I was invited to visit the Ardennes region by the Ardennes Tourist Board and Brit Mums. As always all opinions are my own.
If you’re looking for a true nature and adventure holiday in France, then a family trip to the lush region of the French Ardennes should be high on your list.
I visited the region with a team of family travel bloggers and the tourist board, to discover what exactly makes this region of France so family friendly. To say I was blown-away by its colours, peacefulness and activities is an under-statement and I’m already planning my own family holiday in the Ardennes. Keep reading to find out more.
Where is the French Ardennes?
The French Ardennes is located in the northeast of France, nestled by Belgium and Luxembourg, approximately 2 hours from Paris, 2 from Amsterdam and 4 from Brussels, making it a perfect long weekend, or family holiday destination.
What to do in the French Ardennes with children
1. Canoe or Paddle Board on the River Semoy
By far the best way to explore the region is to hit the water on a canoe or paddle board. You’ll be zigzagging through the clear waters of the river Semoy, surrounded by lush forest, hills and quaint French villages – it’s incredibly picturesque and very easy going. The water’s depth isn’t very higha and the water is calm, so both you and the kids will be able to jump in for a cool swim should you want to.
Where to book canoes or paddle boards in Ardennes?
We got our canoes through Canoe Semoy in the Hautes Rivieres, who offer an option for either a family sized canoe (2 adults and 1 child in the middle), a 2 person canoe or paddle boards. They can also help you arrange other activities, including bikes, and the very cool mountain scooters.
Call: +33 648356007
2. Family cycle along the Trans-Ardenne path by the River Meuse
The Trans-Ardennes cycle path consists of 120km of flat ground, following the River Meuse from Belgium through to France (97km in France) offering an extraordinary green background and much, much to do and see along the way, including traditional towns, adventure parks, swimming canoeing, camping, and much more.
We cycled along a small stretch of it, and already I can’t wait to come back and do this again with my seven year old, I’m planning on travelling between towns using just bikes which would be an amazing experience for him. It really is a peaceful ride when all you can hear is birdsong, until my noisy kid gets there of course!
We rented our bikes through Canoe Semoy.
3. Zip Line over the Meuse valley at TerrAltitude in Fumay
If like me, you like a bit of adrenaline thrown into your holiday, I can highly recommend the TerrAltitude zip line. Set over 110m high over the River Meuse, you’ll zip down 1km at 100km/hour, an experience that was both exhilarating, and surprisingly relaxing too, as the journey was fairly smooth and allowed me to take in the breathtaking views over the valley. A must-do!
Prices: From €26pp
4. Explore one of the many adventure parks in the Ardennes
The region has a variety of adventure parks throughout, ready to be explored! We visited the extraordinary TerrAltitude Adventure park, where you have several rope courses, bungee jumping, trampolines, and lots of inflatables and a playground for the littler ones.
5. Spend the day at the beach
During our weekend in the Ardennes, we stopped at the picturesque Lac des Vielles-Forges, where you have a beach, water sports, a playground, and if you’re looking for one, a camping site.
Where: The Ardennes have several beaches dotted around the region – Discover a list of beaches in Ardennes.
6. Discover Charleville-Mezieres’ Puppetering history and culture
Charleville-Mezieres is the world capital of puppetry arts and it holds the biannual World Puppetry Festival, which is being held this September (2019). The festival brings to the city thousands of puppetry masters from all over the world, with a myriad of shows, official ticketed ones as well as streets filled with performers who travel to be able to show their art at the festival. The city’s museum also has a wonderful marionette exhibition, which included this Van Gogh piece and the city’s ‘cuckoo’ clock which shows a different marionette show each hour – truly astonishing.
The city’s link to puppetry doesn’t stop here. It’s also home to a university of puppetry, which hosts 30 students from all over the world to study their art here. If you’re lucky and visit at the end of June, you may catch the end of year shows, where you’re able to watch the student’s performances. You can find out more information about the university and the end of year shows here.
7. Become a royal for the day in the Chateau Fort de Sedan & stay in the castle’s hotel!
Budding queen and kings can roam through 700 years of history on the largest castle in France, the Chateau Fort de Sedan. The castle has plenty to keep your little ones entertained, including games for children displayed throughout.
The Chateau is host to a variety of events throughout the year, ranging from medieval fairs, to a music festival – you can find out more here.
8. Explore Charleville-Mezieres
The capital city of the French Ardennes is Charleville-Mezieres, a very pretty small city that has a unique and rich history dating back to medieval times and the home to one of France’s most beloved poets, Arthur Rimbaud.
Mezieres was founded in the 9th century, and Charleville in the 17th century, by Charles de Gonzales. From its curious inception to the development of its main square, Place Ducale, nothing about the history of this city is is boring – head to the city’s museum or join a guided tour of the city to dig deep!
I would also highly recommend stopping at the Maison Billard, where we had a gorgeous hot chocolate and some local sugar pie. The café was beautiful, and had an array of beautifully packaged local delicacies to take home.
9. Walk up to the Roche a Sept Heures for breathtaking views
Nothing like a walk through the forest with a promise of stunning views on top, and the Roche a 7 heures really delivers on its promise. This famous viewpoint has uninterrupted views over Monthermé, the river Meuse gloriously winding around the town with the lush green hills behind.
10. Grab lunch and enjoy a visit at the award winning Ardwen brewery
Beer aficionados will love this small, multi-award winning brewery, but it has plenty for everyone to enjoy. We enjoyed an extremely interesting tour of the Ardwen brewery, led by Charles Antoine, the owner whose enthusiasm was contagious. His past in bio-chemistry meant that that no detail was spared and the fascinating chemical reactions that happen during beer-making were explained in a fun and engaging way – it was one of the best brewery visits I’ve ever experienced.
Our visit was followed by a delicious lunch at the brewery’s on-site restaurant, whilst enjoying a beer tasting. I tried the blonde which was light and fresh, but also loved the warmer, cognac tones of the Amber. It’s the perfect stop en-route to Reims, and nearby the Woinic, should you want to visit the giant boar!
Where: 20, avenue Roger Ponsart
Where to stay in the French Ardennes
The Ardennes region is incredibly well prepared for family friendly accommodation, there is an array of options, from modern hotels, historical boutique hotels, like the Le Chateau Fort in Sedan where we stayed, treehouses in the forest, and of course plenty of gites and great campsites to choose from.
Hotels in Charleville-Mezieres
Hotel Le Dormeur du Val
We started our trip by using Charleville-Mezieres as a base to explore – you can easily get anywhere in the region from here, as well as join the Trans-Ardenne cycle path. The Hotel Le Dormeur du Val was a fantastic option – modern and quirky, and brilliantly located just a stone’s throw from the main square, and near a variety of restaurants and shops. You can find out more and book here.
Where to eat in the French Ardennes
La Table d’Arthur, Charleville-Mezieres
The best restaurant we ate at during our weekend was by far La Table d’Arthur which you’ll find right in the heart of Charleville-Mezieres. This Bib Gourmand spot has a wonderful setting set in an atmospheric cave and an impressive wine carte. The food was stunning, as was the wine paired with it and we all had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The service was impeccable too.
Where: 9 et 11 rue Bérégovoy 08000 Charleville-Mézières
Price: 3 course set menu will set you back a friendly friendly €31
How to get to the French Ardennes
We took the Eurostar and a train to Reims when we visited, which was incredibly smooth and relaxing – a great way to travel for those with school children who may not need so much baby and toddler paraphernalia. The journey takes 4h20 hours door to door from London to Reims.
It’s also very easy to drive from the UK to the French Ardennes, Charleville-Mezieres is only 3h30 from Calais.