Hidden between Lille and Paris, Amiens is often overlooked. And that is completely unjustified, because there is plenty to do here to fill a weekend! Culture lovers, nature enthusiasts and gastronomic city trippers will certainly find something to their liking.
Getting curious? Read on!
5x Things to do in Amiens
A cozy city center and one of the greenest cities in France. The things to do in Amiens will amaze you.
The Hortillonnages of Amiens
Three hundred acres of islets. You wouldn’t expect it in a city, but Amiens has hundreds of floating gardens! In the eighteenth century these yards were mainly used by vegetable growers (‘hortillons’) because the soil here is so fertile. Today, many of these floating kitchen gardens have become private property and serve perfectly as a place of relaxation for people living in the city.
Around the Hortillonnages hundreds of kilometers of waterways run which you can explore by boat. Actually, it reminded me of a swamp! The Everglades, but then in France you could say.
From a boat you can marvel at the most beautiful flower gardens, the wild nature or perhaps even visit the le festival Art, villes & paysage. Bird spotters are also in luck here. I never saw so many kingfishers as I did here!
There are three possibilities to visit the Hortillonnages of Amiens:
With your own boat
This is the best option for real adventurers!
The advantage of having your own boat is that you can explore the Hortillonnages at your own pace. You don’t actually have to be afraid that you will get lost, because along the way there is also more or less a route marked out.
I recommend to take a small and manoeuvrable boat (canoe or kayak), because some parts of these floating gardens can be very narrow or overgrown by plants.
A classic guided boat tour
From the boulevard Beauvillé you can also arrange a guided boat tour. You’ll board for an hour in a traditional boat and along the way you’ll get some more information about this marshy area. You’ll get to see lots of beautiful flower gardens and if you are lucky, the driver might even sing a serenade! This option is ideal for people who want to take it a little easier.
Visit ‘le festival Art, villes & paysage’ with an electric rental boat
Le festival Art, villes & paysage is an open-air museum on a part of the islands. From the Rue Roger Allou you can rent an electric boat for up to two hours and from there you can sail quietly between the gardens. Along every island that participates in this route is a pontoon where you can moor so you can stretch your legs. You will then find beautiful works of art on these floating gardens. Either they have to do with nature (for example, there are a lot of braided trees and plants that make for extraterrestrial landscapes. Incredibly beautiful!) or they are somewhat more abstract (and sometimes even very funny).
If you’re tired of all that art, you can also just moor somewhere and relax. In good weather the Hortillonnages are the paradise on earth!
The house of Jules Verne
Amiens has many famous inhabitants! Did you know, for example, that the current French president, Emmanuel Macron, is from here?
Perhaps a tad more familiar is Mr. Jules Verne: the author of numerous fantastic stories that you have undoubtedly heard of. For me it was mainly ‘The journey around the world in 80 days’ that rang a bell.
Fans of this literary genius should certainly not forget to visit his former home in Amiens.
At first glance it looks like a rather classic house, but the higher you climb the more fantastic this museum becomes. You start at the beautiful winter garden and make your way up (via a beautiful, winding staircase). A copy of his famous submarine, Nautilus, can be found on the third floor where this creator wrote all his books (be sure to pay attention to the monstrously thick books and the many world maps.) It sometimes seems as if Jules was more of an explorer than a writer!)
Personally, I liked the attic the most. There you really get a hint of how popular Jules Verne was and still is. Hundreds of translations, film pamphlets and promotional material about his most famous work: The journey around the world in 80 days was sent out to the world from here.
Do you want to thank this author personally for his beautiful fiction? Then give him a final greeting at the Cimetière de La Madeleine d’Amiens. His tomb is really beautiful!
The Cathedral of Amiens: the Nôtre-Dame
If you already find the Nôtre-Dame of Paris impressive, wait until you see the Cathedral of Amiens. Bigger, nicer and much less crowded.
Hundreds of life-size sculptures (and some double the size of a human being!) are staring at you from the façade, while you undoubtedly enjoy the grandeur of this landmark of Amiens landmark with your mouth open. The stories of all these sculptures are very special and I think it really is an added value to explore the cathedral of Amiens with a guide.
He or she not only tells you about the fabulous façade, but also takes you inside and also shows you the view from the tower (more than a hundred meters high). After climbing 302 steps you really understand how big this Nôtre-Dame is.
Inside the Cathedral of Amiens it is surprisingly light. Many of the original stained-glass windows have unfortunately disappeared, but there are still some beautiful specimens on the back. They are even related to the colorful windows that make Sainte-Chapelle (Paris) so beautiful. Artful sculptures, priceless art and beautiful floor patterns adorn the interior even further. Don’t go too fast, because there are many beautiful details to see! Above the entrance gates of the cathedral, you should also pay attention to the gigantic organ. Colossal, but that’s also quite necessary if you see the size of this church!
Finally, I also recommend walking around the Nôtre-Dame. You’ll see many beautiful details along the sides. A nice view over the tower you get from the park just next to the cathedral, or while you cycle along the Somme river. The Cathedral of Amiens dominates the skyline of the city.
Chroma: a light show with history
From mid-June to mid-September, the beauty of the Nôtre-Dame is emphasized even more. Every night a beautiful light show is projected on the cathedral.
The colorful stories that play before your eyes emphasize the millions of details of the façade even more. Actually it’s impossible to know where to look at first!
For half an hour you are overloaded with impressions and although that may seem long, it’s over in a blink of the eye.
Nowadays you can find such light spectacles all over the world, but what really makes Chroma exceptional is the second part. After the psychedelic creations that adorn the facade of the cathedral, you get to see how the Nôtre-Dame once really looked like.
In a distant past the hundreds of sculptures had been brightened up in thousands of colors. Blue, red, green and yellow … The cathedral of Amiens was actually a painting!
I also liked the free guides who appeared before the cathedral afterwards. They tell you the stories of these illuminated sculptures, a little history of the cathedral and of course they can answer any questions you have.
Don’t forget to visit the cathedral the next day too. If you go stand quite close to the statues, you’ll clearly see the traces of what must have been the most colorful cathedral in France!
View Passerelles during a bike ride along the water
Although Amiens is a relatively large city, you’ll find a lot of green and lots of water here. Of course that has everything to do with the Hortillonnages.
Once you have visited these swampy islands, I recommend to rent a two-wheeler and also see the other side of the Hortillonnages: these along the Somme river.
From the narrow footpaths and cycle paths the beautiful Passerelles stand out immediately.
These small bridges connect the inhabited part of the Hortillonnages with the rest of Amiens. They are often so artfully decorated that it is an attraction in itself! Wrought iron, wooden or concrete constructions ensure that outsiders can’t just enter and often it becomes a bit of a weird sight. You don’t see a floating door at the top of a bridge every day!
If you keep on cycling, you’ll leave most of the passerelles behind. Nature is now becoming wilder and the narrow river turns into a lake where hundreds of birds search for food between the beautiful water lilies and the tender duckweed. Of course you can cycle a lot further, because the bike paths seem infinite. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to occasionally quench your thirst.
A great place, about half an hour from Amiens, is MELBA (Maison Eclusière de Lamotte Brebière Amiens). A long name to make clear that these kind of houses used to be inhabited by someone who had to open the locks when a boat passed. Since nowadays everything can be done automatically, these houses fell into disrepair. Fortunately, the city of Amiens came up with a great solution: a kind of roadside restaurant, but then for cyclists. Are you thirsty or hungry? Then there is no better place than here to stop!
3x Delicious restaurants in Amiens
The French cuisine in all its glory! In Amiens you’ll find more than enough great restaurants.
Au Fil de l’Eau
Are you looking for a nice place to have lunch? Then go to Au Fil de l’Eau. This bistrot is located along the Somme river (near D’une île a l’autre, a fantastic accommodation that you can read more about further in this article). The cozy courtyard is the perfect place to have lunch if the sun shines. Choose a croque monsieur (toasted bread with ham and cheese) or go full on for some meat or fish. They also have a lot of choice for vegetarians here.
Definitely try some fries here, because they are really tasty! And if you admit that as a Belgian in France, then they must be really delicious, right?
Le Quai is one of the more upscale restaurants in Amiens. It is located in the nicest part of the city and therefore a reservation may be necessary if you want to dine here. An extensive menu with specialties of the region and delicious desserts spoil your taste buds as only French cuisine can.
For dessert, try a rabote, a specialty from Amiens. Yum!
In a side street of the Nôtre-Dame Cathedral of Amiens lies Big Ben. A small, truly French restaurant with delicious dishes. Whether you fancy a burger, a refined salad or a tasty piece of fish: you’ll be taken well care for here. I don’t think that I’m exaggerating, because this bistrot even won a place in the famous Gault & Millot!
1 x A fantastic hotel in Amiens
Do you want to stay in the middle of nature and yet in the middle of the city? One of the nicest / most cozy / original accommodation I have ever stayed at.
D’une île à l’autre
There are certainly several good hotels in Amiens, but it can’t get much more unique and original than D’une île à l’autre (‘from one island to the other’). Imagine an accommodation enclosed by nature, surrounded by gently lapping lakes that are completely filled with water lilies. Each hut is located almost on its own island here, and to get from one island to the other you are forced to climb the beautiful wooden bridges.
Each cabin is equipped with all modern conveniences. A soft bed, a comfortable sofa, a modern shower and a small kitchen. And if you really want a summer barbecue, you can do so too of course.
As if the location is not enough, everything here is planned to make your weekend in Amiens completely fantastic.
You can use the canoes (or other boats) for free to explore the Hortillonnages on your own. Highly recommended, by the way.
The narrow streams and brooks are overgrown with beautiful plants and the further you paddle, the more unique the landscapes become. Some islands are dotted with bright flowers and others are inhabited by curious creatures. I couldn’t help but think that I was an explorer who sailed through the dense rain forests along the Amazon.
A rainforest in the middle of a big city. Fantastic!
In the morning you wake up by the gentle sounds of all kinds of (water) birds or chirping insects. By means of a soft thud against your cabin, you know that your breakfast is ready. You pull open the curtains and are welcomed into an upside-down paradise that is reflected onto the flat water surface. Then you open the door of your cabin and you see a well-filled breakfast basket dangling from a hook. A great French breakfast to start your second day in Amiens.
You can definitely use that energy when you choose to take one of the free bikes from D’une île à l’autre for your exploration along the Somme river.
Do you also feel completely enchanted by this fantastic accommodation? More info can be found on their website.
As you can see, Amiens is a city wrapped in green and surrounded by blue. Nature is never far away in this beautiful city, but culture enthusiasts and food lovers will also find their hearts conquered by this top French city.
Amiens is only three hours away from Belgium and five hours away from the Netherlands. So… What are you waiting for? Allez-y!
This article was in collaboration with the tourist office of France, Atout France.
Are you following me on Social Media?
Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.