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In 2016, Hauts-de-France was formed by merging the regions of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy in northern France. The region comprises five departments—Aisne, Nord, Oise, Pas-de-Calais, and Somme—while being bordered by Île-de-France to the south and Grand Est to the east. Belgium lies to its north. To the west of Hauts-de-France lies the Strait of Dover, which provides a sea route from France to the British Isles.[3] Lille, located in northern France in French Flanders, is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region and the Nord department. Its municipal area houses approximately 236,234 inhabitants, while the broader Lille metropolitan area, including suburbs, has a population of 1,515,061 people, making it the fourth largest in France. Known as the "Capital of Flanders," Lille has a considerable history, having changed hands between various powers before becoming part of France under Louis XIV after the War of Spanish Succession.[13] Today, Lille is one of the historical and cultural destinations within the Hauts-de-France region, annually hosting La Braderie de Lille, a street market, and the most extensive car boot sale in Europe.[8] In terms of natural protected areas in the region, on the region's western coast lies the Caps et Marais d'Opale, comprising approximately 200,000 hectares of protected landscapes and biodiversity.[5]

What Hauts-de-France is known for

Hauts-de-France, a region in northern France established in 2016, resulted from the merger of the former Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy regions. It comprises five departments: Aisne, Nord, Oise, Pas-de-Calais, and Somme. Bordered by Normandy to the west, Île-de-France to the south, and Grand Est to the east, it shares its northern boundary with Belgium. Today, the region covers an area of 31,806 square kilometers. Lille, found in the northern part of the region, serves as its capital.[3] Apart from its administrative function, Lille also serves as one of the historical and cultural destinations in the area. From the observation deck atop the town hall's belfry, visitors can observe panoramic views of Lille, extending from the Porte de Paris to the hills of Flanders in Belgium. On the ground level, tourists can venture to the Grand Place, also known as Place du Général de Gaulle, named after the former French leader born in Lille. Nearby the city square, the Vieille Bourse, or Old Stock Exchange, showcases a courtyard lined with 24 identical houses, reflecting the city's history of commercial trading.[7] Furthermore, La Braderie de Lille, an annual event dating back to the Middle Ages, takes place in the city. Historically, during La Braderie de Lille, housekeepers were permitted to sell their masters' old items. The market, known as a street market and Europe's largest car boot sale, attracts over two million visitors each September. To this day, visitors search for bargains among over 50 miles of stalls, encountering everything from old toys to eccentric outfits.[8]

Another historical destination in the Hauts-de-France region is Pierrefonds, located in the Oise department of Picardy, France, known for its Château de Pierrefonds, a medieval castle with a rich history. Initially built in the 12th century and later reconstructed in the 19th century by Napoleon III, the castle showcases numerous spires and towers. Visitors can explore the castle's salons, central courtyard, donjon, and chapel, as well as walk along the parapet for views of Pierrefonds village and lake. Additionally, tourists can rent a "pedalo" to explore the lake or visit other attractions in the village, such as the Town Hall, Church of Saint-Sulpice, Spa Water Centre, and the Charles-Quentin Institute.[10]

The Aisne department in Hauts-de-France is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a range of activities amidst its landscapes, including walking and hiking, nature trails, mountain biking, horseback riding, tree-topping, canoeing, and rock climbing. Visitors can explore Aisne's forests, rolling hills, and meandering rivers. Hiking and walking trails crisscross the countryside. Aisne also offers options such as mountain biking, horseback riding, and rock climbing. Those who enjoy water pursuits can take to the rivers and lakes for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing, while birdwatchers can spot various avian species in the region's wetlands and nature reserves. In addition to its natural landmarks, visitors can explore castles, medieval towns, and picturesque villages, each with its heritage.[11]


Hauts-de-France, formerly known as Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, is one of the 13 newly established regions following the territorial reform implemented on January 1, 2016. The region merges the former administrative regions of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie. Nord department encompasses the territories of French Flanders, Hainaut, and Cambresis, with cities including Douai, Dunkirk, Hazebrouck, Maubeuge, Tourcoing, Roubaix, Valenciennes, and the capital, Lille. The Pas-de-Calais area replaced the historical provinces of Calaisis, Boulonnais, Artois, and Ponthieu, with prominent cities being Béthune, Boulogne-sur-mer, Calais, Lens, Liévin, and the capital, Arras. The former Picardie region took the place of the historical Picardie region, with major cities including Abbeville, Beauvais, Laon, Saint-Quentin, and the capital, Amiens. In terms of the Hauts-de-France region as a whole, it is bordered by Belgium to the north, the English Channel and Normandy to the west, the Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Alsace region to the east, and the Île de France to the south. It comprises five departments—Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Aisne, Oise, and Somme—with Lille serving as the administrative center.[4]

One of the protected natural areas in the Hauts-de-France is Caps et Marais d'Opale, a territory spanning approximately 200,000 hectares that offers a range of diverse landscapes, from marshes to hills, bocages, and coastline. The Marais Audomarois, a Ramsar and Biosphere Reserve designated by UNESCO, situated near Saint-Omer, stands as the last cultivated marsh in France. It is possible to explore the marsh by renting a traditional boat known as a bacôve or escute. Additionally, the yearly water market occurs in the area, where visitors can traverse canals and "wateringues," observing waterside dwellings and the wetland's wildlife. The landscape of Caps and Marais d'Opale is also marked by limestone hillsides, providing vistas and serving as habitats for various flora and fauna. Moreover, inland from Boulogne-sur-Mer lies the Boulonnais bocage, known for its pastoral scenery and livestock. Bordered by hedges and wooden barriers, the green pastures host local cows, horses, and sheep breeds. Furthermore, the Hem and Aa valleys, shaped by two main rivers, have influenced the region's history and landscape. Finally, stretching from Dannes to Sangatte, the Opal coast showcases dunes, beaches, and cliffs. The sites of Gris-Nez and Blanc-Nez offer panoramic views and are designated as the Great Sites of France.[5]

Concerning the Hauts-de-France region, the capital city, Lille, experiences a temperate oceanic climate influenced by the North Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and Warm Gulf Stream. It maintains moderate temperatures year-round, with winters rarely dropping below freezing. Rainfall is common throughout the year. Visitors are often encouraged to visit between May and September for moderate conditions should they plan on undertaking outdoor activities. Summer, spanning June to August, sees the highest temperatures, typically between 20°C and 26°C. August marks the warmest month, averaging 24°C, while January is typically the coldest with 8°C. December receives the most rainfall, with an average of 75 millimeters, while April is the driest with 55 millimeters.[6]


Hauts-de-France translates to "Heights of France" and is the northernmost region in France. It was established in 2014 through the territorial reorganization of French regions resulting from the amalgamation of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy.[12] The Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, historically significant due to its strategic location, has witnessed numerous invasions and conflicts throughout history. Its position as a linguistic border between Germanic and Romance languages reportedly shaped its identity. Various entities, including the French crown, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Dukes of Burgundy, governed the area's territories. During the Middle Ages, it was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands and later passed to Spanish control. Later, the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region played a role in conflicts between France and Spain. In the 19th century, industrialization led to the region's growth, making it an industrial hub. However, it faced devastation during both World Wars. Despite economic challenges post-war, developments such as the Channel Tunnel have contributed to its development.[1]

The other merged region is Picardy, part of the Frankish Empire before becoming part of West Francia, according to the Treaty of Verdun in 843. The name "Picardy" originated from the weapon used by the region's people in ancient times. During the Hundred Years' War, it was the center of the Jacquerie peasant revolt. Gradually, the Picardy counties were acquired by Burgundy, confirmed by King Charles VII in 1435. In the modern era, it became a new administrative region of France, distinct from its historical definition, and saw events such as the invasion in 1557 and battles during World War I.[2]

Dunkirk is a historic town and seaport in northern France along the Strait of Dover. It has a history dating back to the Middle Ages, marked by numerous conflicts and sieges. Notably, during World War II, Dunkirk played a considerable role in evacuating Allied troops to England, with over 340,000 soldiers rescued between May 26 and June 4, 1940. Today, Dunkirk was rebuilt, featuring landmarks such as the Place Jean Bart and a restored belfry dating back to the 15th century. The town's port, rebuilt after the war, is now a major industrial hub, handling significant imports and exports, including steel, oil, and cereals.[9]