FRANCE PAS DE CALAIS Arras les placesArras (pop 48 000), the former capital of the old Artois province, was one of prettiest towns in Northern France thanks to its Flemish, Spanish and French influences. However, the town was severely damaged by both world wars, leaving behind just a section in the old town centre, which still merits a visit. The rest of Arras is home to a few surviving 19th century buildings, as well as rather unspectacular post-war architecture. Arras is also used as a base by those wishing to explore the Somme memorials. 

Central Arras is home to Grand Place and Place des Héros (where the town hall and the market squares are located). The mostly pedestrianised commercial centre is situated southeast of this area, while the train station (linking Arras to Lille) stands further down from here. 


ARRAS STREET MAP:   1. Tourist Office  2. Train Station  3. Grand Place  4. Place des Héros  5. Hôtel de Ville  6. Commonwealth War Memorial 

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FRANCE PAS DE CALAIS City Hall of ArrasArras’ two market squares, Grand’ Place (see previous photo) and Place des Héros are the main sights in town. Grand’ Place is a historic area with a heritage dating back to the 11th century. This section of town is encircled by beautiful Flemish-Baroque style arcaded houses from the 17th and 18th centuries- all assembled in a harmonious manner; yet each unique in their rich, decorative details. The neighbouring Place des Héros, also known as Petite Place,, is home to the Flemish-Gothic Hôtel de Ville (see adjacent photo). 

This grand 16th century building rebuilt after WWII welcomes visitors with a historama- a 20 minute slideshow- that details the history of the town, including the time of both world wars. The historama display is accompanied by the local fêtê giants, Colas, Jacqueline and Dédé in the lobby. These larger than life figurines are brought out during a festival that is held annually in August, to commemorate the town’s release from Spain. The town hall also houses an impressive 75m belfry (accessed by a lift) that offers sweeping views of central Arras. However, the highlight of a visit to the Hôtel de Ville is the slimy souterrain- underground passageways and vaults that have been lying under Arras since the Middle Ages.  These tunnels, also known as boves, used to serve as British command posts and barracks during WWI and they are presented beautifully between March and June, as the Jardin des Boves - a colourful plants and flowers display that spreads some cheer to the otherwise gloomy underground spaces. 

FRANCE PAS DE CALAIS Musee Beau Arts Arras 'The Toilet' Watteau

Head east of this and you will arrive at an old Benedictine abbey that currently houses the local Musée de Beaux-Arts [22 rue Paul Doumer, +33 321712643 ad/ch €4.10/2.10]. This fine arts museum sheathes a comprehensive display of paintings including works of Rubens and Brueghel, sculptures (most notably graphic, medieval sculptures) and even architecture, such as the original copper lion statue that once adorned the old town hall’s belfry. 


FRANCE PAS DE CALAIS Musee Beau Arts Arras 'The Gleaner' (1877) Jules Breton



FRANCE PAS DE CALAIS Musee Beau Arts Arras 'A Road Near Arras' Corot

FRANCE PAS DE CALAIS Musee Beau Arts Arras 'The Census at Bethlehem' Pieter Brueghel, the Younger



FRANCE PAS DE CALAIS Battle of Arras 1917 Wiki

The Commonwealth War Memorial [2 Blvd du Général de Gaulle,] located at the western edge of Arras commemorates over 34 000 soldiers from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South Africa, who went missing during the Battle of Arras (1917, WWI). Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, this memorial was unveiled in 1932, together with the Arras Flying Services Memorial. Tragically, the Battle of Arras repeated itself in WWII with an Allied counterattack against a German tank offensive.