Nord-Pas-de-Calais travel guide

Everything you should know before planning a holiday in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, at a glance.

Everything you should know before planning a holiday in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, at a glance. When go, the best sights and attractions, food and drinks not to miss. And the best boutique hotels in Nord-Pas-de-Calais bookable online, just a click away.  

Being at the crossroads of continental Europe and the British Isles, the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region serves as a gentle introduction to France for many UK travellers. 

In terms of the scenery, this remarkable French region has many similarities to the south east of England, but it does not take long before visitors are pleasantly surprised by the unique character and rich heritage of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Due to its strategic location on the English Channel, Nord-Pas-de-Calais has played a crucial historical, commercial, and political role since the Middle Ages. The area was once home to a thriving coal mining industry, and its busy ports were a focal point of activity for centuries. Nowadays, the physical landscape of Nord-Pas-de-Calais has been transformed due to constant population growth, but the area has successfully reinvented itself and remains an attractive destination for travellers from all over the world.


When to travel to Nord-Pas-de-Calais

Due to the region's geographical location, the climate in Nord-Pas-de-Calais is very similar to the weather in southern England. Thanks to the warming effect of the North Atlantic Current, the temperatures in Nord-Pas-de-Calais are not as cold as one would expect from destinations in such latitudes. The climate is oceanic/continental, which means that temperatures are generally mild during the spring and autumn and that rainfall is abundant. While the departments of Artois, Avesnois, and Haut Bolonnais experience significant rainfall all-year round, other areas in the north are as dry as southern France. 

This region receives an average of 1,600 hours of sunshine every year, with July and August being the best bets for visitors who are looking forward to clear sunny skies. During the summer, the average temperature is 16.5°C. In the winter, thermometers stay at around 4°C.

Visitors are also reminded about the possibility of encountering crowds during the Dunkerque Carnival (February) and during French bank holidays.


Sights and attractions in Nord-Pas-de-Calais

Nord-Pas-de-Calais is one of the most populous regions in France. However, outside of three major cities, the region offers a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Its more than 90 miles of mostly pristine coastline attract watersports lovers, photographers, and families with young children. The beaches at Berck and Gravelines have been awarded Blue Flags. Fishing, sand yatching, kiting, and sailing and popular activities in the area, particularly in the Côte d'Opale, which is dotted with well-equipped seaside resorts.

Other highly popular recreational activities include golfing, river cruising, canoeing, kayaking, pony trekking, horse riding, and cycling. There are numerous opportunities for hiking in regional parks like Scarpe-Escaut and Avesnois.

The main attractions in Nord-Pas-de-Calais are the particularly family-friendly resorts at Le Touquet-Paris Plage, Dunkerque, and Neufchatel Chardelot; the dreamy ancient landscapes at the Opal Light dunes; the stunning Flemish architecture in Lille and Arras; the renowned art museusm at Helfaut, Roubaix, and Lille; the wartime memorials near Calais; and the UNESCO site at the Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin.

Main cities in Nord-Pas-de-Calais: Lille, Roubaix, Dunkerque, Tourcoing, Calais, Valenciennes, Arras, Villeneuve-d'Asq, Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Nord-Pas-de-Calais is home to dozens of villages that have received the prestigious 'Ville d'Art et Histoire' title in recognition of their exceptional scenic and cultural value. Some of the most beautiful villages in Nord-Pas-de-Calais include Cambrai, Saint Omer, Lievin, Lens, Boubers-sur-Canche, Gravelines, Montreuil, Saint Laurent Blagny, and Saint Josse.

Food and drinks of Nord-Pas-de-Calais

The local gastronomy has been heavily infuenced by both Flemish and Picard cuisine. The result is a magnificent blend of rich flavours and hearty dishes that make use of locally sourced ingredients, such as white wine, garden vegetables, dairy products, and wild game meat.

Some popular regional specialities include:

  • anguilles au vert - eels cooked with a white wine sauce and garnished with herbs and green vegetables
  • andouillettes - pork sausages seasoned with wine, pepper, and onions and usually served with chips
  • flamiche - a savoury tart similar to quiche and made with leeks, cream, and goat cheese
  • duck liver and orange pâté
  • steamed mussels with wine, parsley, and garlic
  • rabbit with stewed prunes
  • poulet de Licques - a chicken dish served in a beer sauce
  • waterzooi - a light fish and vegetables stew usually made with halibut, monkfish, or sea bass
  • and potjevleesch - a terrine made with three types of meat and spices

 
The region produces a wide range of sweet treats and confectionery items, such as bêtises, tarte à gros bords (custard tart), and gâteau battu (sponge cake), and gaufre dunkerquoises (vanilla biscuits).

The most widely known local cheese is Maroilles, a soft variety made with cow's milk. Other cheeses worth sampling include Gris de Lille, Boulette de Cambrai, Guerbigny, Dauphin, and Coeur d'Arras.

The local beers have gained international recognition and show a strong resemblance to Belgian brews. The best-rated beers include Grain d'Orge, Saint Poloise, Septante 5, and Ch'Ti.

About

Size: 12,414 square kilometres / 4,793 square miles
Population: 4.052 million people (2013)
Capital city: Lille (225,700 inhabitants)
Provinces: Nord and Pas-de-Calais 
Landscape: Expansive windswept beaches, rolling meadows, picturesque valleys, densely forested areas.