- Population: 1,857,481
- Pop.density (people per km2): 96
Three principal communes
Amiens is dominated by the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe. The main place to hang out in Amiens is in the regenerated St-Leu - a medieval quarter north of the cathedral - where a very Flemish-looking network of canals is to be seen. This was once the centre of Amiens' textile industry. The town still produces much of the country's velvet but today the factories have moved out to the suburbs and have been replaced by loft-living and lots of fashionable restaurants, cafes and bars. On the edge of town the canals cease their role asthe vistas for al fresco diners and become working waterways for a series of very fertile market gardens (called hortillonnages) reclaimed from the marshes. Here, the farmers travel about canals in black, high-browed punts and some still take their produce into town by boat to sell at the waterside Saturday morning market.
Creil is a pleasant town surrounded by forests, at only a short drive from Paris. The Oise river runs through the town which has long been a nautical stopover for local merchants and pleasure boaters. The town has many traditions such as the Foire aux Marrons (Chestnut festival) which takes places each year at the beginning of November. Creil-Montereau's porcelain is highly sought after by collectors. It was a very lucrative industry in the 19th century.
Compiègne, 80km north of Paris, has for it its opulent seventeenth and eighteenth century royal palace which is at the edge of the attractive Forêt de Compiègne. The other pull for visitors is the start of one of the world's toughest one-day cycling races, Paris-Roubaix, on the first Sunday after Easter each year. The town's university Université de Technologie de Compiègne (UTC) is a first-class, internationally renowned technological college.