Museums of Northern France

September 19, 2014

Enjoy spending the afternoon absorbing all that’s on display in a new museum? Northern France has a variety of museums that you can visit whether you’re on a day trip or passing through the region as you head out into Europe.

1) Regional Contemporary Art Fund called FRAC in Dunkirk

The Regional Contemporary Art Fund opened in November 2013 in Dunkirk. It is located in a brand-new building in the heart of the Grand Large district, between the town centre and the Malo-les-Bains beach. The FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais boasts an internationally renowned collection of more than 1,500 works of contemporary art.

2) Museum of drawing and original prints in Gravelines

Created in 1982, this is the only museum in France dedicated to original prints. Its permanent and temporary exhibitions are spread across several rooms in the military buildings of the Arsenal chateau. It displays a permanent collection of 13,000 prints from the 15th century to the present day.

The museum also offers cultural activities for all people of all ages (guided tours, workshops, courses, master classes, etc.).

3) International Centre of Lace and Fashion in Calais

Paying tribute to the town’s industrial heritage, the museum designed by the Pascal Payeur studio, invites visitors on a journey of immersion in the world of lace: its history, professions, creations – its present and its future. As well as a shop and restaurant, it contains an auditorium, a catwalk, a resource centre, cloth bank, leavers looms still in operation and a creator’s podium.

4) Departmental Museum of Flanders in Cassel

Located in Cassel, the department-funded Museum of Flanders possesses a huge collection of Flemish artworks from the 15th century to the present day. Since it was reopened in October 2010, its collections have been housed in one of the finest examples of Flemish architecture in the Nord-Pas de Calais. This museum is lively and dynamic as it hosts two exhibitions (a permanent one and a temporary one) and cultural events.

5) Museum La Piscine in Roubaix (near Lille)

A French collector grew passionate about the Danish painting art in the 19th century, so for a few years, he collected over 200 paintings illustrating the whole century. With big names as leaders (Abilgaard, Eckersberg, Lundbye, Melbye, Rorbye), such a collection has never been gathered in one place until now.

6) Museum Louvres-Lens in Lens

The Louvre-Lens opened December 12, 2012. The building of the Louvre-Lens, made with glass and aluminium, has been created by the architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of Sanaa agency. This museum houses a resource centre, documentations, conference rooms, screenings and also live performances. In the basement, the large window allows visitors to discover the reserves. On the ground floor, you will find the “Galerie du Temps” which is reserved for the collections from the Louvre in Paris and another room which is dedicated to temporary exhibitions. Two major international exhibitions are offered each year.

7) Museum of Fine Arts in Arras

The Museum of Fine Arts is particularly well known for its medieval sculptures, 17th century Dutch and French paintings, 18th century ceramics (porcelain from Arras and Tournai), 19th century landscape paintings and a relief map of the town made in 1716. The holdings also contain graphic arts, photography, ethnography, coins, seals, natural history, etc. Moreover, the building itself (the abbaye Saint-Vaast) is worth the visit.

8) Archaeological Museum Arkeos in Douai

This museum will offer exhibitions, workshops, and excavations on site, as well as a restaurant and a shop. Visitors will be able to discover a 75,000 m² site with medieval buildings and beautiful landscapes. It will take up to 15 years to obtain the exact reproduction of a medieval village.

The museum will open in June 2014, check on for more details.

9) Mining Museum in Lewarde

This historical centre plunges visitors into the world of coal mining with seven main exhibitions on different themes, guided tours of the mines and a chance to meet a former miner. It is the largest coal mining museum in France and the most visited tourist site in the Nord Pas de Calais region.

10) Antique Forum and Archaeological Museum in Bavay

Less than one hour away from Lille and Brussels, the Antique Forum of Bavay which is the largest Roman forum to be discovered in France, and the archaeological museum of the Nord department offer visitors the chance to travel back to Roman times.

You will find the Forum (esplanade, basilica and temple), the museum (two exhibitions rooms) and a 3D film which reconstitutes the Antique Forum.

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