Arras is a small city in the North of France, located close to Lille. From Paris, it is approximately one hour by train. While you might not have heard of Arras yet, the city is in fact totally worth a visit. Read why in our extensive Arras City Guide.
Arras has just about 40.000 inhabtitants, but is an interesting tourist destination nevertheless. The city, which dates back to the 5th century, is still very historic and charming. That’s something you can easily see when just walking through the streets.
Interestingly, I found that Arras looks more like a city in Belgium (like Antwerp or Brussels) rather than a French one.
Something that makes Arras look so much like Belgium are the big squares. There are actually two famous ones and despite “Grand Place” sounding like the main square, the Place des Heros is actually the cities most important square.
There, you can not only find several beautiful historic buildings, all different, yet similiar, but also the Beffroi d’Arras, which is the cities most famous landmark.
The whole atmosphere at the Place des Heros is amazing as there are dozens of restaurant and cafés, inviting you to enjoy the scenery.
The Grand Place, which is just a two-minute walk away, is surrounded by nice buildings as well, but is used as a big parking lot nowadays. Thus, a lot of the charm is gone.
If you are looking for a nice spot to hang out at, I’d definitely recommend the Grand Place rather than the Place des Heros. Nevertheless, you should at least have a quick look at both to see the various historic architecture of Arras.
Another highlight of Arras is the cathedral, which is located not far from the immediate city center.
Originally, it was destroyed in the Second World War, but got rebuilt in its historic shape after the war. Personally, I found the Arras Cathedral a little imposing than some other cathedrals I’ve seen.
Yet, it is quite unique in a way, making it worth seeing. Right next to the Arras Cathedral, you can also find a lovely park, which is very relaxing.
It’s also right next to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the most famous museum in Arras.
Not only the museum itself, but also the building, which was the abbey of the church once and still has a historic charme.
Something that makes Arras truly unique is the still very well preserved historic Citadel, which was originally built in the 17th century and belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage (alongside several other citadels in the area).
The whole grounds look likey they were never touched in the wars.
When entering you are crossing a moat, before you enter the impressive gate (you can find a little museum in the building).
After passing the gate, you’ll have a full view of the Citadel of Arras, including all its buildings, the large main square and the chapel.
However, I’d also recommend to visit the park behind the Citadel, which is, again, very relaxing.
There, you can also enter the Mur des Fusilles, an impressive war monument remembering all those who have lost their life in the two wars Arras was involved in.
Truly touching and definitely worth seeing.
The main squares, the citadel and the cathedral are the highlights of Arras, but there are a few more buildings and squares you should see if you have time. For example, the Salles des Concerts, the Banque of France and the Theatre of Arras are all beautiful buildings.
The Eglise Saint-Jean Baptiste has an impressive exterior and the Palais des Etats d’Artois as well as the Place de Madeleine are quite beautiful as well.
As Arras isn’t all that big, I’d just recommend walking through the city for a while. Like that, you’ll definitely see all highlights. Just be aware that the citadel is a little further out of tow.
Arras is everything but a metropolis, but it is an amazing place to go for a daytrip, either from Paris, Lille or even Brussels. The city has a lot of charm, beautiful historic structures and a very famous citadel. We tremendously enjoyed the sightseeing in Arras and loved to sit down in one of the cafés at the Place des Heros. All in all, a gerat place to visit, if you have time!
Do you have any questions about Aras? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!