Places to visit

and outdoor leisure

Outdoor Leisure
The countryside and coastline of Nord/Pas-de-Calais offers good opportunities for all kinds of outdoor and sporting pursuits. The region has invested heavily in improving its sport-training and leisure facilities.

Along the coast you can try sand-yachting and sailing - whilst inland you can follow attractive waymarked routes through the varied countryside for walkers and cyclists, or explore the waterways in hire boats.

Football: Lens Racing Club scores a goal!

Crowds of 35-40,000 drawn from all over the North support the region's only first division football team

Rugby and football
The industrial North has traditionally been a rugby region. The game was imported from Britain in the late 19th century (after France's defeat in 1870 - see "
Timeline"). By the 1920's, major clubs were sponsored by rich industrialists and star players enjoyed national fame. Regional rivalries were played out on the rugby pitch, particularly between the socialist north and the traditionalist south-west. During the second world war, the Vichy regime and the German occupiers seized the property of many northern professional rugby clubs. These were never returned, with the result that in France the game is mainly played by amateurs - rugby union, rather than league.

Today, football has become easily the most popular sport in France. There are many successful professional teams, as well as lots of amateur clubs playing in local leagues.

At present Lens is the only town in the Nord-Pas de Calais region with a football team in the French First Division [1998-9 season]. Huge crowds come to its football stadium to watch famous clubs such as Paris SG, Marseille, Le Havre, Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse and Metz play the home team.

Lille were relegated to Division 2 in 1997, joining Wasquenal (near Dunkerque), and Amiens and Beauvais from nearby Picardy. The Lens stadium has the biggest seating capacity in the region.

The French team won the 1998 World Cup playing at home in Paris. This gave an enormous boost to interest in football throughout France - average gates have grown from an average of 14,000 towards the European average of 30,000. As in UK, football has become big business with huge funds coming from TV coverage, increasingly on pay-per-view cable and satellite channels.

Paris-Roubaix cycle race: the famous cobbled stretch

Cycle races also attract very large audiences in France. Famous races in Nord-Pas de Calais include:
Paris - Roubaix

Places to visit:
Aqualud - swimming and watersports, Le Touquet
Bike rides - leisure cycling: safe routes, off-road trails, signed circular routes on quiet roads, bikes on trains
Cycle racing - racing, Tour de France and other famous events
Football - Lens Racing Club, the North's first division team
Golf -
Horse-riding - traditional heavy horses, and horse-riding facilities
Loisinord - artificial ski slopes & water-sports centre, near Bethune.
Sailing facilities along the Flanders coast - at Dunkerque, Gravelines and Ghyvelde
Sand-yachting along the beaches of Flanders
Sea angling- at Dunkerque and Gravelines
Ski-ing: artificial ski slopes near Bethune ("Loisinord")
Sportica - huge sports centre at Gravelines

Nature parks:
Adomarois - near Saint-Omer
Boulonnais - near Boulogne & 'Entre Deux Caps' area
Parc Val Joly - Avenois Nature Park, near Avesnes
Saint-Amand - Nature Park

Related background information
Waterways - hire boats and river trips




A-Z © Copyright 1999-2000 Invicta Media Last updated 18th February 2000