On the banks of the Somme, in the heart of Picardy, the charming town of Amiens is full of surprises. Surrounded by tranquil countryside, Amiens has an unexpected energy for a relatively small town. In fact, it’s a lively city, with a wide variety of cultural events and unique points of interest. The city’s main attractions leave you breathless. Like Notre-Dame Cathedral, France’s largest Gothic church, and the Tour Perret, Europe’s first skyscraper. The creative universe of the city’s most famous author comes to life at the Maison Jules Verne, which exhibits his models of flying machines and ships. In the city center and Quartier Saint-Leu, tourists can stroll along picturesque cobblestone streets, shop, relax in an open-air café and admire impressive monuments.
For those wishing to travel further afield, there are several excellent day-trip destinations within 30 kilometers of Amiens, such as the Somme battlefields of the First World War and Samara Park, which recreates scenes from prehistoric times. Find the best things to do in Amiens and easy day trips.
1. Amiens Notre-Dame Cathedral
A masterpiece of flamboyant Gothic architecture, this cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the largest churches ever built, with a total surface area of 7,700 square meters. With a length of 145 meters, Amiens Cathedral could accommodate a soccer pitch or twice the size of Notre-Dame de Paris. In addition to its immense size, the harmony of its architectural style and the complexity of its details are remarkable. Built in 68 years (between 1220 and 1288), construction was rapid for a medieval cathedral. This explains its harmonious unity. Once completed, Amiens cathedral made such an impression that it inspired the design of a cathedral in Germany. The magnificent Cologne Cathedral.
A notable feature of Amiens Cathedral is its façade. It features three doors influenced by the west facade of Notre-Dame de Paris. The doors are decorated with over 750 sculptures. Figures from the Old and New Testaments, apostles, prophets and a figure of Christ in the attitude of blessing. The tympanum features a representation of the Last Judgment.
The sound and light show at Amiens Cathedral
n the Middle Ages, the exterior of the cathedral was covered with a lively painting. Every night in summer from June to September, and in December for the Christmas vacations, a free sound and light show entitled “Amiens, la cathédrale en couleurs” is presented. It gives a glimpse of the original medieval color palette in all its glory.
The interior of the cathedral is over 42 metres high. There are 126 pillars, giving the sanctuary a breathtaking sense of immensity. Visitors are impressed by this grandiose, light-filled, airy space. An innovative structure of ribbed vaults and flying buttresses increases the surface area of the stained glass windows, creating an ethereal effect. Behind the high altar is the tomb decorated with the famous weeping angel. And a relic of John the Baptist can be found in the left transept. Visitors should not miss the 16th-century choir stalls, adorned with sculptures of over 3,650 figures.
📍Address: 30, place Notre-Dame, Amiens
2. Musée de Picardie
One of the finest museums outside Paris, the Musée de Picardie was modeled on the Louvre. Housed in a magnificent Second Empire building, the Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Amiens boasts a vast collection. It includes archaeological finds, medieval art, sculptures and European paintings. The highlights are the sculpture and painting collections. The sculpture collection includes exceptional pieces such as Bourdelle’s Buste d’Anatole France. And the painting collection includes masterpieces by El Greco, Tiepolo, Corot, Fragonard and Courbet, as well as works by famous 21st-century artists such as Picasso and Mirô. The Musée de Picardie underwent extensive renovation in 2019.
📍Address: 48 Rue de la République, Amiens
3. The Saint-Leu district
Amiens’ trendiest and liveliest district, the Quartier Saint-Leu is an atmospheric medieval quarter. It stretches from Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Port d’Aval on the Somme. A panoramic path along the Somme makes for pleasant strolls. Reminiscent of Venice, the district is criss-crossed by canals and can be explored by boat. Another way to discover the district is to stroll through the tangle of narrow cobbled streets (the street names reflect the district’s artisan past), lined with picturesque half-timbered houses. It’s also a pleasure to explore the neighborhood’s art galleries, bookstores, antique shops and small boutiques. The best way to soak up the atmosphere is to visit one of the cafés or take a seat on a terrace. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a great view of Notre-Dame Cathedral.
In the center of the district is the Eglise Saint-Leu, an interesting late Gothic church with a wooden roof. A stone’s throw from the Saint-Leu church is the Quai Bélu. A convivial area along the Somme, with numerous riverside restaurants and bars. Many establishments have waterside terraces. On Saturday mornings, the Place Parmentier, opposite the Quai Bélu, comes alive with the Marché sur l’Eau. An open-air market supplied by the Amiens hortillonnages, the gardeners who grow fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers at the Hortillonnages.
4. The Amiens hortillonnages (gardens and marshes)
Tourists will be pleasantly surprised by a visit to the marshy gardens of the Hortillonnages, which are only accessible by boat. Amiens boasts 65 kilometers of canals between the Somme and Avre rivers. The 300-hectare Hortillonnages are located on marshy islands in this unique ecosystem. Because they are interspersed in the canals, the fertile marsh gardens seem to float in the water. Since the Middle Ages, these gardens have been cultivated by “hortillonnages” (gardeners) who use special boats (barques à cornet) to transport fresh fruit and vegetables to market. The boats resemble Venetian gondolas; their shape is designed to allow docking without damaging the banks.
For tourists wishing to visit Les Hortillonnages, guided boat tours are available from April to October. On the third Saturday in June, the Traditional Water Market recreates a 19th-century water market. Hortillonners dress up in old-fashioned garb as they row down the Somme in their cornet boats, selling fresh produce from the quayside. On weekends from June to October, the Maison de la Culture d’Amiens organizes tours and cultural programs for the Festival des Hortillonnages, with events such as music concerts, circus acts and poetry performances.
📍Address: 54 Boulevard Beauvillé, Amiens
5. The House of Jules Verne
This is the home of the famous French novelist Jules Verne. He wrote Le tour du monde en 80 jours (Around the World in 80 Days), an adventure novel based on the stories of Phileas Fogg. Considered the most famous French novel ever published. It has been translated more often than any other French literary work.
The author’s imaginative genius is on display throughout the Maison de Jules Verne, where the author and his wife lived from 1882 to 1900. In this imposing 19th-century residence, Jules Verne wrote his novel Voyages Extraordinaires in a small study. This is also the office where, in 1869, Jules Verne began writing Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. In the vast Jules Verne library, visitors can consult his favorite books, including works by Shakespeare, Cooper, Dickens, Walter Scott and Edgar Allan Poe. The Maison Jules Verne also features an observation tower and a collection of flying machines, which were created by Jules Verne and predate the invention of airplanes.
📍Address: 2, rue Charles Dubois, Amiens
6. Jules Verne Circus
Amiens has a tradition of circus arts, and since 1889, fantastic shows have been entertaining audiences at the Cirque Jules Verne. Inaugurated by Jules Verne himself, Cirque Jules Verne is the Centre National du Cirque et des Arts de la Rue. The center includes an auditorium for staging circus shows and a Circus School. It trains hundreds of circus students every year.
The circus auditorium can accommodate 3,000 people while offering a warm, intimate atmosphere. For many tourists, attending a show at Cirque Jules Verne is a must on their visit to Amiens. The program of events includes circus acts such as juggling, acrobatics and clowns. As well as musical, dance and theatrical performances. With a new season introduced every year, the shows are always surprising, inspiring and full of adventurous spirit.
📍Address: Place Longueville, Amiens
7. Perret Tower
Built in 1942, this is one of Amiens’ most famous landmarks. The Perret Tower is over 100 metres high. It rises almost as high as the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral. Together, the modern Tour Perret and the ancient cathedral create a distinctive skyline. The Tour Perret is illuminated every day after dark with colorful lighting effects to mark the hours.
📍Address: 13 Place Alphonse Fiquet, Amiens
8. Amiens puppet theater.
Puppet shows are a beloved custom in Picardy. And this 200-year-old tradition is still alive and well in Amiens. Local artisans create all kinds of puppets to represent different characters. A typical puppet show presents a whimsical, silly or farcical story with elements of buffoonery, designed to make the audience laugh. The shows are aimed at children, but adults also find them amusing.
Le Chés Cabotans d’Amiens Théâtre de Marionnettes does a wonderful job of reviving traditional puppetry. This puppet theater presents fun puppet shows. Children can enjoy Peter and the Wolf or The Three Little Pigs. Tourists can also enjoy browsing Amiens’ small workshops. Here, local artisans create and sell hand-made puppets.
📍Address: 31 Rue Edouard David, 80000 Amiens
9. Samara Archaeological and Prehistoric Park
Just a few kilometers from downtown Amiens, tourists can leave the 21st century behind and enter the world of prehistory. This unique theme park takes visitors on a 600,000-year journey back in time. From the discovery of fire to the beginnings of civilization, via the Gallo-Roman period. In the 1,200-square-meter Pavillon des Expositions (exhibition space), exhibits are presented in a captivating way. Visitors can discover prehistoric ancestors through reconstructions of their daily lives. There are even realistic reconstructions of ancient dwellings.
The highlights of Samara Park are the incredible prehistoric reconstructions. These include demonstrations of fire-making, stick-throwing and flint knapping, as well as craft workshops (featuring techniques dating back 15,000 years) such as weaving, pottery, leather and wood carving. The 30-hectare park is also a nature sanctuary. There are forests, marshes, an arboretum and a landscaped labyrinth. A trip to Samara Park, a day trip from Amiens (just 12 km away), is a memorable and educational experience.
📍Address: Rue d’Amiens, La Chaussée-Tirancourt, 80310
10. The Somme battlefields and the First World War memorial circuit
Amiens is an excellent starting point for a remembrance tour of World War I memorial sites. If you’re short on time, a day trip to the Somme battlefields is a good option. Although the Somme Valley is peaceful countryside today, this region was the scene of many First World War battles. The Somme saw vicious fighting in a major battle in 1916, and visitors will be able to understand the scale of the losses at the Somme Cemetery.
Another nearby attraction linked to the history of the First World War is the Musée de la Somme 1916 in the town of Albert (30 kilometers from Amiens). It’s an easy day trip by car or train. Housed in a former airplane shelter, the Musée de la Somme 1916 presents the history of the First World War and allows visitors to learn about the brave soldiers who fought in the trenches. Admission to the museum includes a guided bus tour of the Somme battlefields.
A little further afield, in Péronne (about 50 kilometers away, less than an hour’s drive), is the Musée Historial de la Grande Guerre, which occupies the medieval Château de Péronne. The museum gives an overview of the history of the First World War, chronicles the details of trench warfare and displays fascinating artifacts from the First World War. The museum also has a gallery devoted to exhibiting art objects on themes related to the First World War.
11. The medieval town of Lucheux
It’s well worth taking a day trip to the ancient town of Lucheux. Just 37 kilometers (about 45 minutes) away, this town is steeped in history. Lucheux boasts three important monuments from medieval times: a 12th-13th century castle, fortified by imposing towers and ramparts; a Romanesque church with exquisite 12th century capitals; and a UNESCO-listed bell tower. It dates back to the 13th century.
12. Maison de la Culture d’Amiens
With an exciting calendar of events, this exceptional venue is the place to go in Amiens for a cinema screening, a music concert and a theater, dance or circus show. The Maison de la Culture d’Amiens also hosts temporary art exhibitions throughout the year.
📍Address: 2, place Léon Gontier, Amiens
Official website: http://www.maisondelaculture-amiens.com/en/
13. Magic World Miniature
Fun for kids and adults alike, this unique attraction dazzles visitors with miniature scenes, created on a realistic scale. Scenes range from train stations and ski slopes to small villages with half-timbered houses, and include details such as crowds of people, trains, bridges, trees and other landscaping. Magic World Miniature is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
📍Address: 6, rue Colbert, Amiens
14. Abbatiale Saint-Pierre de Corbie
Around 17 kilometers from Amiens, the town of Corbie is well worth a visit for its medieval abbey church. The abbey’s impressive facade is distinguished by its two towers, which rise to 55 meters in typical High Gothic style. The 36-meter-long vaulted nave exudes a solemn air of spirituality. Founded in 657, the building belonged to the Benedictine Abbey of Corbie, a powerful order that influenced much of Europe. The Abbatiale Saint-Pierre de Corbie is home to many treasures, including precious relics and exquisite statues.
📍Address: Rue Charles de Gaulle, Corbie
How to get to Amiens?
From Paris to Amiens:
- Train: The most convenient way is to take a direct train from Paris Gare du Nord to Amiens. The journey takes about 1 to 1.5 hours.
- Car: Drive north on the A1 motorway from Paris. The distance is approximately 140 km and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Bus: Several bus companies operate routes from Paris to Amiens. The journey might be longer but can be economical.
From Calais to Amiens:
- Train: Take a train from Calais to Amiens, which might require a change in Boulogne-sur-Mer or Lille. The journey takes about 2 to 3 hours.
- Car: Drive south on the A16 motorway from Calais. The distance is approximately 170 km and takes about 2 hours.
- Bus: There are bus routes connecting Calais to Amiens, though they might not be as frequent.
If you travel to from Abroad to Amiens:
- Plane: The 2 nearest major international airports to Amiens are Beauvais airport and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG). From there, you can take a train or drive to Amiens.
- Train: If coming from neighboring countries like Belgium or the UK, you can take international trains to Paris or Lille and then a regional train to Amiens.
- Car: If you’re driving from neighboring countries, use major motorways connecting to the A1 or A16 in France, depending on your route.
- Bus: Several international bus companies might have routes that connect major European cities to Amiens or nearby cities.
Where to stay to visit Amiens?
Less touristy than many other French cities, but brimming with culture and local activities, Amiens is an interesting destination for a short stay. It’s also a good starting point for those wishing to explore the Picardie and Nord-Pas du Calais regions of northern France. You can complemente this visit by a travel itinerary to neighboring Normandy. Finally, it can be an interesting stopover from Paris on the way to Saint Valery sur Somme or Le Crotoy in the Baie de Somme.
Amiens city center is a convenient place to stay, as most of the main attractions are within walking distance.
In the heart of the city center, the Hôtel-SPA Marotte is Amiens’ most luxurious hotel. This five-star boutique hotel offers luxurious rooms in a refined Belle Époque manor house, with an elegant tea room and breakfast room. Accommodation includes an authentic French breakfast (croissants, fresh fruit, freshly squeezed juice, charcuterie, a selection of cheeses, coffee and other hot drinks) served in a beautiful salon adorned with exquisite gilded moldings.
Another upscale downtown hotel is the Mercure Amiens Cathédrale, just a few steps (50 meters) from Notre-Dame Cathedral. The location is convenient for tourists because of the wide choice of restaurants, cafés and stores nearby.
The hotel decorates its contemporary rooms in a cheerful style, and they feature Wi-Fi connection and coffee machines. For those who prefer a room with a view, several of the hotel’s suites have an outdoor terrace with a breathtaking view of the cathedral.
Hotels for families
For good value in the city center, just a few steps from Notre-Dame Cathedral, tourists can choose the Hotel Le Prieuré. This three-star hotel offers guests small but beautifully decorated rooms, with Wi-Fi, in a pretty 17th-century building. Guests can purchase a continental buffet breakfast. Travelers with reduced mobility should note that this hotel has steep stairs and no elevator.
La Chambre d’Amiens offers elegant contemporary-style accommodation and a wide range of amenities, including Wi-Fi, parking and a continental buffet breakfast. This three-star hotel is located just outside the city center (but close enough to walk), near the Gare Saint-Roch (train station) and the racecourse.
Housed in an attractive 19th-century townhouse, the Grand Hôtel de l’Univers is located in the city center, just a few steps from the cathedral. This three-star hotel offers attractive rooms with traditional decor, modern amenities and city views. A buffet breakfast is available at an additional cost.
The best value for money hotel in Amiens
Budget-conscious travelers will appreciate the affordable rates at B&B HOTEL Amiens Centre Cathédrale. It’s located just outside the city center, a few steps from the cathedral. The hotel offers simple, contemporary-style rooms in a historic building with beamed ceilings. A buffet-style breakfast is usually available at an additional cost.