Beauvais is the capital of the Oise department in Picardy, North East France within easy reach of Paris (50 miles/80 kilometres). Originally a small regional airport, Aéroport de Beauvais-Tillé is known as the third airport for Paris and is an important hub for several low cost airlines flying to all the major cities of Europe. The city lies at the foot of wooded hills on the left bank of the Thérain river where it joins with the Avelon. Beauvais has an interesting history of textile manufacturing dating back to medieval times and is also known as the “City of Tapestry Making” with the wool industry playing a huge part in the development of the community. Much of the original town, including the ancient ramparts, was destroyed in World War II but it has been rebuilt and boulevards now enclose a thriving city amid buildings of significant historical interest.
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Following its time under Gallo-Roman rule, Beauvais took its name from the Bellovacii tribe of Belgian origin. In the 9th century it became a countship and, from 1013, authority was given to the Bishops of Beauvais who became peers of France and attended the coronations of kings. During the 11th century, the Cathedral of St. Pierre was built which was partially ruined by fire in 1255. The bishops rebuilt it making it taller than any other church however, the vaults were too tall and it collapsed in 1272 and again in 1284. The cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, still looks unfinished with no nave or spire but has awe inspiring glassworks and ornate carved doorways which remain intact.
The second period of importance for Beauvais was in the late Renaissance when the textile industry flourished and the trades of stained glass and sculpture work were at their peak. During the 16th century 6 cathedrals were built in the district and the skills of the builders at this time can also be viewed in several of the remaining churches. The manufacture of musical instruments was an important link with religious institutions and feature in wooden carvings throughout the town.
Despite the fire of June 1940 which demolished many buildings, Beauvais still has some beautiful timbered houses, its 18th century Town Hall, St. Stephen’s Church and the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace. Post-war urban development has provided plenty of business opportunities in a modern environment and there is much for the visitor to enjoy, including retail therapy in the busy city centre shopping boutiques.
Dating from the Middle Ages, Beauvais’ most captivating architectural attraction is the Cathédral de Saint Pierre. It is in the heart of town and features the world’s tallest Gothic chancel (48.56m high). Famous for its astronomic clock inside the building, this amazing engineering work of art, built in 1868 by Lucien Vérité, has more than 90,000 synchronised components in a Roman-Byzantine case and 53 dials showing the planets’ positions throughout the day and night. There is also a spectacular chiming clock dating from 1302 which is the oldest of its kind still functioning. The cathedral houses a superb collection of tapestries which were originally created for the wealthy bourgeoisie and nobility of France and were exported to other parts of the world.
The Beauvais National Tapestry Works and Gallery (Galerie Nationale de Tapisserie), situated near the Cathedral on the remaining old city walls, shows contemporary exhibitions as well as displaying exquisite tapestries and textiles.
The Musée Departmental de l’Oise which is located in the Bishop’s Palace, contains interesting paintings and artefacts from local history and archaeology. It features medieval stone and wooden sculptures, Art Nouveau furniture and Delaherche pottery. The Church of St-Etienne has some remarkable Renaissance stained glass windows and sculptures.
The privately owned 16th century grand Château of Troissereux is surrounded by a water filled moat and has a 12 hectare garden with two canals. It has 45 species of trees and a collection of free wild birds making this a very special place to visit and one of the most natural parks in Picardy.
Other points of interest nearby are the 17th century chateau at Boury-en-Vexin, the medieval town of Gerberoy and the Benedictine Abbey of St. Germer-de-Fly.
For those looking for less culture-orientated leisure activities, Beauvais is rich with sporting facilities and there are excellent locations for walking, cycling and water sports – particularly in the newly opened Water Park. There is a new theatre and arts complex and a local market takes place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings in Place de Halles.
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The Oise is renowned for its local speciality food including delicious mustards flavoured with beer, cider or honey and sweet and savoury tarts. Wine from the Gerberoy district, Picardy’s AOC champagne and beer from Saint-Rieul in Trumilly are served in many of the excellent bars and restaurants. Dining in Beauvais offers visitors a choice of gourmet cuisine in stylish locations as well as bistro menus and pizzerias – something for every taste and occasion.
Because of its proximity to the airport, Beauvais has plenty of choice of medium priced hotels offering excellent facilities. There are also some very good B & Bs, Gites and apartments to rent within the vicinity of the town including camp sites for those who want to spend their time exploring the Oise area. There are family rooms in many of the hotels and weekend visits are particularly good value. For a treat, try the Château d’Auteil which is situated in the park near the Château de Troissereux and offers a very warm welcome in historic surroundings.
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Distance from Coquelles – 2hr 20min – 209km (Approx)
Beauvais Airport is located in Tille, a few miles from the town of Beauvais. It is known as ‘the Low Cost Airport’ with many flights to and from the UK and European capitals and is the budget traveller’s alternative to Charles-de-Gaulle or Orly.
By rail, Beauvais in only one hour from Paris; there is also a direct bus service leaving from Porte Maillot in Paris which takes about 3 hours.
Office de Tourisme du Beauvaisis
1 Rue Beauregard
Tel: Tel: +33 (0)3 44 15 30 30