If you’re heading to the Ardennes, France, read on to discover 10 family friendly activities in the area.
An uncomplicated train journey from London, or around a 3.5 hour drive from Calais, the Ardennes is an easily accessible family friendly destination in the North East of France. It is close to Champagne but also boarders Belgium and Luxembourg, with the geographical region itself actually extending into these countries.
Named after the plateau ‘Ardenne Massif’ (which means it’s not quite a mountain, but a hilly area), it is an area renowned for its natural beauty. With lush forests, rocky peaks, and the meandering Semoy and Meuse rivers, the Ardenne is the perfect destination for active families who appreciate nature and the outdoors.
Cycle the Trans-Ardennes cycle path
A 75 mile section of the the longer Meuse Cycle path, the Trans-Ardennes is a traffic free cycle route that follows the Meuse river. It is a flat route, making it super family friendly, but it runs between the forest covered hills of the Ardenne so it still offers stunning scenery along the way.
The full 75miles is likely to be too adventurous for most families, but there are various places you can pick up the route, and of course there are towns, villages and beauty spots to stop at along the way. This brochure is the perfect guide.
We took a gentle ride along a short section of the route, just to get a taster, and it was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon. The Dais Like These kids are always happy on their bikes, so I know they would enjoy this.
There are a variety of places to hire bikes with many offering child bikes, child seats or chariots. This really useful brochure from Tourisme Ardennes lists all the bike rental companies.
Canoe down the Semoy River
At many points in the Ardennes, the Semoy river is beautifully calm and bustling with nature. There are no rushing rapids, or adrenaline inducing sections. At Canoe Semoy, based in Les Hautes Rivière, each canoe can take two adults and a child, providing they can swim, making this a perfect day out for families.
This is a great place to either try canoeing for the first time, or to just take an easy jaunt along the river. With routes from 2.5km to 15km, there is something for everyone.
We took a 5km route from Les Haute Rivière, and had a wonderful morning. I think this would be a perfect stretch for families.
Splash, play, eat frites, and stay at Lac des Vielles Forges
The sandy shores of Lac des Vielles Forges are the perfect spot for a family stay or even just a day out.
With a campsite, playground, tree-top adventures parks, water sports, snack bar (being so close to Belgium, frites are popular!) and even an elf themed play park, Elfy Park, for kids as young as two, it really is a perfect spot for families.
Fly like a bird over the Meuse River
This is an activity for older kids, or adventurous younger kids who want to fly with a grown up. At TerrAltitude, from a height of 110m, you will travel at over 100km per hour for 1.2km over the Meuse river – the longest zip wire in Northern France! Kids above 35kg in weight (normally around 12yrs+) can fly solo, or if below they can go tandem with a grown up.
To see a video of my zip wire launch, follow the below link.
This was my first zip wire experience and I have to say that it was a lot calmer and more of a serene journey than I could have imagined. I thought it would be a wind rushing in the face, eyes watering, adrenaline pumping, experience. I was pleasantly surprised, and think my boys would love it!
Watch a free puppet show in Charleville-Mézièr
Charleville-Mézièr is the puppetry capital of the world. Not only do aspiring puppeteers compete for places at the world renowned puppetry college, Institut International de la Marionnette, but there is a world famous festival here every two years. During the Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marrionettes, hundreds of puppetry companies travel to Charleville – Mézièr from all around the world. Only around 30 of them get official spots on stages around the town, the rest of them line the streets and perform for visitors and locals alike!
But if your visit falls outside of the festival, you can still experience a show if you head behind the Musée Ardennes. Here you will find a mechanical puppet show which opens for a few minutes each hour between 10am and 9pm, and tells the local legend of the Quatre Fils Aymon (the Four Sons of the Duke of Aymon).
First you will notice a large pair of golden feet hiding behind a metal fence, look up and you will see a mechanical curtain drawn across the stage, in what looks like a window, topped with the golden theatrical head. On the hour, the mechanical curtains will open to music, and a pair of golden hands dance the characters around, whilst a voice tells the the tale in French.
This charming show will delight children, and adults alike!
Discover the history of the Ardennes at the Musée Ardennes
The Ardennes is a region steeped in history, and the Musée Ardennes traces it back to the pre-historic era, taking visitors on a walk through time using displays of artefacts from all across the region.
From etchings on slate thought to date back as far as the cave paintings of Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, to a room full of the arms of Charleville (vintage guns and even a cannon), to puppets of all shapes and sizes; there is lots here to delight younger visitors and their grown ups too!
Indulge in some sugar pie
Galette au Sucre Ardennaise, or sugar pie, is a sweet bread found throughout North Eastern France, but particularly in the Ardennes. From the breakfast buffet in the hotels, to the counters of boulangeries and cafes, Sugar Pie was around every corner during our trip to the Ardennes, and I have to admit that I indulged in a slice on more than one occasion, it was just too good!
This is a must try on a trip to the Ardennes, and kids especially will love this special treat.
Play princes and princesses at the largest castle in Europe
Chateâu Fort de Sedan is an impressive fortress in the historical town of Sedan. Originally built in 1424 it has been strengthened and developed over the centuries and is now hailed as the largest castle fort in the whole of Europe!
Castles are always a winner for families, and Chateâu Fort de Sedan doesn’t disappoint. Kids will love wondering the atmospheric tunnels beneath the castle, climbing twisting stairways, finding cannons and suits of armour, and even spotting red faced sheep keeping the grass neatly trimmed!
Sleep in a castle
If you want to take the castle experience to the next level – you can sleep there too!
No, you will not be thrown in the dungeons and expected to sleep on the floor, but you will have a warm and cosy room at the Hotel Château Fort de Sedan, with exposed castle walls and views across the fortress from authentic castle windows.
For families there are mezzanine suite rooms on the top floor which have access to some outside space on the castle ramparts, as well as a double bed, a sofa bed and the option to add an additional cot or fold out bed.
Eat and eat some more!
From the local cheese fromage de Rocroy, to the traditional speciality Boudin blanc, or white sausage, there are a whole host of local delicacies to try when in the Ardennes. Not only that, but there are a whole host of family friendly restaurants too.
Although I’d not heard of the Ardennes as a culinary hot spot before my visit, I have to say that we ate extremely well! There are many award winning restaurants in the region, some of which we got to try.
Sel et Poivre, Charleville-Mézièr
For traditional dishes, in an intimate setting, with very warm hospitality, head to Sel et Poive in Charleville Mézièr.
Try the house aperitif of Vin Citron – a concoction created by the chefs grandma Yvette, and make sure you ask for the tea menu after the meal for some of the best herbal tea combinations.
Restaurant Le Point de Chute, Tournavaux
For great food in a beautiful setting (think gently rushing river, blossom trees, grazing sheep, forest covered hills, and a pretty town hall), head to Restaurant Le Point de Chute in Tournavaux.
La Table D’Arthur, Charleville-Mézièr
For a deluxe meal in a Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’ restaurant that just so happens to be family friendly, opt for La Table D’Arthur in Charleville- Mézièr. With tables downstairs beneath stone arches, you will be treated to friendly service and a delicious menu. There was a family with kids sitting at the table next to us during our meal, and they were warmly welcomed and seemed very happy.
Restaurant L’Echiquier, Sedan
If you’re visiting the Château Fort de Sedan, then you don’t need to stray too far for a meal at Restaurant L’Echiquier which has views across to the impressive castle. With delicate tuna carpaccio, to hearty grilled pork, the menu is varied and delicious.
Restaurant la Principaute, Sedan
If you fancy eating in the castle tower, then the the Restaurant la Principaute in the Hotel Château Fort de Sedan is the pace to go. Open to guests and non-guests, it offers a classic menu with a modern twist, in a sympathetically decorated castle setting.
Ardwen Brasserie, Launois sur Vence
Finally, if craft beer is your tipple then you can’t miss having a meal at the Ardwen Brewery in Launois Sur Vence. This micro-brewery produces award winning beers, which rather than taste on an organised tour (which let’s face it, kids aren’t always in the mood for!) you can taste alongside a delicious meal in the adjoining restaurant.
From delicate fish, to hearty burgers, all washed down with a matching award winning beer, this is place is perfect for families. Be sure to check out this brilliant review by Nell from The Pigeon Pair and Me who was also in the Ardennes with me.
So, there you have it, a round up of just some of the amazing things there are to see and do (and eat!!) in the Ardennes, France. I will definitely be returning with the whole family, to show the kids this beautiful part of the world.
Have you been to the Ardennes in France before? If so, what did I miss?!
(During our visit, we also stayed at the Hotel Dormeur Du Val, a quirky and very lovely 4* hotel in Charleville Mézièr. A review of the hotel will follow on the blog)