The Nord department is located at the northernmost part of France, hence its name. It spreads in length, over 200km from north-west to south-east along Belgium. With the Pas de Calais department, it forms the Nord Pas de Calais region. Nord is composed of the French Flanders (historical Dutch-speaking region) which corresponds to the areas of Dunkerque and Lille, the ‘Cambrésis’ – region around the town of Cambrai and a part of the former county of Hainaut. It is the most heavily populated French department with more than 2,600,000 inhabitants. The department accounts for 652 towns and villages.
The Nord department is bordered with the French departments of Pas-de-Calais, Aisne, Somme (a few kilometres only), but also Belgium and the North Sea. The major cities are Lille, its préfecture, Douai, Valenciennes and Dunkerque. The department can be divided into five parts. At the northernmost part of the area lies the ‘Flandre Côte d’Opale’, the coastal part of Nord with Dunkerque being the major town. Then we can find the ‘Coeur de Flandre’ with the town of Hazebrouck amongst others, ‘Lille Métropole – the industrial area around Lille with towns such as Roubaix or Villeneuve d’ascq – the ‘Hainaut’ with Douai, Valenciennes and Cambrai and the ‘Avesnois’ (Avesnes sur Helpe).
The department has a strong culture with many traditions being held since the Middle Ages. Amongst others, the carnivals and varied celebration with giant puppets - les géants - are an essential part of the culture in the department of Nord. Several dialects are still spoken in the Nord such as the ‘Picard’ also called ‘ch’ti’ in Hainaut and around Lille and the ‘Flamand’(Flemish), spoken from Bailleul to Dunkerque. The area also has a special gastronomy highly influenced by the neighbouring Belgium with many dishes cooked with beer and pastries with brown sugar.
Given its location, the Nord department has suffered a lot from varied wars and invasions in the past, especially from the two world wars. The area was destroyed a lot and had difficulties to recover. Many towns were completely destroyed and rebuilt afterwards. But nowadays, the Nord has managed to take advantage from its location close to many major European cities. It extends its activities and shows its rich architectural, historical and cultural heritage to those who are not afraid to go beyond prejudices. Indeed, it is said that it rains all the time in the north of France. Of course, the area can not boast a sunny weather all year round such as in the Côte d’Azur, but it has so many jewels that it would be a real shame to miss it!
With an average price of €2,595/square metre for a property to buy, the Nord department offers reasonable prices in terms of real estate. The national average is €3,200/sq m and the neighbouring Pas de Calais has an average price of €3,723/sq m, which is quite high. The rental market is accessible too with a price of about €11.48/square metre/month for a property to rent. In 2008, buying an apartment in the department cost about €2,170/sq m, depending on the number of rooms and location of course. A studio flat cost about €2,630/sq m, and 4 or 5-room ones €2,020/sq m. As regards new apartments, people should count about €2,900/square metre in average. Prices are higher in Lille and approximately the same in Cambrai, Douai, Dunkerque or Valenciennes.
More than 92% of the properties in Nord are main houses, and only 1.16% are second homes but there is still 6% of vacant properties which are awaiting to be purchased. So why wouldn’t you invest in a property in a nice village of this welcoming area? If you plan to buy a house in Nord, average prices were comprised between €113,100 and €198,200 for houses with 3 to 6 rooms in 2008. Prices vary a lot within the area: a house in Lille cost in average €191,100, whereas in Cambrai the average price was €116,000.
To get updated info about property prices in Nord, please browse our French Property Market Reports published in the News Section every month.
Click here to learn more about Nord Pas de Calais’ Property Prices.
Culture and events: as said before, giant puppets are considered as major cultural symbols. They refer either to historical characters or fictive ones and parade in the streets during special events such as carnivals or varied celebrations. Carnivals are not to be missed either! It is the occasion for celebrating with friends and getting dressed-up to parade in the streets. The major carnivals in the Nord are the ones of Bailleul and Dunkerque. Lille and its ‘braderie’ (flea market) attract thousands of people from everywhere in France and the neighbouring countries. Small café called ‘estaminet’ are typical places to meet friends and share good times.
Good food: Nord is famous for offering a good and rich gastronomy. Influenced a lot by the neighbouring Belgium, some dishes come directly from there such as the ‘carbonnade flamande’ (beef cooked with onions, brown sugar and beer) or ‘potjevleesch’ (pieces of meat: chicken, duck, pork and calf in gelatinous stock). Maroilles (local cheese produced in Avesnois) tart or ‘goyère’, ‘Lucullus tongue’ (pastry of beef tongue) and chicken cooked with beer are also local specialties. As regards desserts and sweets, the most famous ones are sugar tart, chicory and speculoos ice cream, Bêtises de Cambrai and Sottises Valenciennoises.
Historical heritage: several towns in Nord used to have fortifications in the past, some of them were built by the famous Vauban (Cambrai, Lille). Do not miss Avesnes-sur-Helpe, Le Quesnoy, Cambrai, Bergues, Gravelines and Lille amongst others. These fortified towns have a fascinating history. Belfries are also typical from the area and actual jewels. Most of them were destroyed during the world wars but rebuilt afterwards. The monuments of the Nord department say a lot about its long and rich history…let’s discover it!
Nature: the department offers plenty of natural areas with two national nature reserves, eight regional ones and two natural parks. There is an abundance of beautiful ponds, lakes, forests and marshlands in the area, seducing nature lovers and giving the possibility to enjoy varied activities such as horse-riding, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, sailing and so on.
People: locals are renowned for being warm and very welcoming people. Even if the region is not amongst the most attractive ones in France, the local traditions, strong culture and good gastronomy as well as the sport facilities and nature areas are some of the assets which make the Nord department a place not to be missed.
Up and coming area: given its location close to England and Belgium, the Nord department is definitely an up and coming area. Whether it be for tourism or business, many people come in the area, whether it be just to access another region or country or to stay there for some time. The area is more and more active and it should provide a good return on investment.
Brick properties: the major construction material used in the north of France is bricks; indeed,many properties of the area were built in red or brown bricks. Such properties can be both located in town centres, villages or in the countryside. Their size varies, but they offer good dimension in general. Brick properties are full of character and very sought-after. Walls are made of bricks and the sloping roof of tiles or slates.
Farmhouses: these properties can be found everywhere in France, especially in the countryside. Yet, farmhouses in the north of France have a particularity: the courtyard they come with is completely closed, so only visible from inside the property. These properties also come with outbuildings such as barns and stables and a large piece of land that people can convert into a garden or garage for instance. Farmhouses are often in need of renovation but have a great potential.
Maisons de Maitre: they have huge dimensions and come with a large piece of land too. Maisons de Maitre are imposing properties which were built during the 18th century and used to represent the wealth and power of the French bourgeoisie. Most of the time constructed of stone, they have many rooms and balconies as well as an imposing entrance door.
Click here for more info about Architecture in Nord Pas de Calais.
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