Les Hortillonnages – a leafy paradise at the heart of the city of Amiens
Les Hortillonnages is a leafy paradise at the heart of the city, an idyllic setting for a romantic walk. Les Hortillonages helped make Amiens the 7th greenest city in France. The 300 hectares of floating gardens have been cultivated since the Middle Ages encircled by arms of the River Somme and the Avre. The plots are separated by little channels known as “rieux” in Picard dialect. In the 19th century, almost a thousand people cultivated the black, fertile soil of Les Hortillonnages providing vegetables (carrots, cabbages, leeks, turnips, etc.) for the people of Amiens and Paris.
Today there are only 7 market gardeners although the number is rising. They sell their produce every Saturday morning at the market at Quai Bélu in the Saint-Leu district. The other gardens have become ornamental gardens for people from Amiens who go there to relax at weekends on the edge of the city.
One of the charming features of the gardens are the little bridges across the channels from the towpath with delightful wrought-iron gates leading to the little corners of paradise. Every year a ‘Banks in Bloom’ contest takes place and the plot owners stretch their imagination to offer visitors a profusion of fragrant flowers. You can discover the gardens aboard a traditional ‘barque à cornet’ boat with a guide every day from April to October from the landing stage at Boulevard Beauvillé.