Situated just two hours north of Paris, Valenciennes is a small, traditional French city with a big personality. At one time a textiles and coal community before being partially destroyed during WWII and rebuilt again, its architecture reflects this past: narrow brick buildings with some glassy modern structures interspersed. It’s presently become more of a center for the arts and culture, showing a remarkable ability for revival and the potential for further growth. Whether visiting here just for the day or taking more time to explore, Valenciennes is one off-the-radar place that might quickly become a favorite.
The Musée de Beaux Arts is one of the city’s primary attractions, so go here first and discover why. Mainly featuring the works of Valenciennes-born Rococo painter Jean-Antoine Watteau, Baroque pieces by Rubens and Carpeaux and collections of Flemish art — the largest in France outside of Paris — are also widespread throughout the halls. This city is known for its cuisine as well as its artists, so take a post-museum bakery break at Pâtisserie Gourmandine and try one of their specialities: the almond and candied chestnut cake and the apricot ganache chocolates are local favorites.
Later on, there’s the Michelin-starred Le Grignotière. This modern French restaurant on the city’s edge is overseen by a young couple with a taste for the creative and a strong dedication to what they do. The two employ a talented team of only 8 people and commit to a changing menu based on in-season products and new whims, so no matter what, there’s always something new and wonderful to order. Return to the city center and conclude at Le Phenix, a spaceship of a theater that acts as host to orchestras, plays, comedy acts, and more; nearly every day is something different.
Bring our Tripp crossbody bag along- it’s little yet resilient, just like Valenciennes.