Northern France

The North of France may not be as sunny as the south, but it is renowned for the warmth and friendliness of its inhabitants. Due to the shifting of borders over the centuries, in the Nord-pas-de Calais area you’ll notice many Flemish influences, both architecturally and culturally, including in the cuisine and the dialect. Likewise, in the Alsace region you will find a strong German influence in the culture. As well as the wines of Alsace, such as Reisling and Gewurtztraminer, you'll also find Kronenbourg, which is brewed in this area, and German-style cuisine with dishes such as choucroute (sauerkraut) on the menu. Lorraine is of course famous for quiche lorraine, as well as potato-based dishes, and macaroons.

Lille is one of the historic cities of Flanders, and you’ll find many signs of its Flemish identity, in the architecture as well as the culture. The Flemish style belfry attacted to the Hotel de Ville in Lille is the tallest in Europe. Lille has many fine museums, and many people flock to Lille for its Braderie de Lille, the biggest fleamarket in Europe. Like Lille, the attractive market town of Arras also has a fine Flemish-style main square, and a listed belfry.

Strasbourg is a major city which lies in the most easterly part of France, and serves as a bridge between French and German cultures. The city is dominated by its sandstone gothic cathedral Notre-Dame of Strasbourg, while in the historic centre you’ll find many original black and white timber-framed buildings. The entire grand-île in the city centre known as Petit France in Strasbourg is listed as a Unesco monument. The city also hosts an annual Christmas Market, which is a popular and festive event.

In Lorraine, the city of Nancy has a particularly beautiful main square, Place Stanislas, which features on the Unesco world heritage list. The department's capital, Metz has enjoyed a rich history and is stuffed with interesting monuments. The new Pompidou-Metz Centre, which opened in June 2010 is an offshoot of the Pompidou Centre in Paris which benefits from the latter's fabulous collection, and is an absolute must-see.

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