Daughter dear and I chose a very sad weekend in February to explore the French Ardennes. But what do you do on a rainy and cold day in the French Ardennes? It’s low season – or off season whatever you prefer – most attractions are closed and the beautiful estate we ended up in, tried to seduce us to spend the weekend reading and drinking hot cacoa. So, here are three day trips to do on a rainy day in the Ardennes.
Even though the estate was inviting, we decided we had to brave the rain to visit some famous houses in the Ardennes. Places we could explore so we didn’t have to spend the day outside. Or in the cold. Not everyone will know this, but on a reasonable drive around the Ardennes, you can find the houses of several historical figures.
In Villers-Cotterêts you’ll find the museum of Alexandre Dumas about the father, the son and the grand son Duma. The museum is open every day, all year round till 5pm and on Sundays even till 6pm. Several manuscripts can be found online too. It is a great find to go over the texts of Three musketeers or La dame aux Camélia. It is an impressive family with a very interesting history.
Open: 14:00 till 17:00
Entrance fee: € 3,45. It is free if you’re under 18 (bring your passport!).
First Sunday of the month is free.
Chateau of Compiègne
In Compiègne, at a 1,5 hour drive from the heart of the Ardennes, you find the imperial castle of Compiègne vinden. Compiègne was a favorite hunting spot ever since Charles V. This royal is responsible for the first castle at Compiègne. His succesors did the rest. The castle would grow to be just as important as Versailles and Fontainebleau). The current version has three permanent expositions. One about the apartments of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette up to the empire of Napoleon III. They don’t skip Napoleon I en Marie-Louise. The apartments are decorated with original pieces and very worthwhile the visit for everyone that is interested in that period. The second exposition is about the second empire of Napoleon III and Eugenie. The third one is one of the greatest expositions on vehicles you will find anywhere. The vehicles are from the 17th century till the 20th. It is a favorite with a lot of people. Not in the least because the plaza in front of the castle is the starting point of a classic biking race: Paris – Roubaix.
Open: every day 3:30 uur till 17:00 uur.
Entrance fee: € 7,50. It is free if you’re under 26. Bring your passport.
All three expositions of the Chateau of Compiègne can be visited for free every 1st Sunday of the month.
More up North, at the pittoresk Bohain en Vermandois you’ll find the family home of the painter Henri Matisse. It is a small museum that is fully equipped as educational centre. Four expositions can be visited whole year round. Two of them are of contemporary artists or photographers. With little kids this is the day out to find in the Ardennes. The museum of Matisse lets children from 4 to 12 years old explore their artistic selfs. By letting them paint. For smaller kids, there are special lessons together with the parents. If the weather clears up there is a great walk through the village, the museum will provide you with an audio guide. The walk will guide you past eight places that were very important for the youthful Matisse.
You can download the audioguide from the website if you want to prepare yourself for your visit. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and holidays. During the wintermonths the museum will be closed on Mondays too.
It was a informative and cultural weekend that kept us dry in the French Ardennes. We had a great time, despite the awful weather. Do you have any tips for a rainy day in the Ardennes? Please let me know! I’m always looking for more travel tips.