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bootlegga Arras - A travel report by James
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Arras,  France - flag France -  Nord-Pas-de-Calais
11029 readers

bootlegga's travel reports

The heart of Artois

  18 votes
Page: 1 2
A small city located in northern France, Arras has a lot to offer to visitors, from battlefields and monuments to classic architecture to just plain old fashioned fun.

Grand Place
Grand Place
Originally founded in the days of the Roman Empire, this city has been a strategic position for a long time. As recently as World Wars 1 and 2, major battles were fought in the vicinity of Arras.

It has a variety of great local attractions including the Vimy Ridge Monument and two large town squares; the Grand Place, and the Place des Heros. Both of them are surrounded by some incredible architecture, including the town hall and a huge cathedral. The Grand Place is a huge square used year-round for festivals and the circus.

Vimy Ridge is the site of a huge World War One battle, and is truly inspirational. At the town hall in the Petit Place, one can take a tour of the catacombs underneath the city for only 4 Euros. Not as extensive as the Paris catacombs, but still worth the visit.

Check out this website for more info (it’s in French);

This site is under construction and should have an English section when finished;


Favourite spots:
Vimy Ridge Monument
Vimy Ridge Monument
Vimy Ridge Memorial; located on a huge ridge about 15 km from town, Vimy Ridge Memorial is an awe-inspiring memorial dedicated to Canadians who fought and died in World War One.

It is going to start undergoing renovations soon, as the Canadian government readies it for the 90th anniversary in 2007.

The monument and the grounds are surreal. Large tracts of it are still off limits due to unexploded ordnance. The day before I toured the site, a farmer had found seveal old bullets! And yet, French citizens walk and ride bicycles blithely like it is just any other park.

A short walk from the monument itself is a series of well-maintained trenches and tunnels that you get tours of. These tours are free if you are Canadian. The tunnels themselves are incredible, stretching for kilometeres, with rooms hollowed out for barracks, command posts, communication rooms, light railways, and storage areas. If possible, beg for a tour. It will make the visit all the more worthwhile.

What's really great:
A war monument to French soldiers
A war monument to French soldiers
Because Arras is so small, you can enjoy the city without the hustle and bustle of Paris or other larger cities. It is much more laidback, friendly and relaxed. And because it is quite small, it is easy to walk around, without the need for catching buses or subway trains.

Arras Town Hall
Arras Town Hall
One of the best places in town is the Grand Place. A giant square surrounded by 18th century buildings, it is full of restaurants, bakeries, and shops. The weekend we were in Arras, the square was filled with a circus. At Christmas, there is a giant market there. To fully utilize it, there is a large underground parkade under the Place.

The nearby Place de Heros is perhaps even more stunning. Bordered on one side by the town hall, it too is surrounded by amazing buildings. The town hall has a variety of interesting things to see and do too. You can climb the belfry and see the town from about 7 stories up. Or you can descend into the catacombs underneath Arras. The catacombs were started in the 10th century, and is similar to the Paris catacombs, just not as large and intricate. There are small charges for the both the belfry and the tour, which can be done in English, Spanish and French.

The view from Vimy Ridge
The view from Vimy Ridge
Located on the Grand Place, the Hostel Auberge de Jeunesse (59 Grand Placer) is great. The rooms were spacious (as hostels go), clean, and affordable. We paid 16 Euros each per night, including continental breakfast each morning. It has showers, a TV room, and a kitchen/dining area where you can cook your own meals.

Near the train station, there are several nice hotels, in case the hostel isn’t your thing. One of the nicest is the Hotel Moderne (1 bd Faidherbe), located directly across the square from the train station. Nearby is an American style hotel, the Express Inn Arras (3, rue du Docteur Brassart).

In the Place de Heros near the town hall, there is also the Hotel Diamant (5 Place de Heros).

Town Hall facade
Town Hall facade
Sights II

Just past the town hall is a massive cathedral and its neighbour, the Saint Vaast Abbey, both of which are spectacular.

Located between the Grand Place and the Citadel is the Place Victor Hugo. Again, the streets open into a mid-sized square with wonderful buildings surrounding it, and a spire in the centre. The Citadel is an active duty French army base, which offers tours in the summer. Nearby are a couple of interesting sights. Execution wall is where several French resistance fighters were shot by the Gestapo in World War 2. There is also a large World War 1 memorial/cemetery for British soldiers only a block away.

The streets of Arras
The streets of Arras
Scattered throughout the Grand Place and Place de Heros are dozens of little pubs. For some reason, Irish pubs are very popular in France and there are several in Arras.

Allied cemetary at Vimy Ridge
Allied cemetary at Vimy Ridge
The best restaurant we went to in Arras was Carpe Diem. It offered a good menu with fairly good prices (10-20 Euros for entrees). It is just south of the Saint Vaast Abbey.

There are two cheap ways to eat in Arras. One is to visit one of the many ‘Kebab’ places in town. Call what you will, kebab, gyro, donair, whatever. The food is cheap and tastes pretty good. Usually for about 5 Euros you can get one with frites (fries) and a soft drink/juice.

The other is to head to the Spar in the Grand Place and do some grocery shopping. It is something between a convenience store and a grocery store. Here you can buy whatever you want, take it back to the hostel and cook it up there.

Other recommendations:
Tour Eiffel
Tour Eiffel
As it is close to Flanders, one can also visit Flanders fields, Calais and the English Channel or one of many other war monuments and memorials in the area. The monument at Beaumont Hamel is also very impressive.

Of course, Paris is only 50 minutes away by TGV, and it only costs about 25 Euros one-way, so it makes for a nice day trip.

Published on Saturday June 11th, 2005

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Fri, Dec 02 2005 - 08:05 PM rating by jorgesanchez


Wed, Jun 15 2005 - 04:05 PM rating by traveling_gal

First of all, great job ! It was a wonderful surprise for me to discover your report on Arras after having just lived there for 5 months. It really brought back some memories. Great job once again and I look forward to reading more of your reports!

Wed, Jun 15 2005 - 02:09 AM rating by britman

James, thank you for yet another interesting, well informed and beautifully illustrated report - well worth 5 stars

Tue, Jun 14 2005 - 05:35 AM rating by davidx

Outstandingly informative

Mon, Jun 13 2005 - 09:26 PM rating by ravinderkumarsi

nice report james

Mon, Jun 13 2005 - 08:16 AM rating by djcummin

Nicely done, James. I enjoyed reading through this.


Sun, Jun 12 2005 - 08:11 PM rating by gloriajames

thanks for drawing my attention to this city! 5*

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