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Aisne (department 02) is located in the region of Picardie, neighbouring the Champagne-Ardenne, and has an estimated population of 535,489 (1999).
The department offers you a combination of nature and historical heritage and from the North to the South you will discover a variety of landscapes. With 2,000 kms of marked trails this makes the department ideal for bicycle touring or walking.
Why you should visit Aisne for your next holiday in France
The Aisne is 4th in France for its historical Buildings, châteaux, abbeys and it's Romanesque and fortified churches.
700 out of the 2,000 km of walking/hiking/biking trials have been listed in the appropriate 'topo-guides', good for those enjoying walking and biking.
The Aisne offers a good autoroute links to the great capitals of Europe A2, A26, A29 (Great Britain and the Benelux countries); A4 (Germany).
It is situated between 45 minutes and 2 hours driving from the famous international tourist attractions such as Disneyland and Walt Disney Studio, Paris and the Château of Versailles - the Astérix theme park.
The department of Aisne offers you a variety of activities and places to visit for you to enjoy.
What to see in Aisne
Laon is the capital town of the department, gated by its medieval walls. It is divided into an upper and lower town. The five amazing towers that you can see for miles around dominate the town.
One of the main attractions is the cathédrale Notre Dame in the upper town, which was built in the second half of the 12th century. You will enjoy meandering around the 18th century streets surrounding it and also the magnificent views in the surrounding area.
In the lower part of the town, which was re-built entirely after the destruction of the war, you will find the church of Saint Martin with fantastic views from the ramparts.
To get from the upper to the lower town you have the option to either climb the 427 steps or use a cable car.
Saint Quentin is a flourishing town, situated on a hill, with its own underground network of caves. It suffered during the war but thankfully the buildings which are the most impressive are still intact. Its place de l'hôtel de Ville is now totally traffic free and has an attractive late gothic looking Cathedral on its North side.
Not too be missed is the Musée Antoine-Lécuyer, where you will find a large collection of pastel portraits from leading artists. The waterway and railway system make Saint Quentin a major trading centre with Paris, the North and the East.
Soissons is one of the oldest towns in France. A lot of damage occurred during World War I, however it is a good place to visit for the old buildings which have been renovated.
As you go to the South of the city the rural atmosphere has been retained, in a rich farmland setting. You will find many parks and public gardens which are located within the ancient buildings. The most important is the Abbaye de St-Jean des Vignes dating from the 11th Century.
Noyon is a small historical French town. There you will find the prominent Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame from the 12th Century and a 16th century library, half-timbered which has a collection of 3,200 antiquarian books. You may wish to also visit the Musée Noyonnais where you will discover a large archaeological collection of Gallo-Roman artifacts.
Twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday, a market is held at the square in front of the hôtel de Ville where you will be able to buy delicious French products such as cheeses, charcuterie, fresh fruits and vegetables. On the first Tuesday of each month, a fair and cattle market takes place here and on the first Sunday in July, there is a strawberry festival.
If you wish to explore the surrounding countryside, a good way would to hire a bike, or why not try hiring a boat and gently rowing yourself along the river Oise.
This town has some magnificent and historically outstanding buildings. There are also lovely parks and gardens which the town is very proud of and especially of its natural heritage the Forest of Compiègne which surrounds the town.
If you are looking for some bargains then you will enjoy trawling the French markets in the town. There is also a flower market in the place de l'hôtel de Ville.
The most impressive building is the Château Compiégne, which stands in parkland with 3 museums. It was built for Louis XV and later on renovated and lived in by Napoléon.
The forest of Compiègne which comprises 16,000 hectares of oak and beech trees was once an enjoyable place for hunting for the Kings and Emperors of France, mostly Louis XV. Today you will see cyclists, walkers and fishermen as the forest provides the best cycling and walking routes and fishing.
How to get to Aisne
The nearest airports are Lille and Paris.
The ferry ports of Dieppe, Calais or Dunkirk are the most convenient for this area.
By Channel Tunnel
Take the Channel Tunnel from Folkestone to Calais.
Eurostar from London, Ebsfleet or Ashford if in the UK or from Paris if in France
To get to LAON from...
REIMS 40 min 62 km. Via the A26, direction Calais/Lille, Laon exit.
AMIENS 1hr 15 min, 122 km. Via the A29, then the A26, direction Reims, Laon exit.
ILLE 1hr 30 min, 157 km. Via the A1,then the A26, direction Reims, Laon exit.
PARIS 1hr 55 min, 140 km. Via the N2 trunk road, direction Soissons.