France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Les Hortillonnages, Amiens, Somme, France
Floating gardens in the middle of the city—an unusual and lovely place to visit by boat or on foot.

  Hortillonages, Amiens, France
Your boat in the hortillonnages
will be in much better shape
than this one! Note modern
buildings of the city.



 

   

 

If you look at a map of Amiens, you will see not only the Somme River, but also hundreds of canals and waterways (called rieux in the local Picard language), threads of blue criss-crossing the land for about 65 kilometers (40 miles). These are Les Hortillonnages, or floating gardens, of Amiens.

The name comes from the Latin hortus, meaning garden, and this area has been farmed for centuries. Formerly marshy land in the bed of the Somme, the hortillonnages are where the hortillons, or market gardeners grow their produce and sell it at the water market at Place Parmentier, in the Saint-Leu area, and later in Paris and other locales. Today there are only about 10 hortillons, who still sell their produce on Saturday mornings in Saint-Leu.

Much of the area is now managed by the Association Pour la Protection et la Sauvegarde du Site et de l'Environment des Hortillonnages. Dedicated to protecting and preserving Les Hortillonnages, this group offers guided boat trips for visitors through the rieux from April through October.

Boat trips leave from the Maison des Hortillonnages, just off of the Boulevard de Beauvillé, about a 15 minute walk from the Cathedral (map). Most morning trips are reserved for groups, but afternoons (1:30 - 5:00) are fine for individuals. If you arrive at 1:30 you may need to wait in line for a few minutes, but it's worth it. Lines may be shorter later, depending on the season.

The traditional boat, called a barque à cornet, has a flat bottom and raised prows to avoid damaging the riverbanks. Each boat holds from 8-12 people. Your boatman/guide will point out interesting sites and gardens during the trip, which lasts about 45 minutes. Once you set off from the bustling boat dock, you enter a world of calm, traveling peacefully on the rieux.

Les Hortillonages, Amiens, France
A view of the hortillonnages shortly after leaving the dock. Hard to believe we're just a few minutes from the bustling town center!

You may see ducks, herons, swans, or other bird life, as well as lovely flowers and gardens. Although at some points you'll feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere, at other times you'll be reminded that you're right in the city. It's a pleasant way to see this unique area.

If you're not interested in a boat trip, or if you simply want another view of Les Hortillonnages, you can walk along the tow path (halage) and along the network of trails that traverse the gardens.

What about the produce from the gardens? If you happen to be in Amiens on a Saturday morning, go to the Place Parmentier in Saint-Leu, where the hortillons will come to sell their produce. And once a year, in June, the boatmen come in historic costume and sell from their boats. Check with the Tourist Information Office for the specific date.

You might also see vegetables in stores labeled as Les t'cho légumes des hortillons, a name adopted by some local gardeners to market and sell their produce.

Association Pour la Protection et la Sauvegarde du Site et de l'Environment des Hortillonnages
54, Blvd de Beauvillé
80000 Amiens, France
+33 (0)3 22 92 12 18


About Amiens

Amiens Hotels

What to See & Do in Amiens

Amiens Tourist Information

World War I

Amiens Restaurants

Amiens Transportation

About the Northern Region

 

 

 

  Les Hortillonages, Amiens, France

Above, A group of visitors set off with their boatman to visit Les Hortillonnages.

Below, Lovely flowers, yard, and home in Les Hortillonnages, Amiens.

Les Hortillonages, Amiens, France

 

 

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