• France's news in English
Three reasons to go to Lens (when there's no football on)
Photo: Nicolas Dilles/Flickr

Three reasons to go to Lens (when there's no football on)

The Local · 16 Jun 2016, 07:40

Published: 16 Jun 2016 07:40 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Jun 2016 07:40 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The one town in France everyone will be talking about on Thursday is Lens.

It's the small coal mining town in northern France surrounded by slag heaps, where England play Wales in their Euro 2016 group match.

As a result some 50,000 fans are expected to descend on Lens, which only has a population of around 36,000.

Which means if you are not into football, today is not the day to visit Lens, but there is good reason to go another day.

Lens, which is pronounced differently to the lens you get in a camera - it kind of rhymes with the word "once" -  is located in the Pas-de-Calais département in the north of France - one of the country's poorest areas.

Lens is considered one of France’s large Picarde cities along with Lille, Roubaix and Arras.

So why should you visit lens and its fondly named residents, the Lensois?

1)   The Louvre-Lens

Forget Paris (well, momentarily); Lens has its very own Louvre. The polished aluminum and glass outside creates a very futuristic air for the gallery, which opened in December 2012.

It displays work from the collections from the Louvre in Paris on a regular basis and shares architectural similarities with its Parisian sibling. Its exhibits include the Galerie du Temps, which impressively aligns thousands of years of art from Antiquity to the Middle Ages through to the modern day in a single room.

The museum has also hosted various exhibitions about the Renaissance and Rubens. While it's far less known internationally than its sister museum in Paris, it's very much worth a visit nonetheless.

Photo: Patrick Bauduin/Flickr

2)   Cuisine 

Although guidebooks may have previously directed you to southern France for some especially French delicacies, the north of France offers a wealth of excellent food.

In Lens you can wash down some fresh seafood with Flemish Ale (or kill two birds with one stone and order a Carpe à la bière). Lonely Planet recommends the rustic Au Bouchot and Le Cesarine restaurants, which they claim serve up “some of the best local food in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais”.

3)  Plains and slag heaps

Lens, believe it or not, is at the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin, which was added to the list in 2012.

Those slag heaps we mentioned are clearly worth checking out.

Here's what UNESCO says: "Remarkable as a landscape shaped over three centuries of coal extraction from the 1700s to the 1900s, the site consists of 109 separate components over 120,000 hectares."

Story continues below…

Although the boast of “Europe’s highest slag heaps” might not quite tickle your fancy, the plains of Lens have begun to attract tourists to the region. 

Scarred and shaped by the mining history of the area, they’re an interesting area to hike, walk and explore. Asides from mining, many served as battlefields on the Western Front during the First World War, offering a unique insight into the last warfare of its kind.

Their historical importance and unusual beauty are worth a visit.

Photo: CDautriche/Flickr

So once the football is over, don't all forget about Lens. Ironically the city is also known for it's local football team RC Lens, whose fans are considered some of noisiest and most loyal in France.

So there is actually footballing reason to go to Lens, if you need one.

By Marianna Spring

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available