The last mine in Lens closed in 1986, and though the industry that was once the lifeblood of the city is gone, it is not forgotten.
There are two monumental slag heaps on the horizon, that look like they might have been made by an ancient civilisation, the cityscape has masses of brick houses for miners and the former offices for the Lens mining company are a University faculty.
Lens is finding a new direction, as the Louvre-Lens makes clear, with its world-class exhibition and permanent collection.
There’s also a powerful new museum about the First World War, apt because Lens was right on the western front.
Lets explore the best things to do in Lens:
Where a pithead used to be is an ethereal minimalist construction that stands as the first satellite attraction for the fabled Louvre Museum in Paris.
The museum opened in 2012 and so far attendances have exceeded expectations.
There’s a large space for temporary exhibitions lasting three months, and the likes of Rubens and Leonardo da Vinci have both featured in the past.
The permanent exhibition is also absorbing, as it’s one long corridor that proposes a journey through the history of time, starting with Mesopotamian sculpture and slowly guiding you to the modern age.