Saint-Omer and its region are located about 30 minutes from the Euro Tunnel exit. It is simply the part of France closest to England.
- London 221km (1h40 by car and Euro Tunnel)
- Bruxelles 178 km (2h10 by car)
- Paris 264 km (2h30 by car)
- Lille 69 km (1h by car)
- Calais 49 km (30 minutes by car)
- Antwerp (2h20 by car)
- Dover 95 km…
With its bourgeois 17th century buildings, Flemish style architecture and many vestiges of the Middle Ages, Saint-Omer is a charming city whose streets conceal many noble dwellings and private mansion houses. This Town of Art and History, boasting an imposing gothic cathedral, has numerous facets to be discovered.
Further to the South, Aire-sur-la-Lys is another jewel of a town, again with many fine buildings and 18th century town houses, watermills, old breweries and malting houses along the banks of the river Lys.
Thérouanne and La Morinie reflect the prestigious past of this region, from where Saint-Omer was founded in the 12th century.
The history of past centuries and the more recent industrial age have left their marks. From the ruins of Saint Bertin’s abbey to the Benedictine abbey of Wisques, the Saint-Omer region shows the successive influence of different religious orders.
In 650 King Dagobert decided to christianize the nothern part of his kingdom. He entrusted this mission to four monks: Omer (Audomar in latin), Bertin, Momelin and Ebertram. Omer became bishop of Thérouanne, while his three companions settled in the dense forests and marshlands. A great deal of perseverance was needed by the Benedictine monks to gradually transform a common bog into the only cultivated marshlands in France. Thirteen centuries spent rerouting the waters of the river Aa to flow into the sea, and raising, draining and clearing the land before it could be cultivated.
The Audomarois Marshes
Where water and land come together as one, the Audomarois marshes are an idyllic place to discover, whether on foot or by boat. Reclaimed over the centuries, the water that spill out into a myraid of ramifications from the river Aa meander gently on their way. Just a few kilometers from the Opale coast, the change of scenery is extraordinary.
Whether on foot, or horseback, by bike or boat, the marshes are accessible to everybody. There are all sorts of leisure activities, trails, guided tours, guided marshes cruises and walks to be enjoyed, with or without a guide. It is however a fragile environment that must be respected. The Audomarois marshes are today the only remaining cultivated wetlands in France, with around forty market gardeners working 440 hectares of land. Although its produces fifty different vegetables, it is particulary well known for its delicious cauliflowers (5 million heads grown per year) and succulent endives.
It has an abundance of plant and wildlife within a marvellous ecosystem : 300 species of plants, including one third of France’s aquatic plants, 210 species of birds observed in the last 20 years.