Visitors may flock to Amiens to visit the city’s impressive Gothic cathedral but when they arrive they soon discover the city’s literary links and beautiful green spaces.
Located in the Somme department less than two hours from the ferry at Calais, Amiens is a pretty city that can be easily explored on foot and it also makes a great base for visits to memorials to the Battle of the Somme.
History of Amiens
The settlement of Amiens was first known as Samarobriva - meaning Somme bridge - was the home of the Ambiani, one of the most prominent tribes of Gaul. The city was first recognised by the King of France in 1113 and was joined to the Crown of France in 1185. Throughout the centuries the city has been much fought over - on occasion attacked by barbarians and laid siege to by the Spanish army - but its glorious cathedral has endured as a symbol of the city’s long history.
During the early months of the First World War the city was captured by the Germans before being taken back by the French, and its location close to the Western Front made Amiens an important centre for the British war effort, particularly during the Battle of the Somme. In 1918 the Battle of Amiens was the first phase of the offensive that brought the war to an end.
After the Second World War a process of rebuilding took place in the city, with a particular focus on widening the streets to improve flow of traffic. The University of Picardie Jules Verne was founded in 1970 and the student population gives the city - which has a population of around 140,000 - a youthful feel.
Five things to do in Amiens
So you are ready to start your Amiens adventure. But what are the ‘must see’ attractions that should be on every visitor’s itinerary? Here are five suggestions of things to do during your visit to the city - and a map to help you find your way around.
Jules Verne's House
French novelist, poet and playwright Jules Verne - widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of science fiction - moved to Amiens in 1871 and would remain there until his death in 1905. Today visitors to the city can explore the home in Rue Charles Dubois where he lived from 1882 to 1900.
2 Rue Charles Dubois, 80000 Amiens
Musée de Picardie
The Musée de Picardie is the main museum of both the city and the region of Picardy and its building was purpose-built for a regional museum between 1855 and 1867. The museum, situated on Rue de la République, houses works by artists including El Greco, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon.
48 Rue de la République, 80000 Amiens
Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens
Amiens Cathedral is one of the largest classic Gothic churches of the 13th century. In 1981 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is known for the beauty of its three-tier interior elevation. Work started on the cathedral in 1220 and the nave was completed around 1245. Unlike many other buildings, the cathedral was left unscathed by the French revolution, and today it remains a stunning example of the Gothic style and the tallest complete cathedral in France.
30 Place Notre Dame, 80000 Amiens
Quartier Saint-Leu d'Amiens
The Saint-Leu quarter of Amiens is one of the city’s most historic districts and is the place to go to soak up the atmosphere of a part of Amiens where art galleries, bookshops and boutiques line the narrow streets. Boats and horse-drawn carriages are on hand for a relaxing tour through the district, and on Saturday Saint-Leu hosts a market for local produce.
Hortillonnages ‘floating’ gardens
Situated between the Rivers Somme and Avre, these ‘floating’ gardens have been cultivated since the Middle Ages and can be explored on flat-bottomed boats called ‘barques à cornet’. Crossed by 65km of small canals, known as ‘rieux’ in the local dialect, these market gardens once produced fruit and vegetables that fed the people of Amiens and today they still produce three harvests each year. It is possible to take a boat tour of the gardens, and every Saturday gardeners sell their wares at a market in the Saint-Leu quarter.
Amiens is located in northern France, around 75 miles north of Paris, and is the capital of the Somme department in Picardy. Amiens is easy to get to if you take the ferry to France from Dover, being slightly less than two hours drive from the port at Calais.
MyFerryLink offers up to 16 sailing between Dover and Calais every day and you can book your crossing from £29 one way by visiting our booking page on the website or by calling 0844 2482 100.
You can find out more about Amiens and the city’s attractions on the Visit Amiens website.