14 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Amiens
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On the banks of the Somme River in the heart of the Picardy region, Amiens is full of surprises. Surrounded by quiet countryside, this lively little city boasts a wide variety of cultural happenings and unique points of interest.
Many of the city's top attractions spark the imagination, such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral, which is the largest Gothic church in the world; and the Tour Perret, the first skyscraper built in Europe.
The Maison Jules Verne is another temple of creativity and innovation. On display are the models of flying machines and naval ships, dreamed up by the city's most famous author.
For those who'd like to continue traveling farther afield, several excellent day trip destinations are within 30 kilometers of Amiens, such as the WWI Battlefields of Somme and the Samara Park, which reenacts scenes from prehistoric times.
Amiens is located close enough to Paris that it could be a day trip destination by car or train; the drive takes approximately one hour and 45 minutes, while the train ride is just over an hour long.
There are so many reasons to visit Amiens and the surrounding area. Discover the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Amiens.
See also: Where to Stay in Amiens
1. Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Amiens
A masterpiece of High Gothic architecture, this UNESCO-listed cathedral is one of the biggest churches ever built, based on its total surface area of 7,700 square meters. With a length of 145 meters, the Amiens cathedral could fit a football field or the Notre-Dame de Paris twice. The immense size, harmony of architectural style, and intricate details are remarkable.
Built in 68 years (between 1220 to 1288), the construction was rapid for a medieval cathedral, which explains the harmonious unity of the design. Once it was completed, Amiens' magnificent cathedral made such a dazzling impression that it inspired the plan for a similar one in Germany, which is today the most impressive of all the sights in Cologne.
A notable aspect of Amiens' cathedral is the facade, which features three highly embellished doorways influenced by the west facade of Notre-Dame in Paris. The doorways are decorated with a profusion of 750 statues: Old and New Testament figures, apostles, prophets, and a figure of Christ in the attitude of blessing. In the tympanum is a depiction of the Last Judgment.
The cathedral's interior reaches over 42 meters in height and has 126 pillars, giving the sanctuary a breathtakingly immense feel. Visitors are awestruck by the grandiose, bright, and airy space. An innovative structure of ribbed vaults and flying buttresses allowed for more surface area of stained-glass windows, creating an ethereal effect.
Behind the high altar is the tomb adorned with the famous weeping angel, and a venerated relic (of John the Baptist) is found in the left-hand transept. Visitors should also be sure to take a look at the 16th-century choir stalls, embellished with carvings of more than 3,650 figures.
The North Tower provides access to a viewing platform, via a staircase of 307 steps. The climb is rewarded with spectacular city panoramas.
During the Middle Ages, the cathedral's exterior was vibrantly painted. Every night during summer (mid-June through mid-September) and at Christmastime (November 24th through December 31st), the 50-minute "Chroma" show projects dazzling lights and designs onto the cathedral's facade. Some scenes depict the sculpted figures in bright medieval colors, other segments enhance the sense of marvelousness that the cathedral inspires.
Address: 30 Place Notre-Dame, Amiens
2. Musée de Picardie (Museum of Fine Arts)
Among the finest museums outside of Paris, the Picardy Museum was modeled after the Louvre. Housed in a gorgeous Second Empire building, Amiens' fine arts museum has an extensive collection, which brings together archaeological finds, medieval art, sculptures, and European paintings.
Highlights are the sculpture collection, which includes stellar pieces such as the Buste d'Anatole France by Bourdelle, and the paintings collection, with masterpieces by El Greco, Tiepolo, Corot, Fragonard, and Courbet, as well as works by famous artists of the 21st century such as Picasso and Mirô.
Address: 2 Rue Puvis de Chavannes, Amiens
3. Quartier Saint-Leu
Quartier Saint-Leu, the medieval district of Amiens, exudes historic charm along with a trendy and happening ambience. Tourists feel transported back in time as they stroll through the jumble of narrow cobblestone lanes. Along the way, wanderers will discover quaint half-timbered houses and colorful waterfront buildings.
This lively neighborhood is packed with restaurants, cafés, art galleries, bookshops, antique stores, and small locally owned boutiques. The best way to take in the ambience is at one of the outdoor cafés – many have views of the Notre-Dame Cathedral.
At the center of the quarter is the Eglise Saint-Leu, an interesting Late Gothic church with a timber roof. A short walk away from the Saint-Leu Church is the Quai Bélu, a convivial area along the Somme River with many riverside restaurants. Many establishments have al fresco dining space right at the water's edge.
The Quartier Saint-Leu extends from the Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Port d'Aval harbor on the Somme River. A scenic path alongside the Somme River lends itself to pleasant strolls. Reminiscent of Venice, the district is traversed by canals and can be toured by boat.
On Saturday mornings, the Place Parmentier across from the Quai Bélu is animated with the Marché sur l'Eau, an open-air market supplied by Amiens' hortillons, the gardeners who grow fresh vegetables, fruits, and flowers at Les Hortillonnages.
4. Les Hortillonnages (Marsh Gardens)
Tourists will be pleasantly surprised by a visit to Les Hortillonnages marsh gardens, which can only be accessed by boat. Amiens has 65 kilometers of canals between the Somme and Avre rivers, and the 300-hectare Les Hortillonnages are found on swampy islands in this unique ecosystem. Because they are interspersed within the canals, the fertile swamp gardens appear to be floating in the water.
Since the Middle Ages, these floating gardens have been cultivated by "hortillons" (gardeners) who used special boats (barques à cornet) to transport fresh fruits and vegetables to market. The barques à cornet resembles Venetian gondolas; their shape is designed to allow berthing without damaging the banks.
For those who'd like to experience the waterways of Les Hortillonnages, guided boat tours are available from April to October. You can also rent a boat or kayak (for the day or half day) and paddle around at your own pace.
On the third Sunday in June, the Marché sur l'Eau Traditionnel reenacts a 19th-century water market – the hortillons dress in old-fashioned costumes while rowing down the Somme River in their barque à cornet boats and selling their fresh produce from the dock.
On weekends from the end of May (or early June) through mid-October, the Maison de la Culture d'Amiens organizes tours and cultural programs for the Festival des Hortillonnages (Festival Art, Villes et Paysage) with events such as music concerts, circus acts, and poetry performances.
Address: 54 Boulevard Beauvillé, Amiens
5. Maison de Jules Verne
The celebrated French novelist Jules Verne wrote Around the World in 80 Days, a book about the adventures of Phileas Fogg that is considered the most famous French novel ever published (it has been translated more often than any other French work of literature).
The imaginative genius of the author is on display throughout the Maison de Jules Verne, where the author and his wife lived from 1882 to 1900. At this stately 19th-century mansion in a small study, Jules Verne penned his novel Extraordinary Voyages. Another room displays the desk where, in 1869, Jules Verne started to write Twenty-Thousand Leagues under the Sea.
In Verne's extensive library, visitors can peruse his favorite books, including works by Shakespeare, Cooper, Dickens, Walter Scott, and Edgar Allan Poe.
The Jules Verne House also features an Observation Tower and a collection of flying machines, which were created by Jules Verne and predated the invention of planes.
Address: 2 Rue Charles Dubois, Amiens
6. Cirque Jules Verne
Amiens has a tradition of circus arts, and since 1889, fantastic spectacles have entertained the public at the Cirque Jules Verne. Inaugurated by Jules Verne himself, the Cirque Jules Verne is the National Center of Circus and Street Arts (Pôle National Cirque et Arts de la Rue).
The facility includes an auditorium for staging circus shows and an Ecole de Cirque (Circus School), which trains thousands of circus students. The circus auditorium provides seating for 3,000 people yet still offers a warm, intimate atmosphere.
For many tourists, attending a show at the Cirque Jules Verne ranks high on the list of things to do while visiting Amiens. The program of events includes circus acts such as juggling, acrobatics, and clowns, as well as musical, dance, and theater performances. With a new season introduced every year, the shows are always amazing, inspiring, and full of surprises.
Address: Place Longueville, Amiens
7. Tour Perret
Among the most iconic sights in Amiens, the Tour Perret (built in 1942) was one of Europe's first skyscrapers. The tower reaches more than 100 meters in height, soaring almost as high as the spire on the Cathedral Notre-Dame. Together, the modern Perret Tower and the ancient cathedral create an distinctive skyline.
The Perret Tower is illuminated daily after nightfall with colorful lighting effects that mark the hours.
Address: 13 Place Alphonse Fiquet, Amiens
8. Traditional Marionettes & Puppet Theater
Puppet shows are a beloved custom in the Picardy region, and the centuries-old tradition is still alive and well in Amiens. Local artisans create all kinds of marionettes to represent various characters. A typical puppet show features a whimsical, silly or farcical story line with elements of buffoonery, designed to make audiences laugh. The shows are geared towards children, but adults also find them amusing.
The Théâtre de Marionnettes de Chés Cabotans d'Amiens does a wonderful job of bringing the traditional puppets to life. This marionette theater performs amusing puppet shows (in French) for children three years and older.
Tourists may also enjoy browsing the ateliers (small workshops) of Amiens where local craftsmen create and sell handmade marionettes.
9. Samara Archeology and Prehistory Park
A short drive from Amiens' city center, tourists can leave behind the 21st century and enter the world of prehistory. This unique amusement park takes visitors on a 600,000-year voyage back in time, starting with the discovery of fire to the beginnings of civilization and continuing to the Gallo-Roman period.
In the 1,200-square-meter Pavillon des Expositions (exposition space), exhibits are presented in a captivating way. Visitors learn about prehistoric ancestors through recreations of their daily life. There are even realistic reconstructions of ancient dwellings.
Highlights of Samara Park are the incredible prehistory reenactments such as fire-igniting, stick-throwing, and flint-shaping demonstrations, as well as the ateliers of artisanal crafts (that showcase techniques dating back 15,000 years) including basket making, weaving, pottery, blacksmith and leather work, and wood carving.
The 30-hectare park is also a nature sanctuary with forests, marshland, an arboretum, and a manicured labyrinth. A boutique sells books, games, activity kits, and other items on the themes of nature and archaeology. Tourists can take home reproductions of prehistoric tools, pottery, and jewelry.
An interesting dining option, the park's restaurant, Le Bistro de César, serves Gallo-Roman cuisine based on recipes attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius, a gastronome of the 1st century AD who threw extravagant dinner parties for Roman emperors.
An easy day trip from Amiens (just a 12-kilometer drive), an excursion to Samara Park is sure to be a memorable and educational experience.
Address: Rue d'Amiens, La Chaussée-Tirancourt, 80310
10. Battlefields of Somme and the WWI Remembrance Trail
Amiens is a good base for exploring the Remembrance Circuit, a trail of sites that commemorate WWI history. The 25-kilometer trail runs from Albert to Péronne, with several memorials and museums along the way.
Although the Vallée de la Somme is now peaceful countryside, this area was where many WWI battles were fought. The landscape is still marked with shell holes and the remnant of trenches. The Somme Valley was once the scene of vicious fighting during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 (July through November). Cemeteries attest to the depth of the casualties.
Driving from Amiens, it makes sense to begin a tour of the Remembrance Circuit in Albert, which is 30 kilometers away. Albert is also easily accessible by train from Amiens.
In Albert, the Musée Somme 1916 is housed in an underground passage (dating to the 13th century) that was used as an air-raid bomb shelter during the First World War. This evocative museum educates visitors about the historical context of WWI and provides insights into the everyday life of soldiers who fought in the trenches during the Battle of the Somme.
If starting out in Albert, the Remembrance Circuit concludes in Péronne, which is about 50 kilometers away, less than a one-hour drive from Amiens. The top attraction in Péronne, the Historial de la Grande Guerre (Museum of the Great War) displays extensive collections in a sleek modern building. The museum provides an overview of World War One history, chronicles the details of trench warfare, and displays fascinating WWI artifacts.
11. Medieval Town of Lucheux
It's worth taking a day trip to the ancient city of Lucheux, just 37 kilometers away (about a 45-minute drive). Steeped in history, the city boasts three important monuments from the medieval era: a 12th- to 13th-century château fortified with imposing towers and ramparts, a Romanesque church featuring exquisite 12th-century capitals, and a UNESCO-listed belfry that dates to the 13th century.
12. Maison de la Culture d'Amiens
With an exciting calendar of events, this exceptional venue is the place to go in Amiens to catch a cinema screening; music concert; and theater, dance, or circus performance. The Maison de la Culture d'Amiens also hosts temporary art expositions throughout the year.
Address: 2 Place Léon Gontier, Amiens
Official site: http://www.maisondelaculture-amiens.com/en/
13. Abbaye Royale de Saint-Riquier
The Abbaye Royale de Saint-Riquier is nestled in the bucolic landscape outside Amiens, about 40 kilometers away (a 40-minute drive). This historic abbey merits the detour because of its splendid setting, beautiful Gothic architecture, and top-notch cultural attractions.
The abbey was founded in 625, but the present monument dates from the 12th century, with many of the buildings constructed in the 17th century. The abbey's library was one of Europe's largest and most important collections of manuscripts until the 13th century.
Today the Abbaye de Saint-Riquier is home to the Centre Culturel de Rencontre, a cultural center that hosts a diverse program of events, exhibitions, seminars, and workshops. The center presents an impressive line-up of theater, dance, and music performances, organized in partnership with Radio France and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Every summer, the Festival de Saint-Riquier delights audiences with classical music concerts and jazz performances at the Abbey Church. This festival is renowned for its high-caliber performances and sublime venue.
During the high season (April through October), the Eglise-Abbatiale (Abbey Church) is open to the public for visits from Monday through Saturday. This Flamboyant Gothic church has a 16th-century facade and frescoes that are classified as Historical Monuments.
Address: Place de l'Eglise, 80135 Saint-Riquier
14. Abbatiale Saint-Pierre de Corbie
About 17 kilometers from Amiens, the town of Corbie is a worthwhile day trip destination because of its abbey church, the Abbatiale Saint-Pierre de Corbie. Exemplifying ornate High Gothic architecture, the church has an awe-inspiring facade distinguished by its two towers, which soar to 55 meters. The vaulted nave is 36 meters long and has a solemn air of spirituality.
Founded in 657, the church belonged to the Benedictine abbey of Corbie, a powerful order that influenced much of Europe. The church is a listed Historical Monument and possesses many treasures, including precious relics of Saint Peter and exquisite statues.
The church is open to the public for guided visits in July and August. Guided tours of the church take place Tuesday through Saturday at 2:30pm. After the tour of the church, visitors may ascend the South Tower to admire panoramic views of the Somme Valley.
Address: Rue Charles de Gaulle, Corbie
Where to Stay in Amiens for Sightseeing
Less touristy than many other French towns yet brimming with local culture and vitality, Amiens is an interesting place to spend a few nights. It's also a good base for those who want to explore the Picardy region and nearby Nord-Pas du Calais of northern France and perhaps continue on a travel itinerary in the neighboring Normandy region. A convenient area to stay is the centre-ville (city center) of Amiens, because most of the top attractions are within walking distance.
- An upscale hotel in the centre-ville is the four-star Mercure Amiens Cathédrale Hotel, a short walk away (just 50 meters) from the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The location is convenient for tourists because of the wide choice of restaurants, cafés, and shops nearby. The hotel's guest rooms are decorated in a cheerful contemporary style and include Wi-Fi access and coffee machines. Some of the "classic" guest rooms have stunning outlooks onto the cathedral.
- Au Jardin Sur l'Eau is an inviting bed and breakfast hotel tucked away on an islet of the Somme River, a protected nature site with flourishing orchards and vegetable gardens. It's about a 10-minute drive to the Quartier Saint-Leu. Guest rooms feature fine bed linens and stylish contemporary decor and do not have televisions, to encourage relaxation. The breakfast includes fresh baguettes from a local bakery, organic yogurt, and seasonal fruit grown on the property. Guests may borrow bicycles or canoes.
- For great value in the centre-ville, just steps away from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, tourists can choose the Hôtel le Prieuré. This three-star hotel provides guests with small but nicely decorated rooms, with Wi-Fi, in an attractive, renovated 17th-century building. Guests have the option to purchase a continental breakfast buffet. One consideration for travelers with limited mobility is that this hotel has steep stairs and does not have an elevator.
- Logis la Chambre d'Amiens offers sleek contemporary-style accommodations and a wide range of amenities, including Wi-Fi, parking, bicycle rentals, and a continental breakfast (for an additional charge). This three-star hotel is located just outside the centre-ville (but close enough to walk), near the Gare Saint-Roch (train station) and the Maison de la Culture.
- In an attractive 19th-century townhouse, the Grand Hôtel de l'Univers is well situated in the centre-ville, within walking distance of the cathedral and Quartier Saint-Leu. This three-star hotel features spacious soundproofed rooms with tasteful decor, modern amenities, and city views. The hotel serves a continental breakfast buffet that includes pastries, juice, coffee, fresh fruit, and eggs.
- Budget-conscious travelers will appreciate the amenities at the ibis Styles Amiens Centre Hotel in the centre-ville, within walking distance of the cathedral. This three-star hotel offers simple contemporary-style rooms in a sleek ultra-modern building. The hotel provides 24-hour front desk service and free Wi-Fi access. A buffet-style breakfast is included.
- For those who want to stay within the centre-ville, the ibis Amiens Centre Cathédrale Hotel provides basic no-frills accommodations in a great location near the cathedral. This modern three-star hotel has Wi-Fi access, a restaurant, snack bar, and parking for an additional fee. The hotel offers various breakfast choices, which guests may purchase.
- One of the best values in Amiens is found at the ibis budget Amiens Centre Gare, near the train station but still within walking distance of the centre-ville and the cathedral. This very basic hotel has double, twin, and triple rooms with free Wi-Fi access. Breakfast options are available for an additional charge.
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Country Villages and Castles: Amiens was the capital of the historic Picardy province, which overlaps with the modern-day region known as Nord-Pas-de-Calais. This area is largely industrial but has retained some of its pastoral landscape along with picturesque old villages and walled towns.
About a two-hour drive north of Amiens are two lovely towns that delight tourists: Bergues and Boulogne-sur-Mer. Each offer an enchanting escape to a medieval world of winding cobblestone streets, ensconced within ancient ramparts.
Within a 90-minute drive of Amiens (and an easy day trip from Paris) is a remarkable château, surrounded by dense forest, in the little country town of Chantilly. The Domaine de Chantilly is renowned for its lush parkland, lavish reception rooms, and superb art collection.
Exploring the Normandy Region: Among the top attractions in Normandy are the seaside resorts: fashionable Dieppe (90 minutes away), the sandy shores of Trouville-sur-Mer (2-hour drive), and glamorous Deauville (2-hour drive). For those more interested in history and culture, Honfleur (2-hour drive), one of the most charming towns in Europe, and Rouen (90-minute drive) with its marvelous Gothic cathedral, are must-see stops.
French Flanders and Belgium: North of Amiens is the historic province of French Flanders, within the present-day Nord-Pas-de-Calais region that borders Belgium. Once the capital of Flanders, Lille, is a thriving modern city with elegant Flemish Baroque buildings and an exceptional fine arts museum. Approximately a two-hour drive from Amiens are the battlefields of Flanders in the town of Ypres, as well as the old city of Ghent, which has an ancient fortress and atmospheric medieval center.