Lens is a town in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, in the Hauts-de-France region, 35 km south-west of Lille.
Although it has close to 34,000 inhabitants, its agglomeration is one of the densest in France, with the urban area of Douai-Lens having a population of 540,000. Linked to the county of Artois itself belonging to the county of Flanders, Lens was attached to the kingdom of France in 1180 and was erected in commune in the thirteenth century. A fortified town, it suffered during the Hundred Years 'War and then the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century: but it was precisely at Lens that Conde defeated the Spaniards in 1648.
It was with the exploitation of coal and the creation of the company of Mines of Lens in the middle of the XIXth century that the city develops considerably, capital of one of the most dynamic coalfields of the country.
Very affected during the two world wars, the city is rebuilt and undergoes a new transformation when mining is stopped in the 1980s.
Economic activity is diversifying (trade, agro-food, university pole), partially curbing demographic decline (Lens has lost 10 000 inhabitants since 1962). Finally, in 2012, the inauguration of the Louvre-Lens museum on the site of a former mine, hosting exhibitions of works belonging to the Louvre Museum in Paris, symbolizes the transformation of the city and its opening to cultural tourism 444,000 visitors in 2016).
Before the inevitable visit of the Louvre-Lens, a discovery of several buildings and sites allows the visitor to better understand the mining past of the city and its policy of reconversion.
This route passes through the church of Saint-Léger: the current reinforced concrete building was rebuilt after the First World War, inaugurated in 1926 (and its large organ in 1930). The first church dates from the 10th century and has been restored or rebuilt several times. A statue of the Virgin of the 17th century is installed in the chapel dedicated to the dead of the Great War.
Also worth noting is the university scientific cluster set up in the former offices of Compagnie des Mines headquarters or, in a very different genre, the Félix-Bollaert stadium, which hosted several World Cup matches in 1998.
To understand what the mining industry was, visiting the Base and Slag 11/19 (numbers of former wells) provides a complete picture of what a mining site could be like: pit tile, heaps The exploitation of coal) and the city where the workers lived. The complex also hosts cultural and economic structures.
Finally, you will not forget the commercial heart of the city, the Place Jean Jaurès, with its colorful shops, and the SNCF railway station, dating from 1926. Its shape evokes a locomotive, and its Art Deco style is remarkable. Inside, cubist mosaics evoke scenes of working life.
For general or thematic guided tours of the city, please call +33 3 21 67 66 66.
It is now time to visit the Louvre Museum - Lens, inaugurated in 2012. Located close to the highest stables in Europe and the stadium, the hotel is made up of several buildings with contemporary architecture, with transparent facades Glass and steel.
The visit includes semi-permanent exhibitions of collections preserved in Paris and also allows to discover "the backstage" of the establishment. A resource center and a park are also accessible. Price of guided tours: 6 and 3 euros (but a large part of the museum is free of charge). Information on +33 3 21 18 62 62.
A stop at Lens can finally include a swimming session at the swimming pool with an Olympic pool (price: 2,70 and 2 euros), and give rise to walks including the municipality and its surroundings, where the industrial heritage cohabits with More green spaces. Information on +33 3 21 67 66 66.
On the second weekend of March, the police book fair Polar-Lens brings together authors and passionate readers of the genre.
At the end of June, on the occasion of the "Grandes Fêtes", the Festival Paraderuze will host a number of street arts shows and events.
Finally, in a convivial atmosphere typical of the region, the market makes it possible to discover and appreciate the northern soil: Tuesday and Friday morning Salengro Square and Saturday afternoon at the Grande Residence.