Northern France has been a popular short break destination for British holidaymakers for many years. Regular cross-Channel ferry services from the Kent coast to Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk, together with high-speed Eurostar trains, make Le Nord and Picardy easy and affordable getaways from the UK. The region also makes a pleasant and convenient stop-off on self-drive tours into Belgium, Holland and Germany.
Lille is the region's economic powerhouse and a former European City of Culture. There's good shopping and a host of restaurants and cafes in and around the cobbled historic centre, Vieux Lille, alongside its modern commerce. Other regional attractions include some of France's most impressive Gothic cathedrals - such as the beautiful Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Amiens - and a reputation for robust cuisine and good beer.
The sandy coastline between Boulogne-sur-Mer and refined Le Touquet, once highly fashionable and still with plenty to offer visitors, is another possibility, and a relaxing place for a seaside break. Further up the coast is the port of Calais, an English possession for 200 years following the Battle of Crécy, and Dunkirk, scene of the Allied evacuation in 1940.
Also in the region are the First World War battlefields of the Somme and Flanders, where ‘the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row'. A guided tour of the battlefields and the immaculate memorials dedicated to the fallen soldiers is a humbling but rewarding experience.