Demilitarised in 2010, the Citadel of Arras has been transformed into a stronghold with a green heart. This former military site has become an other district of the city, where people come to enjoy walks with family and friends. Cycling, walking, running and leisure activities: it’s a great place to walk, to breath in the fresh air and to recharge your batteries in a natural setting away from the hubbub of urban life.
The Citadel of Arras: a green heart
Go on, put on your trainers and set off on an adventure, on foot or by pedal power, along the footpaths of the Citadel of Arras. !
Sheep on the slopes, joggers in the avenues, ducks in the moats: very far removed from the military past this fortress has known! Since the last regiment left this place, nature has reasserted itself thanks to the efforts of the Urban Community of Arras, which manages the site. This 72-hectare site, including 45 hectares of woods and 12 within the walls, attracts walkers and sports enthusiasts, joggers and cyclists who all come here to commune with nature.
Here, you will find a model of the Citadel and discover its full history. Next, simply climb the staircases provided on the upper levels to set off on an assault of the five bastions. From the outset, the ramparts path (approximately 1.5 km) offers a fine panoramic view of the belfry and the bell tower of the Church of Saint-Nicolas-les-Arras. A further six viewing points are dotted along the route. The one at the tip of the Bastion de la Reine is particularly popular: it looks directly over the longest zip line in the region! Thrills to be had at the Cit’Loisirs treetop adventure centre.
Walk around a star-shaped route
Much longer, the Tour des douves et du bois (walk around the Citadel moats and wood), is approximately 3 km long and offers numerous route options. It takes in the Hautes Fontaines park, the Polygone wood, the edges of the nature reserve (access not permitted) and the banks of the River Crinchon, a tributary of the Scarpe.
At one time it supplied water to the eastern side of the Citadel and today it forms a rural wetland site. The moats, ramparts, wood and meadows are all home to an astonishingly diverse fauna, including bats and newts.
Sentinel of biodiversity
If you did not come across them near the Porte Royale, you are bound to see them on the slopes and paths of the Citadel!
Tended by a shepherdess, a flock of Ouessant sheep grazes the steep slopes of the Citadel, maintaining them ecologically and kindly. In the Bastion Saint-Fiacre, a former powder store has been given a new and much more peaceable purpose!
It is home to Cit’Abeille, an educational honey farm which also keeps a flock of Chèvres des Fossés (“ditch goats”), a fast-disappearing rustic breed. Alexandre and Suzy have found the Citadel to be a perfect setting for sharing their ecological commitment through workshops and custom arranged visits. For example, the goats are helping to control an invasive plant, Japanese knotweed. Or how to turn a military citadel into a refuge and a weapon for spreading the word about nature far and wide.
The Citadel, leisure activities, in practice
- Walks: The Tour des Bastions (walk around the Bastions) and the Tour des douves et du boisde la Citadelle (walk around the Citadel moats and wood).
- Intersecting walking routes: the « Au fil du Crinchon » hiking trail, 17 km, 4 hours 15 minutes and the « Jardins et Monuments » hiking trail, 8 km, 2 hours 30 minutes.
- The Chemin des 2 Eaux (“Path of the 2 Waters”) linking the River Crinchon and the River Scarpe (this is not a loop).
- Leisure activities: Timescope on the Place d’Armes; the Cit’Loisirs treetop adventure centre; Cit’Abeilles educational honey farm