Arras is a perfect small town to leave the car and walk around. The two main squares are unique in Europe, lined with columned arcades and 155 houses in the luxurious Baroque Flemish style. In the cobbled square of Heras, travel back in time through the Timescope virtual reality station, which transports you to the year 1518 to take in the sights and sounds of medieval Arras, when the town’s belfry was being built. Voted France’s favorite monument in 2015, the UNESCO-listed bell tower’s 75-metre-high platform is the perfect spot for a drink with stunning views of the city.

Beneath it is the town hall with a fascinating bright Gothic facade. Restored after it was destroyed during the First World War, the interior has exquisite Art Deco rooms that you can visit. And don’t forget to check out the famous giants of the north, representing famous local and historical figures. These UNESCO-listed figures are the pride and joy of northern France. Made of willow and papier-mâché, they stand guard outside the tourist office on the first floor.

Below is Les Boves, a labyrinth of underground galleries first excavated in the 9th century. Take a tour to learn about the history of these former chalk quarries, which were once used for religious services before becoming warehouses for wealthy merchants and then barracks for soldiers during the First World War.

Behind the town hall is the Saint-Vaast Cultural Center, which is home to an excellent Museum of Fine Arts and Media Library. And in two steps from here, pass by the house where the local boy Maximilien Robespierre, the “terror” of the French Revolution, lived in 1787-1798.

The 17th-century UNESCO-listed citadel of Arras is the handiwork of Louis XIV’s legendary military engineer Vauban. This city within a city has been given a new lease of life as a community center with homes and businesses including a cheese factory, a treetop adventure center and a honey farm. It is also where the Main Square, the famous Arras music festival, is held every year.

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