The town of Saint-Omer and its surroundings have not stolen the label of Pays d'Art et d'Histoire! The town, founded in the XNUMXth century, testifies through its stones and its landscapes, to its many centuries of existence! This is why Saint-Omer and more generally, the Audomarois, offer everyone many getaways that will delight lovers of nature, history, architecture and the arts.
A city on the move, Saint-Omer has many bars and restaurants as well as a plethora of activities. Moreover, we invite you to discover here good addresses in Saint-Omer and Clairmarais located near our docks and our workshop.
Here is our top 10 things to do, see and visit in Saint-Omer.
Of course, the first curiosity to discover in Saint-Omer remains its marsh, a natural space of more than 3700 hectares streaked with hundreds of kilometers of rivers, forming an enormous labyrinth. The only market gardening marsh in France, the marsh of Saint-Omer is therefore cultivated, inhabited, has a wild facet, a resort facet, expanses of pasture dedicated to breeding... Here and there, vestiges of the past remain such as old mills… The two suburbs, Lyzel and Haut-Pont lend themselves to photography… The fauna and flora can be discovered in a different way in all seasons…
This marsh can be visited by traditional boat (the escute and the bacôve), freely or with a guide. For this, go to our workshop which, too, opens its doors to the public. Discover with us the boats, their history, the construction techniques as well as the shipyards.
Not far from the city center, the house of the marsh presents, as for it, a permanent exhibition and temporary exhibitions on the birds, the fish, the life of the market gardeners as well as the forgotten trades.
Let's stay in the Audomarois marsh and head for Clairmarais. It is in this aptly named little village near Saint-Omer that the gateway to the Romelaere natural park is located. This space originates from old peat bogs exploited in the 800th century before the arrival of coal. The extraction of 000 tonnes of peat has left its mark there and today 30 hectares of ponds are a former quarry.
Spread over just over a hundred hectares, the Romelaere Nature Reserve certainly includes lakes, but also wet meadows, watergangs, reedbeds... A true concentrate of what can be found in the marsh. This environment is conducive to the reception of many species of birds (storks, marsh harrier, little bittern), fish, odonates, bats, frogs... The flora is not left out with its water lilies, bladderwort, phragmites, cattails and pollard willows...
The Romelaere nature reserve has three small educational trails dotted with bird observation posts. These trails are laid out with gratings and pontoons to facilitate access for people with disabilities (wheelchairs). Interpretation tables in relief and Braille also allow the visually impaired to visit the site.
At the entrance to the site, rue du Romelaere, the Grange Nature acts as the gateway to the reserve.
This structure managed by Eden 62 is a space to highlight the natural wealth of the department. It offers exhibitions, conferences or events throughout the year. A shop also allows you to buy stuffed animals like marsh animals, books, cards, souvenirs...
Founded in the XNUMXth century by Saint-Omer (Audomar) on the hill of Sithieu, the Notre-Dame chapel
quickly became an important place of pilgrimage. This chapel will then give way to a Romanesque church, then to the current Notre-Dame des miracles cathedral. Built between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, it displays all the currents of Gothic architecture (primitive, radiant, flamboyant).
Lovers of religious heritage will not fail to contemplate the richly decorated interior, the monumental nave, the treasures of sacred art and two breathtaking pieces of furniture: the organ case, built in the 1840th century, and the astronomical clock. Both are unique pieces testifying to an excellent know-how! It is not for nothing that the cathedral of Saint-Omer is recognized as one of the richest in France. It was classified on the first list of historical monuments in XNUMX.
In terms of dimensions, the Cathedral of Saint-Omer is 22,9 meters high under the vault, 105 meters long and 51 meters wide. Its tower measures 55 meters.
The Grand Place de Saint-Omer is the nerve center of the Audomaroise city. Located in the heart of the old town, it has many bars and restaurants and its adjacent streets lead to all the old quarters of the city.
On the square, majestically stands the neoclassical town hall, hiding inside an incredible Italian theater with more than 300 seats. Closed to the public until 2018, the theater is getting a makeover after long decades of closure and presents a rich cultural program. The name of the Saint-Omer theatre? The "Coffee Mill", in reference to the nickname given to the town hall in the XNUMXth century because of its shape.
Saint-Omer presents a set of urban habitats whose architecture bears witness to the history of the town. Lose yourself in the medieval and winding streets, stroll along the historic arteries, look up, observe! Here a house displays a classic style, there a baroque style or a purely Flemish style! The monuments participate in the enchantment: we will cite, among others, the various churches (Saint-Sépulcre, Saint-Denis, the Immaculate Conception, the colossal chapel of the Jesuits), the courthouse, the former episcopal palace, the he Sandelin hotel, the motte castrale, the ruins of the Saint-Bertin abbey…
Also take the time to observe the old signs as well as the many facades, decorated with window keys, mascarons... An exotic walk, a journey through the ages!
At the end of the 1892th century, Saint-Omer was still a fortified town. The first “hard” fortifications date from the Renaissance (under Charles V). These were reworked by Vauban. After the Franco-Prussian war, it turned out that this type of ramparts was no longer really useful and that it prevented the extension of cities. This is why it was decided to dismantle the fortifications of Saint-Omer. This operation lasted from 1894 to 1893 and made it possible to connect the suburbs to the city while creating peripheral boulevards. A part of the fortifications of Saint-Omer was however preserved in the south of the city in order to serve as a setting for a public garden whose installation began in 20. Spreading today over XNUMX hectares, the public garden of Saint -Omer includes an English garden, a French garden, an arboretum of a hundred rather rare species, a bandstand, flower mosaics, an animal park, sports grounds installed on the old glaze…
The public garden of Saint-Omer offers a peaceful walk not to be missed!
Installed since 1904 in the private mansion of Mrs. Sandelin (XNUMXth century), Viscountess of Fruges, this museum of France conceals many treasures. This is a museum dedicated to decorative arts, fine arts and the history of Saint-Omer.
The Sandelin Museum is divided into several parts:
– The basement presents the history of the city, models and architectural elements.
– The ground floor houses paintings from the XNUMXth century, XNUMXth century and XNUMXth century in rooms
of time. The furniture also exhibited and staged immerses us in the life of a noble family of yesteryear.
– The first floor contains an important exhibition of earthenware, porcelain and ceramics from Saint-Omer, Lunéville, Rouen… This collection is made up of 4 pieces. Due to its size, it is exposed in rotation.
The setting for these collections, a superb 1950th century private mansion, has been listed as a historical monument since the XNUMXs. town of Saint Omer. On the other side, the building opens onto a French garden.
Please note that this building cannot be visited freely. It is only accessible during guided tours organized by the Pays d'Art et d'Histoire service.
The motte is an artificial and defensive mound more than 6 m high installed in the Middle Ages at the top of Mount Sithiu. It will serve as the foundations for the first castle founded in the 1000th century by Bauduin, the first Count of Flanders, after the Viking invasions. Around the year XNUMX, the mound will house the seat of the châtellenie (administrative and judicial district placed under the authority of a castellan).
In the 1762th-XNUMXth century, the site overlooking the fortifications was converted into a shooting terrace for cannons. Then a military prison will be built at the top in XNUMX. Today, the prison houses artists in residence. The courtyard and the garden are the scene of cultural events, such as the Jazz Festival of Saint-Omer.
This very imposing chapel was built from 1615 to 1640 by Jean du Blocq who was, at the time, architect of the Society of Jesus. The building, whose architecture is based on the church of Gesu in Rome (like any Jesuit church), adjoined the Walloon Jesuit college and the English Jesuit college, which once enjoyed considerable influence. Founding fathers of the United States, the Carroll brothers and their cousin, even studied there in the 1740s.
The Jesuit chapel of Saint-Omer is a typically Baroque building with a monumental facade on five levels. It is 61 meters long.
Since the XNUMXth century, this building has been completely desecrated. It is now a place dedicated to concerts, cultural exhibitions and receptions.
Discover the two suburbs of Saint-Omer which are sometimes called the “little Venice of the North”.
These two suburbs have had a common history intimately linked to the town of Saint-Omer and the development of the marsh.
In Saint-Omer, it is possible to rent a gyropod (Segway) with Mobilboard to discover the city in an original way. In Clairmarais, 4 km from Saint-Omer, the Belles Escapees rent Californian bicycles, tandems, electric solex and two-horse to discover the Audomaroise city and the marshes in a different way.
In Helfaut, about ten kilometers from Saint-Omer, a former V2 launch base has now been transformed into a war museum dealing with the occupation, the Second World War, and the invention of the V1 and V2. This museum is also dedicated to the conquest of space and has an incredible 3D planetarium!
For the record, the Coupole d'Helfaut bunker was built by Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1944 to serve as a launch base for V2 rockets targeting London and the South of England. The part that can be visited is a reinforced concrete dome several meters thick.
The complex was designed to house a large arsenal of rockets, fuel and ammunition and was to be able to launch V2s at an industrial rate. Fortunately, the Allied bombardments within the framework of Operation Crossbow prevented the Germans from
complete the work. The blockhouse will be abandoned and partly destroyed on the orders of Churchill.
The site will be transformed in 1997 into a museum and opened to the public. The themes are diverse: the war, of course, but also the occupation and the Shoah. Being a former V2 base, the Dome also highlights the history of space conquest and the invention of rockets by Wernher von Braun. It also houses a 3D planetarium showing films in 10 K. Thanks to this equipment, the Dome of Helfaut can boast of having the highest definition planetarium in the world in 2021!
On the outskirts of Saint-Omer, it is possible to visit a high-tech brewery brewing millions of hectoliters each year: the Goudale brewery.
If Saint-Omer was known for its beer, it became during the 2010s one of the first brewing centers in France. Indeed, the Saint-Omer brewery, owned by the Pecqueur family, bought the Gayant de Douai brewery, well known for its Goudale. A huge, ultra-modern brewery was built in Arques following the acquisition in order to boost the production of Gayant's renowned beers. From now on, the Saint-Omer brewery produces, among others, the St-Omer beer, the master brewer, the Triple Secret des Moines, the Belzebuth and… the famous Goudale. By the way, did you know that the brand meant "Good beer" in the Middle Ages? This beverage, when it was of good quality, was indeed called goude-ale. A distortion of the English term “good ale”.
The brewery can be visited today for groups and individuals.
Qualified as the ancestor of Gin, Juniper is an eau de vie flavored with juniper berries. A typical northern alcohol that is associated with Flemish diabolo (violet, lemonade and juniper) as well as bistoule. This last cocktail is none other than the drop coffee very popular in popular circles.
The invention of juniper that we know today dates back to the 1713th century. Jenever did not arrive in France until after the Revolution, in XNUMX Louis XIV decreed a ban on its
kingdom to make and sell spirits other than those from the vine. In 1800, there were already around a hundred distilleries in the region, but it was at this time, in 1817, that that of Houlle was born. At that time, the distillery served to distil the surplus of the cereal harvest and to avoid storage problems.
Since then, the famous distillery located on the edge of the marsh has made its merry way and multiplies the liqueurs and alcohols awarded world prizes. Labeled Living Heritage Company (just like the Makers of Boats), it offers individual and group visits all year round.
We will only mention here a few ideas for unmissable outings around Saint-Omer, of which there are many!