The administrative centre of the Ardennes, on the banks of the Meuse, and the birthplace of the poet Arthur Rimbaud, Charleville-Mézières is also famous for its world festival of Puppet Theatres, which makes it the undisputed capital of puppetry.
Yet Charleville-Mézières is also known for its prestigious Place Ducale, an architectural gem built between 1612 and 1628 by the architect Clément Métezeau, at the request of the Duke Charles de Gonzague. A listed protected area, this immense paved square surrounded by twenty-seven pavilions in the Henry IV or Louis XIII style, is one of the most beautiful squares in France! In fact it is considered as the twin sister of Place des Vosges in Paris. Its architecture is both sumptuous and harmonious, combining pink brick, ochre stone and blue slate...
Near the Place Ducale, between the International Puppet Institute and the Museum of the Ardenne, children and adults should be sure to take a look at the Grand Marionnettiste, a monumental clock with automata. Every hour from 10 am to 9 pm, it shows one of the twelve scenes of the Ardennes legend of the four Aymon sons. The public can also see all the episodes every Saturday night at 9.15 pm.
When it comes to museums, you have a choice between the Museum of the Ardenne, dedicated to the archaeology, history, art and popular traditions of the Ardennes, and the Rimbaud Museum, set in an old 17th-century windmill. It pays tribute to the famous poet who was born in Charleville, through his memorabilia, manuscripts et photographs.
In the Mézières quarter, discover the relics of medieval ramparts, as well as the Basilica of Our Lady of Hope, in the late Flamboyant Gothic style. Inside are some superb contemporary stained glass windows made between 1955 and 1979 by René Dürrbach, a friend of Picasso.
To relax after your cultural tour, head to the Mont Olympe, near the old mill, a green space of 14 hectares containing an aquatic centre, a water sports centre, a river port and a play area.
In uneven years, in September, the whole town is abuzz for ten days, for the world festival of Puppet Theatres. In a friendly party atmosphere, it welcomes theatre companies from all over the world. An unmissable event for all puppet-lovers!
Don't miss the Confréries festival in Ardenne, a gastronomic event that takes place in the spring on the Place Ducale. This friendly event is attended by some fifty French and Belgian brotherhoods (confréries), and celebrates local produce.