Things to do in Arras
The capital of France's Pas-de-Calais department, Arras is famous for its strategic location along wartime France’s front line – yet this town is much more than a historical hub. Lovingly rebuilt brick by brick after its past conflict, its wonderful tree-lined avenues, grand mansions and beautiful Flemish architecture mark Arras out as one of France’s true hidden gems. So whether it’s culture, history or art you’re after, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Arras.
History in Arras
Throughout WWI, Arras was one of only two towns situated on the French front line. Unbeknownst to those stationed opposition though, the city has a subterranean network – which was used to house over 20,000 allied troops during the historical battle of Arras. The Wellington Tunnels are open to the public today, with guided tours taking place all year round, while the underground museum details the part the city played during the conflict. The Citadel of Arras is one of the twelve Fortifications of Vauban recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the late 17th century, it is nicknamed ‘the beautiful useless’ by locals because of its strategically futile position. Yet the history of Arras dates back further still – its famous squares, Grand Place and Place des Héros were created in the 14th century to host trade fairs, and they’re still in use today - with plenty of restaurants and cafes to frequent, while weekly markets are still held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the Place des Héros.
Museums in Arras
With such a rich and varied history, Arras has a whole host of specialist museums to explore. Dedicated to the area’s fine art, the Musée de Beaux-Arts is housed in an old Abbey and is the best place to see the area’s well known Arras tapestries, while the most notable of its artworks include the 13th-century angels of Saudemont and Humbert. For children, the Cité Nature is full of immersive exhibitions on food, animals and more that will keep kids entertained for hours on end. While history buffs should head to the aforementioned Wellington Tunnels Museum, and the Casino d'Arras - a performance hall with a collection of military memorabilia.
Landmarks in Arras
Measuring over 75m, the Arras Belfry offers magnificent view over the city, while the nearby Town Hall holds larger-than-life carved murals which reflect life in Arras through the ages. Beneath this building is an even better discovery though - the cave network of Les Boves. First installed in the 10th century, these passageways running underneath the city were primarily used by the wealthy homeowners to store their wares, before being extended out to create the Wellington Tunnels during WW1. During spring and summer, the Boves are especially sensorial, as they’re lovingly decorated with flowers and plants.
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