Winning the European Region of Gastronomy Award for 2023 has put the food of Hauts-de-France on the map. This surprising region produces a real feast of local ingredients as well as beer, and yes, champagne. So what can you look forward to?

L'Orée de la Forêt slanted picture showing pate i a jar with bread board and slices of bread, and pots
L’Orée de la Forêt © L’Orée de la Forêt

Some Surprising Facts

Hauts-de-France is the biggest agricultural region producing cereals and vegetables like soft wheat and sugar beets. It’s the world’s largest producer of endives, and Europe’s largest potato producer. The region is also a heavyweight player in the general agri-food industry.

And in case you aren’t convinced, the region produces 10% of French milk.

A Glorious Countryside of Contrasts

Orchards and market gardens in the Baie de Somme estuary and the marshes of Picardy grow fruit and vegetables. Shop locally for cauliflower from Saint-Omer, carrots from Tilques, leeks from Leblond, chicory from the Nord’s former quarries, beans from Soissons, lentils from Picardy, garlic from Locon, artichokes from Laon and rattes (potatoes) from Le Touquet.

Visit the Producers of the Food of Hauts-de-France

Ask at the local tourist office for producers you can visit.

For endives (chicon) visit La Ferme aux Chiconnettes in Achiet le Petit. Here you can buy confit of endives, jam, and other products you would never associate with the vegetable if like me, you eat it only as a gratin of braised endive wrapped in ham, backed in a bechamel sauce and sprinkled with cheese. They are sometimes closed so telephone first to check. Tel: +44 ())3 21 23 69 14.

Take a boat trip through the Audomarois Marshes in Clairmarais near Saint-Omer where small market gardens sell from the banks of the canals. I bought the best cauliflower I have ever tasted from one such.

Audomarais marshes in Hauts de France showing empty boat moored in canal with bridge behind with blue iron gate and canal stretching out beyond
Audomarois marshes © Hagen de Merak/CC/BY/SA 2.5.0

Top Markets to Visit in Hauts-de-France

You’ll find the best food of Hauts-de-France in these markets.

Lille, Nord

Halles de Wazemmes in Lille covered market in modern building with lots of stalls and people
Halles de Wazemmes in Lille

The Marché de Wazemmes is one of France’s biggest selling every kind of fruit and vegetables, as well as charcuterie, cheeses and olives. Shop in the surrounding streets for Tunisian food.

Check out all the food markets, indoors and outdoors, in Lille.

Amiens, Picardy

Amiens Hortillonges in Picardy with narrow canal going down between flat fields planted with flowers and vegetables to horizon in distance
Amiens Hortillonnages © Shoshany/CC/BY/SA 4.0

On Saturday mornings, Amiens holds a large outdoor market in Place Parmentier where fresh vegetables grown in the market gardens of the nearby hortillonnages marshes are sold. Plus fresh seafood from the Baie de Somme.

Visit Les Halles du Beffroi for regional producers. It’s particularly good for local cheeses.

Boulogne, Pas de Calais

Boulogne in Hauts de France fishing harbour with many fishing boats in front and yachts behind all bobbing in sea
Boulogne fishing harbour © Ludovic Maisant

Boulogne is France’s top fishing port so not surprisingly here is where to buy the delights of the sea. The daily fish market on Quai Gambetta sells just-landed fish and seafood, crab, lobster, langoustines, scallops and more.
On Wed and Sat morning Place Dalton has an outdoor local food market.
Boulogne’s Markets

Montreuil-sur-Mer, Pas de Calais

Saturday morning on Place-de-Gaulle square, great organic local food is on sale. As Montreuil is very much a foodie destination, the quality and variety is astonishing.
check here for markets in and around Montreuil-sur-Mer

Montreuil sur Mer market, Hauts de France with woman and child in front of a flower stall, other stalls behind

Dunkirk, Pas de Calais

Place de Gaulle has a seasonal fruit and vegetable market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Check here for markets in and around Dunkirk.

Saint-Omer, Pas de Calais

Marche St Omer market with large building in background of stone with domed roof and market stalls in foreground with red umbrellas and fruit and veg
Marché St-Omer ©Office de tourisme de la Région de Saint-Omer

On Saturday mornings, make for the large market on the Grand Place (Place du Marechal Foch). Much of the local produce comes from the nearby marshes where small market gardeners produce great seasonal variety. Saint-Omer is the French capital of summer cauliflower so buy yours here.
Check here for markets in and around Saint-Omer.

Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, Picardy

Make for the market on a Sunday for the freshest local fruit and veg. It’s in the Place des Pilotes.
More about the Somme.

Food of Hauts-de-France: Cheeses

Hauts de France cheese with three cut on white plate
Hauts de France cheeses © 5Esouts/CC/BY/SA 3.0

Here’s another surprise: Hauts-de-France has the country’s biggest selection of cheeses with more than 200 varieties. Here are a few to look out for.

Abbaye de Belval is a traditional French cheese, also called Belval or Le Trappiste de Belval. Produced in Pas de Calais at Troisvaux by Trappist sisters, it’s made from raw cow’s milk and matures for 60 days. Once produced in the Belval Abbey, today the Trappist sisters have moved to another abbey though they still continue to produce the cheese. A semi-soft cheese with a subtle flavour washed in brine, there’s also Le Belval Bière Blonde, washed in blonde ale, and Le Belval Bière Brune, washed in brown ale. 

Abbaye du Mont des Cats is produced by monks in their monastery in Godewaersvelde. Made with pasteurized cow’s milk, it matures for at least a month while being washed with brine and dyed with roucou – a natural dye derived from annatto shrub. It’s salty, milky and hay-like.

Godewaersvelde Hauts de France food. abbey producing cheese showing whole abbey with huge building behind and two buildings with pointed rooves in front on entrance to street
Godewaersvelde Abbaye © Peter Potrowl

Boulette d’Avesnes is made from cow’s milk and is conical in shape. Flavoured with tarragon, cloves, parsley, and pepper with its rind traditionally washed with beer it’s a stinky cheese with a strong taste.  

Boulette d'Avesnes cheese from hauts de france - conical orange outside coloured cheese with slice off showing pale cheese inside with coloured herbs
Boulette d’Avesnes © Ancalagon/CC/BY/SA 3.0

Chaud biloute is a traditional French cow’s milk cheese made in Saint-Aubin in the Nord department and sold in a wooden box. After 4 weeks of maturation in cellars, it’s ready for consumption. It’s a good cheese for a starter – put it in the oven for a few minutes so it’s runny and serve with crusty bread.

Gris de Lille (also known as Puant de Lille, Vieux Lille, and Puant Macere, ie stinking pickle) is another very pungent, semi-soft cheese produced from Nord-Pas de Calais and derived from Maroilles. The cheese is made with cow’s milk, and it is washed in brine for three months. Produced in square blocks, traditionally it was taken down the pits by the northern miners.

Maroilles is a soft cow’s milk cheese with a nutty, mushroom-like flavour – and a pungent smell (it’s affectionally called ‘old stinker’). Maroilles was first produced by monks in Nord-Pas de Calais and Aisne in the 10th century (those monks knew a thing or two about good living). It’s matured for at least 35 days and is shaped into a square.

Historically it was produced by local farmers on June 24, Saint Jean Baptiste’s day. They then donated the aged cheeses to the Abbey for the monks to distribute to the Champagne grape harvesters. October 1 is still known as Maroilles Day in the region.
Try tarte au maroilles, a tart with shortcrust pastry base and a filling of Maroilles cheese and crème fraîche, butter, eggs, salt, and pepper.

Maroilles cheese from Hauts de France showing square orange shaped cheese on slate with corner cut off
Maroilles © BastienM/CC/BY/SA 3.0

Mimolette is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese originating around Lille where it’s called a boule de Lille. This orange-coloured cheese is aged from 2 months (when it tastes like Parmesan). When aged for up to 2 years (extra-vieille) it has a hard skin which comes from cheese mites added to the skin for extra flavour.  

Visit a Cheese Producer

Spend 15 minutes at La Fromagerie Sainte Godeline (Les Frères Bernard) watching artisanal cheese makers. Then taste and stock up on their varieties to take home. The fromagerie is very near Calais.

La Finarde Cheese Caves in Arras has tastings in the Arras citadelle of cheeses from France and the Netherlands. They also have a stand in the Arras food market on Wednesday and Saturdays.

La Halte d’Autrefois, owned and run by Valerie Magniez, is a well known goat farm producing organic cheeses and bread made with goat’s milk. Near Montreuil, it makes a good family visit. You can milk the goats while your children can pet the animals then learn how the cheese is made.

La Halte d'Autrefois goat chesse interior showing barn open at back on left with tables full of cheese making machinery
La Halte d’Autrefois Photo: La Bal Inactive

Food of Hauts-de-France: Fish and Shellfish

Close up of fish stall with scallops and salt cod
Fish Stall © Mary Anne Evans

Boulogne-sur-mer, France’s largest fishing port, has a fleet of around 100 working fishing boats catching over seventy species of fish a day. It leads Europe in seafood processing, for instance canning herrings to export to Norway.

If you’re in Boulogne and fancy a treat, book a meal at La Matelote hotel/restaurant where the Lestienne family offer a Lobster Menu using the freshest just-caught fish. If you’re a group of 5 or more people, you can book a cookery lesson here.

Restaurant terrace of la matelote Boulogne exterior looking towards the sea with set tables
La Matelote

In the port area (Capécure), make for Le Châtillon where the fish is flappingly fresh. Originally a restaurant for sailors and dock workers, it’s owned by an ex-fishmonger who handpicks the ingredients, and offers top, very good value dishes.

Le chatillon restaurant in Boulogne with huge plateau de fruits de mer covered with oysters, shrimps, lobster and more
Le Chatillon in Boulogne

Hauts-de-France Special Dishes

Like every French region, Hauts-de-France has its own specialities. So try these when you can for some great new tastes.

Flamiche: a traditional pie with chopped leeks, butter and crème fraiche which resembles a quiche. Some cooks add bacon, nutmeg and other vegetables. It dates back to the late 18th century.

The Welsh (Welsh complet) is north France’s answer to the Welsh rarebit. It’s made with cheese cooked in boiling beer which is then poured over a slice of toast and ham. When it’s golden a fried egg is added on top.

Welsh complet or Welsh rarebit showing dish with toast and cheese with egg on top
Welsh complet © Jielbeaumadier/CC/BY/SA 4.0

Coquillade de la baie de Somme is a kind of chowder made with scallops, potatoes, onions, carrots, fish or vegetable stock and olive oil. The vegetables are simmered until tender then the scallops are added last.

Ficelle picarde or Picardy string is a savoury pancake filled with ham, cheese and mushrooms.

Ficelle Picarde dish with two savoury pancakes brown on top and in juice in glass dish
Ficelle Picarde © Bycro/CC/BY/SA 4.0

Carbonade Flamande is one of north France’s most famous, and popular, dishes. Adopted  from Belgium it’s made from beef, onions, beer and soft brown sugar.

Carbonnade, typical hauts de france dish showing close up of dark meat stew sprinkled with parsley

Andouillettes are definitely an acquired, and strong, taste. The coarse-grained sausage is made using tripe (pork lower intestines) and wrapped in the pig’s colon (chitterlings). It’s cooked with wine, onions, pepper and seasonings. BUT do not fear: andouillettes from Cambrai can be made with veal.

Waterzoï is well worth trying. Adopted from Flanders, it’s a kind of bouillabaisse fish stew made of various kinds of fish and cooked in a pot. So eel, pike, carp and bass as well as cod and monkfish (in fact any kind of fish that is to hand) can end up in the pot.

Waterzoi Flemish dish in hauts de france with fish stew in pale sauce with carrots and green vegetables on white plate
Waterzoï © Smabs Sputzer/CC/BY/SA 3.0

Eel is another unusual type of fish used in northern France cooking. It can be roasted or cooked with butter, cream and fresh herbs (anguille au vert à la Flamande). Do try it if you can; it’s sweet and quite delicious.

Salt marsh lamb. Try this delicious lamb raised in the Somme bay in Picardy. The animals are reared on meadows which are regularly flooded by tidal waters between March and December. The sea grasses give the meat its own particular flavour. Salt marsh lamb is on sale between July and January.

Food of Hauts-de-France for those with a Sweet Tooth

Wrapped striped sweets called Betises de Cambrai
Bêtises de Cambrai © Bernard Leprêtre CC/BY/SA 4.0

Bêtises de Cambrai are French boiled sweets made in Cambrai. Bêtise means a stupid mistake so it’s claimed that they were invented by accident. Originally mint, flavours now include apple, chocolate, cherry, lemon, anis and more. They’re individually wrapped in cellophane and usually packed in boxes. Two confectioners claim to be the original inventors: Afchain and Despinoy.

Gauffre fourrée are waffles filled with butter and sugar, flavoured with vanilla or rum. Buy them at the famous Chez Meert in Lille, a beautiful shop and Art Deco tearoom dating back to 1909.

Meert Cafe in Lille exterior with beautiful Art Deco style, big windows and green covered small stall outside
Chez Meert in Lille © Welleschik/ CC/BY/SA 4.0

Palets de dame. Buy these crisp, buttery cookies in any pâtisserie. Traditionally covered with apricot jam and lemon-flavoured icing sugar, some are flavoured with rum, vanilla, or aniseed.

Chantilly Cream. This sweet, whipped cream is found everywhere in almost every restaurant in France. It comes from Chantilly (of course), in the Oise department, probably best known for its château.

It was invented in 1671 when King Louis XIV visited the Château de Chantilly, owned by the great princely general, Louis II de Bourbon-Condé who told his pastry chef, François Vatel, to organise the reception. But Sacré Bleu! He ran out of cream. Being a pastry chef of genius, he decided to whip the cream as hard as he could to give it volume. It was a triumph and Chantilly cream was born. Or so the story goes.

Most of us come across Chantilly cream in artificial form. But it’s a wonderful home-made cream. If you want to learn how to make it, book a lesson at the Atelier de la Chantilly, in Chantilly.  

Macarons Maison Jean Trogneux in Amiens has been making macaroons since 1872. Brought to France from her native Italy by Catherine de’Medici when she arrived in France in 1533 to marry the King, these are crispy outside and tender inside and are made of almond paste, sugar, honey, eggs and vanilla. They are a far cry from the oversweet (to my taste), garishly coloured macarons that have been made famous by Ladurée.

Jean Trogneux shop in Lille seen from outside. Red shopfront and windows full of chocolates and name in lights over door
Jean Trogneux Boutique © Benoit Primeur/CC/BY/SA 1.0

Chocoholics should look out for Beussent Lachelle chocolates, made in their factory in Beussent which you can visit. They  have shops all over northern France and grow their own beans in Ecuador.

What to Drink in Hauts-de-France?

Calais Vins beer selection showing whole corner of large industrial warehouse store with beer in boxes and bottles
Calais Vin Beer Selection

Well beer of course. More than half of France’s breweries are based in Northern France. So if you’re a beer fan, this is the region to make for. Every variety of beer is here. If you’re visiting, ask at the local tourist office for breweries and for brewery tours. Some have excellent restaurants attached.

Some of the best known names are Brasserie Goudale, Brasserie Castelain and Brasserie Saint-Germain.

Look out for Bière de Garde from French Flanders. A traditional farmhouse ale it was brewed during the winter and stored until spring and summer. Beers in this category range in colour and are classified as blonde (gold), to classic amber (ambrée or copper), to brown (brune, dark brown). One of the best is Anostoké from Brasserie du Pays Flamand. Also try Brasserie Duyck’s Jenlain Bière de Garde.

Brewery Treats

Brasserie vivat showing old interior of brewery with red brick walls and huge copper vat in front

Try the Vivat flagship brewery where beer is brewed in an old Benedictine abbey. Sold after the French Revolution, it expanded in 1910 when a new brick brewery was built. It continued producing beer until 1926. In 2000 the factory was restored and beer was brewed once again. You can see the old equipment, then eat and drink in the brasserie.

Book a beer treasure hunt in Lille with L’Echappée Bière every Saturday afternoon. It costs €70 per person but includes the tour, lunch and blind tastings in various different bars.

The Thiriez hop farm and brewery in Esquelbecq offers an hour-long tour with a tasting at the end. They also have 2 chambre d’hotes rooms if you want to stay. €55 and €60 per night for a double room.


Another surprise as the region produces around 10% of all French champagne. It’s produced in the Aisne department that sits beside Champagne. The vineyards are in the Marne river valley. Visit some of the best known: Champagne Météyer in Trélou-sur-Marne established in 1860, Champagne Pannier in Château-Thierry and Leveque Dehan in Barzy-sur-Marne.

Wines from the Slag Heaps

Hallicourt Slag heaps in north France Hauts-de-France with fields in front and black slag heaps beind
Hallicourt slag heaps

Go to the vine-covered Pas de Calais slag heap (terril) in Haillicourt near Bruay-la Buissière. Who would have thought that a slag heap from former mines would be planted with Chardonnay vines? Fittingly, the vigneron has dubbed his crisp white wine not chardonnay but Le Charbonnay – a pun on the French for coal, charbon.

Where to Buy Beer, Wine and Champagne

There are many outlets and supermarkets for buying your particular tipple. I always go to Calais Vins near Calais. They have a huge range, are knowledgeable, speak English, ask what your favourites are, and give wine tastings. And you can now claim VAT back on purchases very easily as the staff take care of the paper work. Check out my article on Calais Vins VAT reclaim.

Cook with the Professionals in Hauts-de-France

Oeuf ou la poule restaurant withoutside tables and people under canapes and name of restaurant above
L’Oeuf ou la Poule

If you want to learn how to use the local food of Hauts-de-France, head to the stunning town of Arras for a lesson with chef Gabriel Asseman of L’Oeuf ou La Poule (The Egg or the Chicken). On Wednesdays and Saturdays you start with a visit to the market to buy the ingredients you then cook back at the restaurant. There’s a wine pairing with wines from a local merchant.

Book at the Lille L’Atelier des Chefs, a company with cooking schools in different French cities. They have a wide range of classes, including cooking with families.

Learn French baking secrets from pastry chef Eric Chabot-Smyth who has produced delectable desserts in top restaurants around the world. He’s at Les Myrophorres in Abbeville.

Where to Eat in Hauts-de-France

La Clé des Champs restaurant in the Somme Bay. Picture at dusk with blue/red sky clouds, low while buildings with pitched rooves clustered in background with lights on and lights reflecting in water. Two boats moored
La Clé des Champs in the Somme Bay

There are 16 Michelin-starred chefs in Hauts-de-France. But don’t forget the restaurants with a bib gourmand (good value), and the local estaminets which are good bistro-style restaurants often with a Flemish twist.

The two best places for eating well are Lille and Montreuil-sur-Mer. Calais (one of my favourite cities) also has some good and very enjoyable restaurants.

More on where to eat in my article on Best Restaurants in Northern France.

More Information on the Region

How to get to Hauts-de-France

Tourist Offices

Hauts-de-France Tourism
Nord Department Tourism
Pas de Calais Tourism
Picardy Tourism

Regions of France
French Departments

Food in France

The Food of France – An Intriguing Story
The Food of Provence
The Food in Burgundy
The Best Regional French Food
Top Food Festivals in France

The Art of Cuisine of Toulouse-Lautrec great cook and artist who loved to entertain friends to his meals

Toulouse-Lautrec cooking with yellow trousers and red top and hat at the stove by Vuillard
Toulouse-Lautrec at Natansons house in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne by Edouard Vuillard 1898 © Albi/Musée Toulouse-Lautrec

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