With a privileged position in the heart of economic Europe, only a few hours away from Brussels, Amsterdam or London, Valenciennes is a city with a rich cultural past. With its unique architecture, beautiful cobbled streets and numerous parks and green spaces, the capital of French Hainaut has everything to please. With a strong mining heritage, the city is also part of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais mining basin, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With JOOKS, discover the Athens of the North thanks to the sports and tourist routes offered by the city.
Located at the confluence of the Rhônelle and Escaut rivers, Valenciennes enjoys an exceptional situation which will push men to settle there since the Middle Ages. From a merchant town, the city gradually grew richer to become a first class place in the region.
Capital of the iron and steel industry in the North, cradle of many personalities such as the painter Antoine Watteau or the father of advertising, Jean Mineur, the Valenciennes region has a unique heritage, the result of nearly two and a half centuries of progress and avant-garde.
Art and history
Valenciennes became a real strategic post with its keep, its count's palace and its fortified walls. First Frankish, it passed under the control of the houses of Lorraine, Flanders, Bavaria, Burgundy, Austria, Spain, to finally become French in 1677.
Valenciennes has undergone many battles, sieges, invasions, which have truly marked the city. More recently, in 1940, the city was also the victim of a fire that caused considerable damage to the city center. There are therefore very few remains from before the Second World War. Nevertheless, you will be able to contemplate, among other things, the Spanish house, with wood panelling and corbels, which dates from the 16th century, when Valenciennes was part of the Spanish Netherlands. It is to this that it owes its name and not to its style. It now houses the tourist office.
In spite of an eventful history and a past marked by wars, Valenciennes is today a city full of charm which conceals many treasures. On your way, you will come across many works of art, scattered throughout the old town. You will be able to admire several statues of the Valenciennes sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, including one of his masterpieces, "Ugolino and his sons".
Valenciennes and the Valenciennois region are inseparable from their mining past. In the 18th century, following numerous conflicts - in particular with the Habsburgs, governed by Charles V, but also with Louis XIV - the economic situation of the city was not very good. This changed with the discovery of the first coal mine in the region. A huge coal deposit was discovered in the municipality of Anzin and Valenciennes became the center of an important mining basin. The Anzin mining company was created a few years later and dominated the territory until the middle of the 20th century.
The region was also the main source of inspiration for Emile Zola's masterpiece, Germinal. He spent a week in Anzin in 1884 where he undertook meticulous research on the operation of the mines and the living conditions of the miners.
Numerous vestiges of this prosperous period are still visible today. During your walk, you can see the Ledoux headframe in Condé-sur-l'Escaut, the last witness of the Ledoux pit, or the old coal station in Fresnes-sur-Escaut.
By moving away from the city center, you will be able to discover the exceptional natural heritage of the surroundings of Valenciennes as well as the richness of the Valenciennois territory. The Un'Escaut loop will allow you, for example, to discover the mining cities classified as world heritage by UNESCO or the fortifications of the city, all in the green setting of the banks of the Escaut and the Chabaud-Latour pond.
About ten kilometers from Valenciennes, the village of Sebourg is a real green setting. Despite its small size, the village has a history of more than 800 years and is full of testimonies of the past: from its medieval church to the cemetery of the First World War and the mill still in activity, Sebourg symbolizes the rich rural heritage of the surroundings.
Find all the routes in the city of Valenciennes on the JOOKS application.
Run, walk or cycle with JOOKS, from the Fine Arts Museum to the Saint-Géry church!