La Grand Place
Arras, the birthplace of Robespierre, is the capital of the Pas-de-Calais department. Its two huge town squares built after being destroyed in WWI were originally created over 800 years ago. Surrounded by hundreds of Flemish-style houses and shops, the squares sit above a vast network of tunnels, which can trace their history from the French Revolution to WWI when the British Army used them as headquarters. The view over Arras from the town hall belfry is stunning and, on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Vimy ridge and the Canadian Monument.
Arras can be reached by TGV and makes and excellent weekend break. Although not well known it has a plethora of attractions to keep you interested and occupied: From It’s town squares and Town Hall to its underground chambers.
Not to forget the Arras Citadel, It’s Abbey and Cathedral. There are also tours of the WWI Battlefields of La Somme and Ypres.
Les places (Grand’ Place et Place des Héros):
Arras is made of cobblestone. The town’s two great squares are quite splendid providing a collection of 155 unique facades of Flemish baroque architecture. These large town squares were originally designed to accommodate large markets which in different periods contributed largely to the prosperity of the city.
L’Hôtel de Ville & Le Beffroi d’Arras:
The Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) on the Place des Héros was destroyed during the war but has been reconstructed in its original style.
The dominating belfry (beffroi) is 77m high, or 326 steps and offers a great view of the city of Arras. A 2m tall statue of the golden lion holding the sun can be found at the top of the bell tower. It is the reproduction of the original which sits in the Museum of Fine Arts in Arras (the original being damaged due to the bombings during WW1)
The Boves of Arras are a collection of underground galleries connecting individual cellars that men have gradually dug since the tenth century. The network is of remarkable length and excellent condition.
These tunnels were also used as shelters by the Arrageois during times of war, invasions, bombings… as well as by the British during WW1 to install a small hospital. The constant temperature of 11 ° C, which, you may know, is ideal for wine storage!
Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Arras:
The Museum of Fine Arts in Arras is located in the ancient Abbey of Saint-Vaast. The original statue of ‘le lion d’or’ of Arras resides in this museum.
The museum’s painting collection consists of several works of art by the following artists can be seen: Pieter Brueghel le Jeune, Balthasar van der Ast, Paul Rubens, Jacopo Bassano, Giovanni Baglione, Charles Le Brun, Claude Vignon, Philippe de Champaigne, Jean Jouvenet, Nicolas de Largillière, Antoine Watteau, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Carle Van Loo, Joseph-Marie Vien, Camille Corot, Théodore Rousseau, Théodore Chassériau, Eugène Delacroix…