The medieval town of Arras occupies a scenic hillside position on the River Scarpe in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of northern France. Originating as a village and grain-market surrounding the Benedictine monastery of St. Vaast founded in the seventh century, the town grew and prospered, gaining a royal commercial charter in the twelfth century and becoming renowned for its textile industry, fine tapestry, arts and culture.
Throughout its long history the ownership of Arras has been fiercely contested. In medieval times, successive conflicts saw the town fall into the possession of the County of Flanders, the Duchy of Burgundy, King Louis XI of France and the Spanish Habsburgs.
In the First World War, Arras became a British defensive stronghold with troops protected beneath the city thanks to Les Boves - a series of interconnected underground tunnels and chambers that were initially dug in the tenth century and which can be toured today.
Arras suffered significant damage during both the First and Second World Wars but its many historically significant buildings have been lovingly and painstakingly restored from original plans to their pre-war glory.
Nowadays Arras is a delightful town which rewards exploration and offers visitors many historic and cultural attractions. Close to the front line in World War I, Arras is a popular destination with visitors wishing to follow the 'Remembrance Circuit' of the nearby battlefields and memorials of the Somme.
This meticulously-maintained military cemetery to the south of Arras is a tranquil yet poignant reminder of the sacrifice so many young soldiers made for their country during World War I. The Arras Memorial bears the name of approximately 35,000 servicemen from the UK, South Africa and New Zealand who were lost in battle between 1916 and 1917 and have no formal grave.
Musee de Beaux-Arts
Located in the seventh-century Abbey of St. Vaast, the Musee de Beaux-Arts houses an unmissable collection of fine paintings, sculptures and objets d'art including masterpieces by Brueghel, Rubens, Rosseau and Delacroix. The museum also contains examples of the fine tapestries for which Arras became famous.
Place des Heros and Grand Place
At the heart of Arras two vast, cobbled squares reflect the influence of a period of Flemish rule over the town as both of these stunning public spaces are surrounded by buildings featuring stunning Flemish-Baroque architecture dating from the sixteenth century.
Arras Town Hall
Situated at one end of the magnificent Place des Heros, the Town Hall was originally completed in the sixteenth century but was destroyed during the war and subsequently rebuilt. Its Gothic bell tower, 77 metres tall, is UNESCO listed and can be climbed to obtain stunning panoramic views of Arras.