 18). Visits take place every afternoon from April 1 to October 31 and cost around 6 euros per person.
Eat and Drink in the old Quartier St-Leu
Just north of the cathedral, the old Quartier St-Leu is criss-crossed with canals once lined with mills that made Amiens a leading textile center. Today it’s revitalized with bars and restaurants strung out beside the canals, and shops and art galleries in the small brick houses in the cobbled streets. On Saturday mornings, boats come into the Place Parmentier from the nearby marshy lands to sell produce, but you have to get there early to get the best.
Visit the house where Jules Verne lived
Jules Verne (1828-1905) lived in Amiens for most of his life in a substantial 4-story house just south of the center of town. He died here and is buried in the Cimetiere de la Madeleine. The rooms have been extensively restored and are full of maps, portraits, photographs, furniture, china and of course, editions of his famous books, as well as models of some of the extraordinary machines he invented.
Jules Verne House
2 rue Charles Dubois
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 22 45 45 75
Open mid-April to mid-Oct Mon & Wed-Fri 10am-12.30pm & 2-6.30pm; Tues 2-6.30pm, Sat, Sun 11am-6.30pm
Admission adult 7 euros
Don't miss the Musee de Picardie
The Museum of Picardy is in an imposing mid-19th century building designed on the same lines as the Louvre in Paris. One of the first buildings outside the French capital designed as a museum, it has a large collection of objects that range from archaeological items to drawings, sculptures and contemporary works. The mammoth task of restoring the building continues, but there’s plenty to see, most notably the Puvis de Chavannes paintings which cover the main staircase and a room specially created by the American artist Sol Le Witt.
Musée de Picardie
48 rue de la République
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 22 97 14 00
Open Tues, Fri, Sat 10am-12.30pm & 2-6pm; Wed 10am-6pm; Thurs 10am-12.30pm & 2-9pm; Sun 1-7pm
Admission adult 5 euros
Great Festivals and Events
Amiens puts on a pretty good schedule of events all year round. Check out the best on the Tourist Board website (in English).
- April: Huge flea market throughout Amiens
- May to October: Jardins en Scène. Performances of circus, dance, music and theater in the open air in Picardy’s gardens and parks.
- June to October: Environmental strolls in the hortillonnages plus performances
- September weekend: European Heritage Days when many public and private buildings open to the public
- 1st Sunday in October: The famous autumn flea market, which rivals Lille with more than 80,000 visitors. It’s on the first Sunday in October and starts from 5am.
- October: White Night with music events and contemporary art galleries open all night
- November to December: The largest Christmas market in north France takes over the streets of Amiens.
And all the other great Christmas Markets throughout France
Practical Information for Amiens and its top attractions
- Tourist Board Information
The Amiens Tourist Board can book hotels, recommend restaurants and has all the information you need on shopping, markets and sightseeing.
Amiens Tourist Board
40 Place Notre-Dame
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 22 71 60 50
Where to Stay
Amiens has a good selection of hotels; here are 2 of my recommendations.
17 rue Porion
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 22 91 74 99
The old Priory is close to the cathedral in a cobbled street and offers rooms each with a different style. It's quirky and pretty and good value.
Read guest reviews, compare prices and book The Priory on TripAdvisor.
3 rue Marotte
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 60 12 50 00
The latest hotel is 5 stars but has just 12 beautiful, individually decorated rooms spread out over the old townhouse and the new, ecologically efficient cube.
Read guest reviews, compare prices and book the Marotte on TripAdvisor.