Lens is one of the large Picardie cities which include Lille, Amiens and Arras and is situated near to the border with Belgium. The city’s original wealth was built on coal mining which was carried out in the region between 1849 and 1986. In 2012 a rejuvenation of Lens began with the opening of a satellite of the Louvre in Paris.
Driving from Dunkirk or Calais to Lens is just 100 km so either of our routes from Dover are ideal. Cross from Newhaven to Dieppe and the drive is a little over two hours. You’re also well placed to visit Disneyland® Paris which is around the same distance away.
WHY VISIT LENS?
Having undergone quite an economic slump after the closure of the last coal mine in 1986 the city of Lens has been reinvigorated by the arrival of the Louvre-Lens in 2012. This satellite gallery of the more famous Paris museum has given real impetus to the tourist industry. It’s also one of the reasons why the whole area has been granted the status of “Land of Art and History” by the French government.
One of the best ways to discover the city, and all it has to offer, is to take one of the many organised walks organised by Lens tourism which will show you all the main sights as well as some great examples of art deco architecture.
The many slag heaps which circle the city are a reminder of the area’s mining past and are now being overtaken by nature as plants grow and wildlife thrives on their slopes. Many are also easy to climb and give great views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
The area’s cuisine has both French and Flemish influences with pork a key ingredient in many dishes. Beer is also widely used in everything from savoury recipes to desserts.
WHAT TO SEE IN LENS
Of all the things to do in Lens, one stands out above all others. In fact it would be fair to say that it is the key reason most people add the city to their itinerary.
The Louvre-Lens was opened in 2012 as a reaction to a feeling that culture in France is too focused on Paris. Cities around the country were invited to bid to have a mini- Louvre in their town and Lens was the winner. As a result, the Japanese architects SANNA were commissioned to design the six low-rise buildings in glass and aluminium that make up the gallery on the former site of one of the area’s biggest collieries.
The gallery displays over 200 masterpieces from the Louvre’s collections which are changed from time to time. Visit and you’ll find a wide range including paintings, sculpture and other objets d’art.
If you still have a thirst for culture after your visit then head for the Espace Francois Mitterand located in the heart of the city. It’s a centre for music, dance and other performance arts with a frequently changing programme of events.
Much of the fighting in the First World War took place in the area so, not surprisingly, there are also many memorials to visit. One of these, the Necropole Nationale de Notre Dame de Lorette, is the largest collection of war graves in France with over 20,000 spread across the huge area it covers. Here you will also see a memorial designed by the renowned architect Philippe Prost to the 580,000 soldiers who fell in the region.
WHERE TO STAY IN LENS
There’s a reasonable choice of hotels in Lens suiting a wide range of budgets and tastes. You'll find many Lens hotels, when you visit our partner, Booking.com.
Prices are subject to availability. Credit card & telephone booking fees apply. Terms & Conditions apply.
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