The Long, Long Trail guide to the area of Saint-Quentin

The Picardie town of Saint-Quentin lies in a most important area of WW1 battlefields, yet is not one yet frequented by the number of British or Commonwealth visitors that go to Ypres or the Somme. This simple guide gives the basics to a delightful town and an area packed with historical interest.

Basics

St-Quentin is in France, in the Department of the Aisne and the region of Picardie.  The currency in use is the Euro. Credit cards are widely accepted.

The lovely town hall on the Grande Place in the centre of Saint-Quentin.Famous as the place of surrender of two British Colonels during the retreat from Mons in 1914.

The lovely town hall on the Grande Place in the centre of Saint-Quentin.Famous as the place of surrender of two British Colonels during the retreat from Mons in 1914.

Getting to St-Quentin

By car from UK: St-Quentin is an easy 112 mile (just under 2 hour) drive from Calais, with the A26 motorway connecting the two places.

By car from airport: St-Quentin is an 80 mile (just under 1 hour 30 mins) drive from Charles De Gaulle airport at Paris, via the A1 motorway and then up via Compiegne and Noyon.

By rail: St-Quentin has a main railway station with good connections from all areas of France.

What is there to see?

The St-Quentin area is not only surrounded by key battlefields of 1914 and 1918 but also excellently placed for visits to the battlefields of the Somme, Arras, Cambrai, Mons and the Aisne. “Must not be missed” sites include:

  • The town’s central square, scene of the “Colonel’s surrender” of August 1914
  • The school (Lycee Henri-Martin) which housed Sir John French’s General Headquarters during the retreat from Mons
  • The town’s own impressive war memorial, next to the railway station
  • The extraordinary basilica, visible from miles around and still carrying signs of war damage and preparation for destruction by explosives
  • North of the town, the bridge at Riqueval and the nearby canal tunnel entrance, location of one of the British Army’s finest feats of arms in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line; nearby Bellenglise memorials and the United States cemetery at Bony
  • West of the town, Manchester Hill and memorials and traces of the Hindenburg Line at Fayet; German cemetery at Maissemy
  • South of St-Quentin, Hindenburg Line bunkers at Moy
  • Slightly further afield, the battlefields of the Somme, Cambrai, Arras, le Cateau and the Aisne are all easily reached, as is the impressive Historial de la Grand Guerre museum at Peronne
Dozens of British memorials and military cemeteries lie within a shortdistance of St-Quentin, like this one at Templeux-le-Guerard.

Dozens of British memorials and military cemeteries lie within a short distance of St-Quentin, like this one at Templeux-le-Guerard.

Tourist essentials

  1. Very good town tourist advice website at http://www.saint-quentin-tourism.co.uk/
  2. Monday is closing day: many shops and facilities are closed, at least for the morning.
  3. Eating and drinking: there are many restaurants, bars and cafes in town, most grouped around the central square. Outside town the facilities are very much fewer: there are some at the large shopping complex near Fayet but the villages are generally bare of such amenities.
  4. Banks and ATMs (cash machines) : many in the town centre.
  5. Parking: a large underground car park lies below the main square, with the entrance accessible from Rue Emile-Zola. There is much on-street parking (particularly around the basilica) but generally it is “pay and display” that must be paid in advance from slot machines. Free from 6pm to 8am. No problems parking at sites on the battlefields.
  6. Supermarkets: there is a Monoprix in the town centre and several large edge-of-town locations with supermarkets
  7. Phoning: international dialling code to France is 33. Numbers below are shown as they would be dialled from overseas. When calling in France itself, drop the 33 and add a zero at the front of the number. Most hotel receptionists and guest house operators speak English to some extent.

Accommodation

When booking any accommodation, buyer beware. The Long, Long Trail can not be held responsible for the availability, price or performance of any of the accommodation listed here – obviously. It’s a good idea to check other customers comments at Tripadvisor or other accommodation review websites, before you book.

There is a selection of accommodation in the town and surrounding villages. These are ones I have used myself and have found perfectly acceptable:

Hotels

Le Florence Address: 42 Rue Emile-Zola, 02100 St-Quentin Tel: 33 323 642 222 Website URL: http://www.hotel-le-florence.fr/ Hotel. Situated in town centre, one minute from main square. Two Star, friendly hotel, good breakfast. Ground floor rooms for handicapped, Stairs to rooms in main house. Own car parking
Ibis Basilique St-Quentin Address: Place de la Basilique  02100 Saint-Quentin Tel: 33 323 674 0 40 Website URL:http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-1641-ibis-saint-quentin-basilique/index.shtml Faces the basilica. One minute from main square. Reliable chain hotel, good breakfast, small bar. No parking.
Ibis Budget St-Quentin Address: 84 Rue Michelet, 02100 St-Quentin Tel: 33 892 701 279 Website URL: http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-7410-ibis-budget-saint-quentin-ex-etap-hotel/index.shtml Low-cost, modern and functional accommodation. Breakfast included. Five minutes walk up hill to main square. Own car park. Formerly branded as Etap.

Imperial war Museum photograph Q2064. Distant view of St Quentin from the British front line trench on the Amiens road, 24 April 1917. On the horizon, the large basilica in the centre of Saint-Quentin is clearly visible.

Links

More battlefield guides