Your gateway to the Western Front
Arras is located in department of the Pas-de-Calais of northern France; within the region of Les Hauts de France and is easily accessible by train or automobile. With a population of about 40,000 and the administrative centre for the department of Pas-de-Calais, Arras is the perfect little city that offers excellent accommodations and dining and is a safe city for travellers. You will find the locals to be warm and friendly, unlike the weather. They say that the sun that does not shine in the sky shines in the hearts of the people in the Nord Pas-de-Calais
Arras is centrally located for exploring the battlefields of the Western Front:
Vimy Ridge: 20 minutes*
Beaumont-Hamel & the Somme: 40 minutes*
Ypres: 90 minutes*
Arras was a martyred city during the First World War, being nearly 80% destroyed. After the war the city was rebuilt from the ashes and rubble, maintaining the traditional Flemish architecture of the two main squares and the gothic style of the Hotel de Ville and Belfry in the Place des Heros. You will also find touches of Art Deco in many buildings, a style that was popular in the 1920's & 30's.
Arras and the surrounding Artois area was home to the Canadian Corps for nearly two years during WW1. The old chalk quarries below the city were connected by tunneling companies in 1916 and housed approximately 24,000 soldiers prior to the Battle of Arras. The Canadians would use these as shelter again in 1918.
On Saturdays you will find the town squares filled with vendors for the weekly market with everything from local produce to clothing to electronics and artisanal wares. Wednesdays you will find a much smaller market that is mostly food in the Place des Heros.
Arras hosts a number of festivals throughout the year such as Fête de la Musique, Main Square Music Festival, Fête d'Andouillette and l'Embrasement du Beffroi. In December Arras hosts a most charming Christmas Market, said to be largest north of Paris.
For art lovers you will want to visit the Museum of Fine Arts or, only a short distance away in Lens, you can enjoy masterpieces of the Louvre-Lens and avoid the crowds of the Louvre in Paris.
Regular service from the major centres of Paris and Lille by the TGV and TER trains make it easy to visit Arras as a day trip, but I recommend you spend some time to enjoy this hidden gem of northern France.
*Note that driving times are based on normal traffic flows and do not account for any delays due to congestion, accidents or roadworks.