Last Updated on 17/09/2022 by secretmoona
Located in the Somme department, Amiens is a beautiful green city. It is known for its Notre Dame cathedral, Belfry (both UNESCO World Heritage sites), its hortillonnages (a cluster of floating gardens), and its Tour Perret, which greets you as you come out of the train station. You could easily spend a day wandering the streets of the colourful Saint-Leu neighbourhood and the city centre. However, there are so many fun and unusual things to do in Amiens that you should consider staying for at least two days. With all these attractions and historic sites, there is no doubt that there is plenty to do.
Let’s explore the best things to do and see in Amiens, France, the city nicknamed “the Venice of the North”.
This post contains affiliate links which means that I receive a small commission if a product is purchased through one of these links, at no extra cost to you.
- 1 What to do in Amiens
- 1.1 Discover Amiens Cathedral (Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens)
- 1.2 Stroll along the streets of Amiens
- 1.3 Wander in Saint-Leu neighbourhood
- 1.4 View the Chroma light show
- 1.5 Visit the Picardy Museum
- 1.6 Follow in the footsteps of Jules Verne
- 1.7 Admire the Tour Perret
- 1.8 Check out the street art
- 2 Unusual things to do in Amiens – discover Amiens’ hortillonnages
- 3 To go further – what to do around Amiens?
- 4 Practical information
Where is Amiens, and is it worth a visit?
Amiens is located on the banks of the Somme River in the former Picardy now known as Hauts-de-France. Strategically located close to Paris, Lille, Rouen and Brussels, Amiens is worth visiting and is an ideal destination for a day trip from Paris or a weekend getaway. It makes a great day trip option from Belgium too.
Amiens is often overlooked by international tourists who prefer to explore other parts of France. Or, Amiens is a city with plenty of things to do to fill a weekend and more. Nature lovers, history enthusiasts and lovers of good food will all have plenty to do.
What to do in Amiens
The things to do in Amiens, the green city, will surprise you.
Discover Amiens Cathedral (Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens)
I began my visit to Amiens by admiring the imposing Amiens Cathedral. You cannot but be blown away by the attention to detail put into building this impressive monument. As the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens is an architectural masterpiece. The cathedral is 145m long and 42m high, and with a surface of 7,000 square metres, it could fit Notre-Dame de Paris twice.
The cathedral was erected between 1220 and 1288 and took only 68 years to build. It served as a model for both the cathedrals of Cologne and Bruges. Before pushing through the heavy doorways of the cathedral, be sure to admire the hundreds of carved sculptures depicting scenes from the Bible into the doors. The statues show figures from the Old and New Testaments, apostles, saints, prophets etc.
After admiring the detailed exterior, be once again amazed. Surprisingly, the inside is bright and airy. As you explore, pay attention to the choir stalls decorated with carved figures.
If you have the time or don’t mind climbing the 307 steps of the North Tower, you could be rewarded with a great view of the city.
Stroll along the streets of Amiens
The area around the cathedral is steeped in history with cobblestones and Gothic houses. However, wandering the streets, you won’t find much older buildings since Amiens suffered significant damage during the First World War. Many buildings were then built in the Art Deco style.
The city centre area is very lively yet pleasant. Amiens is a big city but still relatively small compared to other big cities like Lyon or Bordeaux. There are some pedestrian streets and squares where you can take a rest. Wander Place Gambetta to see the town hall (Hotel de Ville), and admire the Dewailly clock and the Belfry. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Belfry is an interesting building on some Saturdays and Sundays or during European Heritage Days. If you want to hit the shops or buy some souvenirs, head to the shopping Rue 3 Cailloux. The Dewailly Clock or “Marie-sans-chemise” (shirtless Marie in English) is a sculpture by Amiens sculptor Albert Roze.
Wander in Saint-Leu neighbourhood
Do you like the cobblestone lanes, steeped in history, with beautiful colourful half-timbered houses? Then you will fall for Saint-Leu! Saint-Leu is the most famous neighbourhood in Amiens, and while wandering the streets, you will quickly see why. It’s full of charm thanks to its colourful houses and eclectic architecture. Crossed by the Somme River and with various canals, the city has gained the nickname of Little Venice of the North. It’s a pleasure getting lost in the streets and admiring the different building facades lined along the river banks.
As you cross the Dodane bridge over the Somme, look at the statue in the river and the ones on either side of the opposite street (as you face the cathedral). The sculpture of the man perched on a buoy is often the victim of jokers who like to dress him in quirky outfits.
Saint-Leu is the oldest neighbourhood in Amiens, and while exploring, you can spot a little nod to Medieval times. Stroll through each of its streets to stumble upon the most beautiful houses, works of street art, unexpected art, an untypical bookstore or a charming antique shop.
While the neighbourhood is relatively quiet during the day, the terraces of cafes and restaurants fill up with locals enjoying a late-night meal and drink in the evening. The Quai Bélu, the entertainment hub, becomes the place to be.
View the Chroma light show
Each summer night, from July to September and during the Christmas Market (26 November to 31 December), a beautiful light 50-minute show brings to life the apostles, saints and other figures carved in the cathedral. The 50-minute Chroma show projects colourful designs onto the cathedral facade and garden. While admiring the bright display, you can see the many details and learn the story of the cathedral. 50 minutes seems a lot, but the show is so good that you don’t even realise it.
Chroma, the Monumental Experience of Amiens Cathedral show ends 18th September.
Visit the Picardy Museum
While wandering the streets of Amiens, you will come across an imposing and beautiful building which houses the Musée de Picardie. Culture enthusiasts will enjoy the quality of the works on display. These works include medieval art, sculptures, paintings from French and European artists and even some archeological pieces. Outside the museum, there is a lovely garden where you can sit and admire the beautiful Second Empire-style building.
Follow in the footsteps of Jules Verne
Many famous people were either born or lived in Amiens, just like the current French president Emmanuel Macron. But the most famous inhabitant is the author Jules Verne. After living in Paris and Nantes (where he was born), Verne moved to Amiens in 1871 with his wife Honorine and lived in the house from 1882 until he died in 1905. It’s in this 19th-century mansion that he wrote Around the World in 80 Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
The visit to the Jules Verne House is made on four levels and starts on the ground floor. You move from the winter garden with the beautiful glass roof to other rooms where Jules Verne and his wife dine and entertain their friends. The first floor, reached by a spiral staircase, is dedicated to the publisher who participated in his successes: Pierre-Jules Hetzel.
On the next floor, you can explore the different rooms where he worked. All the decorations in the museum have been carefully reconstructed with fantastic attention to detail. Jules Verne has written more than 30 books, and you can see and examine some of them. On the last floor, you can see objects, including some flying machines Verne himself created and posters inspired by the creative writer.
If you wish to delve deeper into the imaginary life of Jules Verne, you can follow the “In the footsteps of Jules Verne” trail offered by the Tourist Office. The author participated actively in the local public life and was a counsellor. As you follow in his footsteps, you will explore landmarks that cemented Verne’s life in the city. Steps on the trails are the town hall, the Louis Aragon library, and the Jules Verne Circus, which he inaugurated himself. To finish the trail, head to the Madeleine cemetery, where he was buried in 1905.
- Address: 2 rue Charles Dubois
- Tickets cost €7.50 for adults; 4€ for children aged 6 to 17; free for under 6 year olds.
Admire the Tour Perret
The Perret Tower is another piece of architecture that dominates Amiens’ skyline. Built in 1942 by architect Auguste Perret, it was one of Europe’s first residential skyscrapers. The 30 stories high (100 m in height) building is nearly as high as the spire of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Located in the city’s heart, it certainly helps you find your way. Although the tower is not as impressive during the day, it surprises with its illuminations at nightfall.
Check out the street art
Street art seems to be present in all French cities, and Amiens appears to have a lot, too, especially in the Saint-Leu district. The cobblestone streets of the colourful neighbourhood are filled with frescoes from several artists. These street art were created for the Festival IC.ON.IC, which took place from 15 September to 17 December 2021. While wandering the street, you will several frescoes and arts from the time of festival including newer additions.
Unusual things to do in Amiens – discover Amiens’ hortillonnages
Explore the Hortillonnages of Amiens
The most unusual thing in Amiens is exploring Les Hortillonnages’ marsh gardens. I believe this cluster of floating gardens stretching over a maze of canals is unique worldwide. In any case, I have never come across something like this before. The Hortillonnages is 300 hectares of floating gardens covering the city. There are, in fact, 65 kilometres of canals between the Somme and Avre rivers. Since the Middle Ages, these floating gardens have been used by “hortillons” (gardeners) to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and use unique boats (barques à cornet) to transport them to markets.
However, nowadays, they are primarily private gardens and serve as places of relaxation for locals. Hortillonnages are synonymous with calm, serenity and happiness. You are surrounded by nature, the tumult of the city suddenly disappearing. While visiting the Hortillonnages, you will discover colourful garden huts, flower beds, swans and ducks swimming gracefully…The best way to explore the hortillonnages and feel the unique atmosphere is by boat. You can either rent a boat and set off on your own adventure or join guided tours from April to October to learn about the origin of the stunning gardens.
Rent your own boat: This is the best option for people who want to do things at their own pace or with groups of friends or families. All you have to do is follow a route to see the surprising gardens. There is little chance of getting lost, and the water isn’t deep; just pay attention, as some areas are very narrow or overgrown by plants. There are two types of boats you could get: electric boats or rowboats.
Join a guided boat tour: Joining the guided tour is ideal if you don’t want to paddle around. The tours last about one hour, and you get information about the marshes and their origin. Les Hortillonnages guided boat tours are available from April to October.
If you have the chance to be in Amiens on the third Sunday in June, you will experience a reenactment of the water market as it was back in the day. During the Marché sur l’Eau Traditionnel, hortillons dress in old-fashioned clothes while selling fresh produce on their boats along the banks of the Somme River.
You can also visit the Musée des Hortillonnages to learn about the history, life and work of the “hortillons”.
- To find out about the timetables and cost of the boat tours, visit: Les Hortillonnages Amiens
- Head to La Maison des Hortillonnages ( 54 Bd Beauvillé) to book a guided tour. €7 per adult for a 45 minutes ride
- The Musée des Hortillonnages offers boat rentals
Visit the “International Garden Festival”
The best time to visit Amiens and the Hortillonnages is during the International Garden Festival: Hortillonnages Amiens, which takes place every year from June to mid-October. The festival aims to promote young artists (landscape artists, visual artists or architects) who come to exhibit their work. Primarily located on the Iles aux Fagots, the open-air museum has installations on several islands. Some of the installations are temporary, while others last from year to year. You are given a map detailing the path to see the arts. Some of these creations are intriguing, strange and funny. Still, the main thing is that it allows people to see unusual and exciting designs from young artists. You can do it both on foot and by boat. However, the boat enables you to see more.
View the Passerelles along the Chemin de Halage
Amiens’ top attractions are centred around the water, which is only normal considering the canals and rivers that cross the city. Once you have explored the Hortillonnages, I suggest you explore the sights along the Somme River. The Chemin de Halage is an excellent addition to the Hortillonnages and Park Saint Pierre on foot or by bike. As you follow the towpath, you will come across beautiful passerelles. These small bridges connect the houses located on the Hortillonnages to the road. Each of these bridges has its own decoration, and they are so beautifully done that it is an attraction in themselves!
Stroll in Parc Saint-Pierre
Amiens is a city that doesn’t lack green spaces. On top of the garden marshes, the town has several parks and gardens. The most important is Saint-Pierre Park. Located in the heart of the city between the Saint-Leu neighbourhood and the Hortillonnages. It’s a pleasure to walk the paths and bridges of the park, to sit on a bench and watch water birds swimming in the lake. The big park is perfect for kids to play or simply for getting together as a family or with friends to have a picnic or play a game.
To go further – what to do around Amiens?
If you have more than a day or a weekend to spend in Amiens, why note take the advantage of your trip to explore a little further?
Le Grand Parc Naturel De La Prehistoire Samara
Located about 15 kilometres from Amiens is another location that contains lots of history. The historical park of Samara allows visitors to see a reconstruction of prehistoric houses and old crafts and a display of archaeological findings. While visiting the museum, visitors can also visit the arboretum and discover more than 500 different tree species.
The Bay of the Somme
The Bay of Somme is considered one of the most beautiful bays in the world. Visit to discover the wonders of the Picardy coasts, such as the picturesque medieval town of Saint-Valery or Mers-les-Bains, one of the oldest seaside resorts in France. the bay of the sum is also a wild setting which shelters a vibrant fauna.
Getting to Amiens
Amiens benefit from excellent public transport networks. Due to its position between Paris and the rest of northern France (Normandy and Belgium), Amiens is a great base or stop for your trip. TER trains from Paris Gare du Nord are one hour away, and you can find fares as cheap as €5. You can also reach Amiens from the cities of Lille and Rouen in one hour and 15 minutes. Brussels, the Belgium capital, is 2 hours and 30 minutes away. The city is also effortless to explore on foot, by bike or by bus.
The city is also straightforward to explore on foot, by bike or bus; therefore, you won’t need a car.
Where to eat in Amiens
Although I stayed only two days in Amiens, I was able to try out as many places to eat as possible. After all, walking makes you hungry!
- Miam’s – 14 rue des Chaudronniers: This restaurant serves sandwiches on organic bread, burgers and salads with vegetarian options. The food is homemade with local products. The lunchtime deal is a steal; desserts are yummy too.
- Fufu Ramen – 9 Quai Belu: This ramen bar offers a simple yet delicious menu.
- L’himalaya – Place Longueville: This Indian restaurant located in the Jules Verne Circus serves delicious food.
- Au Fil de l’Eau – 6 Bd de Beauvillé: The bistro located along Chemin de Halage is a lovely place with a cosy courtyard perfect for those summer days.
I have not tried any bars, but it’s easy to find a good one on Quai Belu. Baobar and Ad Hoc Cafe were particularly busy.
Where to stay in Amiens
Amiens is a great city; it would be a shame to stay only a day. Whether you want to stay in the city centre or stay closer to nature, you will find the best suitable hotels. Here are some options to choose from – it’s worth noting that most of them are located close to the attractions in the guide to the best things to do in Amiens, France.
- Holiday Inn Express Amiens Gare: Located by the train station, this hotel is excellent for those staying a short time in Amiens. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, and breakfast is complimentary which is a plus.
- Mercure Amiens Cathédrale: Nice 4* hotel offering lovely views of the cathedral. Part of the Accor family, the Mercure is a nice hotel with lovely design, spacious rooms and comfortable beds. Great location as a step away from most attractions.
- D’une Ile à l’Autre: Meaning ‘from one island to the other’ this hotel is located on a small island and is surrounded by green spaces. Guests can make use of the complimentary boats to explore the Hortillonnages.
- Moxy Amiens: Stylish new hotel with affordable prices. Close to the station.
- Ibis Styles Amiens Centre: I love this brand. Rooms and hotel overall design is always great. Great value.
- Au Jardin sur l’Eau: Lovely bed and breakfast located in the Hortillonnages. Perfect for those who wish to be closer to nature.
Planning your trip to Amiens, France
After seeing some lovely canal towns like Strasbourg and Annecy, I had wanted to visit Amiens for a long time. Wandering along the canal of “the Venice of the North” was an absolute pleasure. Amiens is a very relaxing and welcoming city with many exciting and unusual sites to explore. It’s not only a great day trip from Paris but also from Belgium. Give this charming city a go. You won’t be disappointed!