“Venice of the North” sounds like an nickname that would be hard to live up to. But Amiens, with its floating gardens and pretty canal district, does a fantastic job.
You could catch a barge and cruise through the Hortillonnages, historic farmland reclaimed in the middle ages from former marshes, or stop at a canal-side cafe on a cobblestone street in Saint-Leu.
And we haven’t even mentioned Amiens’ World Heritage cathedral yet, which has the tallest nave in France and is rammed with priceless gothic and renaissance art.
In Amiens you can go even further back in time, as humans have been living here since the middle Pleistocene epoch, around 350,000 years ago. You can get anthropological at the Parc de Samara, which recreates prehistoric dwellings, or at Musée de Picardie where local artefacts are displayed.
Lets explore the best things to do in Amiens:
1. Amiens Cathedral
All kind of ingredients come together to make this one of the world’s great cathedrals, and it’s no wonder that the monument is a UNESCO site.
First, the dimensions: Amiens Cathedral was built when the goal was to flood the nave with light, and to do this the structure needed to be as high as possible.
At over 42 metres, the nave at Amiens is only surpassed in France by Beauvais Cathedral, which couldn’t support its own weight.
You have to see the renaissance oak choir stalls inside, and the sublime polychrome sculpture from the 15th and 16th centuries.
But even before you enter you may lose minutes in awe at the gothic carvings on the western facade and southern portal.
On summer evenings these are rendered in colourful light for Amiens’ “Son et Lumière” shows.