100 years after the bloody Battle of Arras during the World War I, Arras is now one of the most beautiful cities in France. Despite its turbulent and depressing past, the capital of the Pas de Calais region of France is one of the best side trip destinations from Paris. Our suggested itinerary is designed to show you the best the city has to offer and what are the things you can accomplish in 3 days. Depending on your interests and travel priorities, you can certainly mix and match destinations, activities, and attractions to create your own itinerary.
Things to know before traveling to France:
Speak French first – People who start babbling in English without even attempting to speak French first are seen very rude in France. Learn to say some basic French greetings and ask politely whether the person speaks some English. Neglecting to greet a person in French, whether you are asking the cost of a particular stuff or just asking directions, will likely get an undesired response. When you enter or exit a store or restaurant, do not forget to say “bonjour” and “au revoir”. Remember these handy phrases:
Bonjour. S’il vous plaît… (Hello, please…)
Parlez-vous anglais ? (Do you speak English?)
Merci (Thank you!)
Currency exchange – France uses the euro, the same currency now used by most European Union countries with the exception of the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Prior to travelling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks to get the best rates. You can also use the ATMs at all main squares of every town, major airports and train stations.
Etiquette – For first time visitors, it is important to remember some do’s and dont’s to enjoy a faux pas free journey in France. Always greet with titles unless you’re on familiar terms with them. In France men are addressed as Monsieur (Mister) and women as Madame (Mrs./Ms.) or Mademoiselle (Miss). The French eat slowly. When eating at restaurants, the French servers will never ask “are you finished with that?” because for them, eating is a pleasure, not a task.
Getting around – Being a relatively small city, Arras can be easily explored on foot or on a bicycle You can either bike on your own or you can join one of the guided biking tours offered in the city. If you are on a luxury vacation, consider hiring a driver to take you around Arras. This option is expensive, but it will give you complete control of the trip.
Accommodation – There are many types of holiday accommodation in Arras, from luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like bed and breakfasts and inns. There are also plenty of apartment rentals if you prefer the comfort and convenience of having your own place with cooking facilities. What’s the best area to stay in? If you are going to follow our suggested itinerary, we recommend a stay in the historical center since all of the main sights are so close to each other and can be easily reached on foot. Hotels near Arras Train Station are also good options for visitors who want to stay in the center of the action.
Where to stay in Arras:
Hotel Mercure Arras Centre Gare (58 boulevard Carnot, 62000, Arras, France)
Ibis Arras Centre Les Places (11 rue de Justice | Place Ipswich, 62000, Arras, France)
Hotel Les Trois Luppars (49 Grand Place, 62000, Arras, France)
Premiere Classe Arras – Saint-Laurent-Blangy – Parc Expo (Allee du Velodrome | Parc des Rosati, 62223 Saint-Laurent-Blangy, Arras, France)
Hotel de l’Univers (3 Place de la Croix Rouge, 62000, Arras, France)
Day by Day Itinerary: Best of Arras, France in 3 Days
On your first day, take in a few of Arras’ most famous attractions and get an introduction to its rich history. Getting to Arras from major French cities like Paris is easy. Its excellent infrastructures and location make it a place easy to reach by various transportation options. By TGV high-speed train, the average travel time between Arras and Paris is approximately 50 minutes and it costs 21 EUR each way (23 USD). Trains depart from The Paris Nord Train Station (Gare du Nord), which is well connected to the airports around Paris as well with the rest of Europe by train. Depending on your time of arrival, you can either take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in Arras or you can begin your tour of its famous attractions.
There is no better way to get to know the city than joining The Battle of Arras Centenary Tour, a guided tour of the battlefields and the site of some of the most significant memorials from the World War I. From 9 April to 16 June 1917, Arras played an important role in British offensive and became a British garrison town. This tour will give you an opportunity to explore the underground tunnels expanded by tunnel-diggers from New Zealand. These tunnels were used to hide British soldiers and when they finally launched a surprise attack, the German forces were forced to withdraw by about 10 kilometers. After you historic tour, end the day at Le Beffroi d’Arras, a perfect place for sunset viewing where you can get a stunning panoramic view of Arras and the major battle grounds of WWI.
On your second day, embark on one of the most interesting day trips from Arras and learn about the Battle of the Somme that took place on 1 July 1916 and was one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War. The majority of the day will be spent exploring key sites of the Somme battlefields, where there are numerous historic landmarks. One of the must visit is the Thiepval Interpretation Center, a great educational attraction that will surely give you better understanding of the Battle of the Somme. Do not miss to pay your respect at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, tribute to all Newfoundlanders who fought during WW1 and Pozieres Ridge, where Australian forces fought the Germans. To appreciate the historical relevance of the Battle of Somme battlefield tour, we recommend a guided tour, which can be arranged prior to your trip.
Today marks the end of your Arras adventure. If your travel back to Paris is in the afternoon or evening, then explore the city for other attractions you might have missed. Visit the Grand Place d’Arras, the main hub of Arras full of old Baroque Flemish buildings, cafe and restaurants. Head to the adjacent Place des Heros, the other main square in the city. If you still have time before your departure, do not miss to take a quick visit to Musee de Beaux-Arts (The Museum of Fine Art), which houses a vast collection of historical paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
This is the end of our 3-day suggested itinerary. You may extend your holiday for as long as you prefer or until you get to see all attractions that interest you. Take time to meet the locals, sample the best French dishes and learn more about the history of the city. If the pace gets too hectic, then reorder your sightseeing priorities. Happy travel!
Have you been to Arras or anywhere else in France? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: The citadel, as part of the “Fortifications of Vauban” group – UNESCO World Heritage Site of France. The Citadel of Arras is built by Vauban from 1668 to 1672, to defend the town of Arras (Pecold / Shutterstock.com)