We’re bringing you another riverside city this month to discover, so welcome to Amiens: the city on the Somme! It is known for its Gothic architecture and its link to the famous science fiction author, Jules Verne. Amiens also has historical significance because it was a key location and heavily fought over in both the First and Second World Wars. Like many regions in France, the city has its own culinary specialities such as: ‘macarons d’Amiens’ , ‘tuiles amiénoises’ and ‘la ficelle Picarde’.
Amiens was first a settlement inhabited by the Gauls and was called Samarobriva (“Somme bridge”). The Romans then occupied the area and called it Ambianum after the previous tribe who lived there. Only in 1185 was the city joined to the Crown of France.
- Amiens hosts the largest Christmas market in northern France. (Just in time for the holidays!)
TO SEE AND DO IN amiens
- La Cathédrale Notre Dame d’Amiens : Yes, we’ve mentioned rather a lot of Notre-Dame cathedrals by now, but the one in Amiens is the largest of them all and contains many classically Gothic elements. You’ll see intricate statues both inside and outside the structure as well as tall spires and colourful stained glass doors. The Notre-Dame of Amiens is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, further adding to its reputation. If you’re interested in climbing to the top of the cathedral’s tower, there are 307 steps and an allegedly lovely view waiting for you!
- Maison à la Tour: For fans of the writer Jules Verne, you can visit where he lived and worked during the last years of his life from 1882 to 1900. The “House with a Tower” seems like the perfect abode for writing science-fiction stories as it is four levels tall and filled with artefacts. Scientific instruments, maps and all kinds of bits and bobs fill the house. Indeed it is where Verne wrote most of his “Extraordinary Voyages”. The location and size of the house itself is proof of his commercial success at the time, as the house was located in a previously upscale and “bourgeois” neighbourhood.
- Les Hortillonnages: The Somme river cuts across Amiens and this led to marshland in the city centre. However, in the Middle Ages, this marshland was cultivated to grow vegetables and plant gardens. The result are the Hortillonnages: modern-day floating gardens and markets. You can explore these either by boat or by walk and even buy some of the fresh produce grown in the floating markets. The 300 hectares of garden and 65 km of canals have gained Amiens the title of ‘Venice of the North’.
- Château de Rambures: This military fortress really takes heritage to the next level. It was constructed by and has been passed down within the Rambures family for 700 years. It was conceived by David de Rambures in 1412 and is a towering brick and stone structure. Although the building itself is imposing, it is an example of medieval defensive architecture, a bit of a change from the Gothic architecture of the cathedral of Amiens. Venturing inside, you can have a glimpse into the Rambures family’s medieval life through the various artefacts on show. The grounds themselves also contain an arboretum, a rose garden and a park, bringing some natural relief.