On the southern verge of the Ardennes, Charleville-Mézières is a town with two different stories.Charleville was built in one go in the 1600s under the orders of Charles Gonzaga, the Duke of Nevers. There’s something satisfying about the symmetry of the princely monuments, squares and streets.
Mézières on the other hand is much older, and though it has been in the firing line during many wars it has been rebuilt each time and now has a blend of medieval and Art Deco architecture. And you can’t talk about Charleville-Mézières without bring up puppets; there’s an amazing ten-metre-high automaton on one of the squares, and an international puppet theatre festival invades the town every two years in September.
Lets explore the best things to do in Charleville-Mézières:
1. Place Ducale
Charleville was a whole new town, founded in the 17th century after the French Wars of Religion.
The Duke of Mantua, Charles Gonzaga wanted it to be a bastion of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, and called in the architect Clément Métezeau to realise this vision.
The showpiece is the sensational Place Ducale, a square bounded by grand, symmetrical pavilions in an early Baroque style.
On the ground floor are arcades housing brasseries and cafes, and there’s a fountain at the centre.
If you’ve been to Paris you may notice the similarity to Place des Vosges, and this was designed by Clément’s brother Louis.