Nord-Pas-De-Calais always seems a little undervalued, many people have heard of it, or have driven through it, but have never often spent holidays there. Although this area has beautiful gems to visit and is very easy to reach from the Netherlands or England. And because I am regularly in Northern France, it is nice to explore all these beautiful places and write something about it.
For example, I’m a huge fan of the medieval town of Montreuil-sur-Mer, which is only a 45-minute drive from the Euro Tunnel in Coquelles. Despite the name, Montreuil-sur-Mer is no longer directly at the sea. It was built on an estuary that was clogged long ago. But known coastal towns such as Berck-sur-Mer and Le Touquet-Paris-Plage are still just a stone’s throw away from the town.
Characteristic of Montreuil-sur-Mer is that it’s the setting for a part of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. Hugo spent many holidays in the city and fell in love with her charming character. Much of this fortified city remains unchanged compared to the time of Hugo’s Jean Valjean. Montreuil-sur-Mer is largely built within the large ramparts that have been the scene of many wars and tragedies for centuries. Every year at the end of July and the beginning of August visitors get the unique opportunity to see Les Misérables perform in a spectacular open air show – a must for fans of the musical.
Personally, I always love to walk around in Montreuil-sur-Mer. The narrow streets, lined with beautiful buildings from the 17th century make this city one of the most beautiful in northern France. There are good restaurants, large churches, museums, nice boutiques, delicious choice of patisseries and chocolateries and enough accommodation to spend the night.
I have never stayed the night in Montreuil-sur-Mer, since my parents’ holiday home is just a 40 minutes drive away. But spending a day in this town can also be enough to get a good impression. The walk that you can make over the 3km long fortresses around the city offer a beautiful view of the surroundings and give a special insight into the history of Montreuil-sur-Mer. A visit to the adjacent Citadelle is also indispensable and definitely fun to go to with children.
If you walk over the fortresses, you can go down half way to one of the many picturesque streets, such as Cavée Saint Firmin. A narrow street that rises steeply with colorful houses and boxes full of flowers on both sides. Like you’re walking in a village in the south of France.
When you walk a little more towards the center you will find the Saint-Saulve abbey Church. This church was part of a Benedictine abbey founded in the 11th century in Montreuil-sur-Mer. In the meantime, the church had undergone many renovations and almost nothing remained of the abbey buildings themselves.
If you continue you’re route via Rue de Changé you’ll enter Rue du Clape-en-Bas and Rue du Clape-en-Haut. Again striking cute streets, with white, small houses and colorful window frames. In the past there were potters and clothing makers, now you will find workshops and small eateries such as creperie, Le Clan des Elfes, and café-restaurant Le Pot du Clape.
This French town is characterized as a real gastronomic city. During your walk through Montreuil-sur-Mer, there are plenty of excuses for a coffee break, a lunch, an aperitif or delicious dining. I’m a big fan of restaurant Anecdote, which is run by local kitchen star Alexandre Gauthier. On the lunch and dinner menu you will find traditional dishes, but with a modern twist. Mostly inspired by the dishes of his father, who is the former owner of La Grenouillère. (see below) – 1, cour des Juifs/Cour de l’Hermitage, tel. +33 (0)3 21 86 65 80
Another acquisition in Montreuil is Froggy’s, also by Alexandre Gauthier. This restaurant is known for its meat-roasted meat dishes. It is a lot smaller than Anecdote, but has a very cozy bistro atmosphere with cozy outdoor terrace. – 51 bis, place du Général de Gaulle, tel. +33 (0)3 21 86 72 32
If you want to go for an ultimate food experience, visit La Granouille, France’s elite of Michelin-starred restaurants. The restaurant, which is located outside the city, is also led by the young chef Alexandre Gauthier, who took over the restaurant from his father in 2003. The dishes are true works of art and the special combinations emphasize his passion to create new flavors with local products and herbs from nature. If you want to reserve a table, please take into account a waiting period of 2 months. Tip: go for lunch, which usually still works. Choice of 8 or 11-course menu. – Rue de la Grenouillère, La Madeleine-sous-Montreuil, tel. +33 (0)3 21 06 07 22
When you’re fond of chocolate just like me, then you should really visit Chocolaterie Beussent-Lachelle on the Place de Darnétal. This bonbon jeweler offers a large assortment of homemade chocolates with original flavors and designs. – 10, place de Darnétal
Prefer a pastry? Then walk in at Le Salon Rodière, a place where people come from heath and far to taste the irresistible pastries from owner Mathieu Delenclos. Just worth seeing. – 77, rue Pierre Ledent
Wine lovers can find their delight at La Cave de Montreuil, a wine shop with a huge selection of wines and champagnes from all regions of France and beyond. Plus a collection of more than 300 types of whiskeys, rum and spirits. In addition to a shop, La Cave de Montreuil also offers a wine bar where you can order special wines by the glass. – 11, place du Général de Gaulle
When you are in Montreuil, be sure to visit the cheese shop Caseus at Place du Général de Gaulle. This is undisputedly the best dairy store in the region. A beautiful shop where they sell fresh yoghurt, cream and more than 300 types of cheeses. We never left Montreuil-sur-Mer without having bought cheese at this store. – 14, Place du Général de Gaulle
If you visit Montreuil during the weekend, then the local market on Saturday morning is also a pleasure to walk around. – Place du Général de Gaulle
Montreuil-sur-Mer is perfect for a day trip, weekend or short break and is easily accessible from England. The city can be explored within a few days and the seaside resorts in the nearby area provide a varied program for the whole family.