Amiens in northern France is known for its magnificent cathedral. But the city has so much more to offer! It is the ideal destination for a wonderful city break because in just a few hours, you can be in a cosy city with a relaxed atmosphere. You enjoy the many beautiful decorations on the imposing cathedral. In the evening you can stroll along the banks of the Somme, every terrace looking enticing. And you discover the extraordinary Saint-Leu district. This is just a selection of all the sights of Amiens as there is even more to see and do.
Some facts about Amiens
- Amiens is one of the most important medieval cities on the River Somme. Its thriving textile industry brought unprecedented prosperity to the region.
- In 1802, the peace of Amiens was signed in the city. It ended a war between France and England.
- The most important resident of Amiens was Jules Verne. This writer and forecaster of the future lived in the city for a long time. He is the author of wonderful stories such as, “Round the world in 80 days.” He died in Amiens and is also buried there.
- In World War I, the Battle of Amiens took place here. This was the start of the great Allied offensive. It eventually led to the end of the war.
- Now Amiens is a quiet student city with nice squares, lovely terraces and plenty of sights. Ideal for a city break!
The very best sights in Amiens
Amiens is a real walking city. Almost all of Amiens’ sights are within walking distance in the city centre. You definitely don’t want to miss these ones:
Cathedral of Notre Dame
The eye-catcher of Amiens is the cathedral. What a magnificent example of Gothic architecture you can admire here! It is the one of the largest Gothic churches in Europe. The church was built at breakneck speed. One was started in 1220 and the structure was already complete by 1288. Incredibly clever, especially when you look at all the special details.
Outside, the three unusual portals are particularly striking, as is the large rose, 13 metres in diameter. Inside, the reclining bronze statues of deceased bishops and the large labyrinth attract your gaze. It is no less than 234 metres in length. The labyrinth used to serve as an initiation route for the faithful.
What we found most special was visiting the two towers. We walked outside through the first gallery right under the big rose. In the second tower, we took the stairs to the second gallery. Here we saw city at our feet. An absolute must-see!
In Amiens, a special nature reserve begins on the eastern side of the city: Hortillonnages. Near a marshy riverbed of the Somme, the inhabitants had their vegetable garden. All kinds of canals and rivers run through the vast area, with a total length of 65 kilometres. It is fun to walk along the towpath along the Somme. You will get an impression of the area. Even more fun is to take a boat trip. Then you will experience the silence and natural splendour best as the flora and fauna here are very special.
The Saint-Leu district
What a nice neighbourhood Saint-Leu is! According to the French, this is the Venice of the North. Just as the Dutch give that title to Giethoorn. Saint-Leu was founded in the Middle Ages. Several branches of the Somme cross the area. Weavers, dyers and tanners produced their wares here. They got their energy from all the mills in the district.
The house of Jules Verne
Jules Verne lived a significant part of his life in Amiens. His former residence now serves as a museum. You can learn all about his life here, his ideas and best works. You can even see a replica of the famous Nautilus submarine. Captain Nemo sailed in it from Jules Verne’s book “Twenty thousand miles under the sea.”
This quay used to be called Rue de la Queue de Vache, or Street of the Cow’s Tail. Since long ago, this was the watering place for the animals. If you look closely, you can still find the nameplate somewhere on the quay.
Now the Quai Bélu is the place for locals to have a drink or dine in the evening. All have beautiful waterfront terraces. This is a good place to be any time of the day.
Amiens is famous for its delicious macarons. These soft biscuits with almond dough are typical of the Picardy region. Locals were already feasting on this delicacy in the 16th century. Jean Trogneux and D’Auzou bakeries make what experts say are the best. At the Le Petit Poucet tea shop, you can eat the Parisian version of the macaron as well as the Picardian one.
Maria without a shirt by the Dewailly clock
The pretty Dewailly clock catches your eye right at the little square between Rue Dussevel and Rue des Sergents. It is a rococo-style clock. But if you look a little further, you will see an unusual statue of Mary under the clock. She is depicted with her upper body bared. The unveiling of the statue in the late 19th century caused a huge uproar in the city.
Then walk about 100 metres south to Place Gambetta. In sunny weather, you will see many students sitting here with a coffee and a sandwich on the terraced lawn. At the various bakeries around the square, they stand in line waiting for their order then they leave for the lawn.
Musée de Picardie
After the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay in Paris, it is one of the most important museums outside the capital. The Louvre also served as a model when it was built in 1867. The collection is large and includes four themes: archaeology, the Middle Ages, fine arts and modern art. The museum reopened not long ago after years of renovation. So now you can once again fully enjoy one of the country’s finest museums.
In 1944, a bomb raid destroyed the area around Amiens station. During reconstruction, one of Europe’s first skyscrapers came to the area. Architect Perret developed a 110-metre-high concrete colossus. The tower now bears the architect’s name. You can normally visit the tower. At the highest point, you will enjoy a fabulous view of the city and wide surroundings. Due to Covid measures, this is not possible for the time being.
Cimetière de la Madeleine
Amiens cemetery is on the north side of the city, half an hour’s walk from the city centre. It was the burial place for the city’s wealthy and noblemen in the 19th century. They are buried in impressive and artistic tombs. You will also find Jules Verne’s grave here. There are also many soldiers buried here who died in the 1944 bombings. The cemetery is located in a hilly and wooded area with many birds.
Sightseeing Amiens: the area
You can easily spend two days in Amiens. If you have more time, explore the beautiful surroundings around the city.
Memories of the Battle of the Somme
The region north-east of Amiens was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. This Battle of the Somme claimed more than a million victims. Especially the area between the towns of Albert, Peronne and Beaumont-Hamel was the scene of the battlefield. Albert can be reached from Amiens in half an hour.
Baie de Somme
The Somme flows into the Atlantic Ocean at the beautiful Baie de Somme. It is a beautiful nature reserve. An area full of cliffs, dunes, beaches and marshes is home to many unusual water birds. But Europe’s largest seal colony is also found here. The reserve is not well known and therefore very quiet. You will find several nice hiking trails. Baie de Somme is an hour’s drive from Amiens.
The medieval city of Arras is an hour’s drive from Amiens. It is the ideal stopover if you are heading towards Amiens or returning to the Netherlands. The Belfry, the town hall, the beautiful squares and the citadel are absolute highlights.
Practical information and travel tips Amiens
The nicest place to eat out is on the quay by the Somme, the Quai Bélu. You'll find one cute little spot after another here. Most of the waterfront terraces are heated so you can still sit here perfectly in autumn. We ate here twice. Both restaurant l'Envie and Le Port Saint Leu were good.
- Le Dos d'Ane is located just off the quay, but in the pleasant Saint-Leu district. You eat crêpes with all kinds of delicious fillings here and everyone enjoys it to the max.
- One of the city's most surprising restaurants is Les Petits Bonheurs. A small, intimate brasserie serving local specialities at a good price.
- Restaurant Osmoz is a cosy restaurant that is always full. Reservations are definitely necessary. You will enjoy regional dishes in a cosy ambiance.
You will find plenty of hotels and quaint bed & breakfasts in Amiens. This is the total offer of accommodation in Amiens. But these are our suggestions for hotels:
- The 4-star Mercure Amiens Cathédrale hotel is in Amiens opposite France's largest medieval cathedral. A perfect location, then! Rooms and service are of excellent quality.
- Ibis Styles Amiens Centre is in walking distance of all city centre attractions. Great hotel at a good price. It is a trendy decorated hotel. Guest reviews are without exception very good.
- If you want to stay a bit more economically, Ibis Budget Amiens Centre Gare is a good choice. The hotel is close to the train station. To the city centre it is about a 15-minute walk.