Cradle of France

Starting just 30 km north of Paris, stretching eastward to Champagne and eastward to the English channel, Picardie holds a special place for the people of France. The history of what is now known as France started here, when in 486 Clovis made Soissons the capital of the Frankish kingdom. Remnants of Picardie's proud past can be seen in the glorious Gothic cathedral of Amiens. The battlefields of the Somme witnessed the most ferocious battles of WWI, while Compiegne is where the Armistice ending the conflict was signed. Indeed, so rich is the region in historical buildings, that it holds the country's record for Monuments Classés.

In the east: Aisne

With Laon as its chef-lieu (capital), this peaceful departement is made of open plains interespersed with pockets of pastureland, chateaux, churches and charming villages. Once the capital of the Caroligian Empire, it has a beautiful cathedral and panoramic views of the surrounding plains.

In the west: Oise

Heavily wooded, Oise has plenty of fine forests which were favorite hunting grounds for the French kings and Emperors, who built and remodelled the winter palace in Compiegne. The departement displays many architectural gems, including the Chateau de Chantilly and the beautifully preserved cathedral town of Senlis, as well as Beauvais's Cathédrale St-Pierre.

In the north: the Somme

Forever associated with the battles of World War I, the departement has many memorials, cemetaries and tributes to the Allied forces who fought on its soil, in one of the most dramatic and bloodiest battles of history. Its capital city, Amiens is graced by on the world's most beautiful example of Gothic architecture, and a must stop for died-in-the-wool fans of European architecture.