Charleville-Mézières (One city, two destinies )

Charleville and Mézières, now united for the better, have experienced two great destinies. One was built on the orders of an Italian nobleman; the other was born of the work of its craftsmen and the determination of its tradesmen.

A child of Charleville, Arthur Rimbaud was not kind to his home town. ‘Atrocious Charlestown’, as he called it, very soon weighed heavily him. He wanted just one thing: to leave. Rimbaud, a little rascal with the face of an angel in perpetual exile, was to embody this contradiction throughout his short life.

À Charleville-Mézières

A - The route of a poet

It was in the city of Charleville — “an exceptionally idiotic small provincial town” — that Arthur Rimbaud was born on 20 October 1854. The tone was set! He shows us his childhood head-on in ‘Les Poètes de sept ans’ (Poets at seven years), a magnificent, ferocious poem expressing his rebellion against his mother. She loved her children, but in her own way. The daughter of a farmer, she was taciturn, like many people of the land, and they lacked tenderness.

Rimbaud’s overflowing imagination led him to crazy dreams: what a contrast between the suffocation, the narrow-mindedness of his family home, the provincial town, and his tumultuous inner life!


In the footsteps of Rimbaud

Immerse yourself in the life and work of the poet by following a route through the city. His mark can still be felt here. You will discover the places where the man with the ‘soles of wind’ spent his youth. The Charleville-Mézières tourist office has published a leaflet, which includes a map of the route.

Discover the promenade

Did you know?

In the cemetery in Charleville-Mézières where the poet is buried, there is a letterbox. Rimbaud still receives a huge amount of post from Francophiles, poetry lovers who want to express their affection for him! The cemetery caretaker empties the box regularly and gives the letters to the curator of the museum who organises exhibitions there. A myth never dies…

À Charleville-Mézières

B - The Rimbaud museum

The Rimbaud myth is a little like the James Dean of the 19th century: his life was short but rich. Everything has been said about Rimbaud... But despite everything that has been written, all the studies, the genius of this rascal remains inexplicable. Rimbaud is the young man who discovered perfect poetry, at a stroke. He wrote his first poem at the age of 15 and completed his work at 21, laying down his pen forever. In just six years, this young man was to revolutionise French poetry.


The museum, an old 17th-century mill, contains some remarkable illustrations of the poems by Picasso, Cocteau and Fernand Léger. It houses the personal effects of Rimbaud and his trunk, with which he went to the ends of the earth. 



Quai Rimbaud
08000 Charleville-Mézières
Tel : +33(0)3 24 32 44 65

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C - The ‘Maison des Ailleurs’

Rimbaud was to make some amazing journeys. He thought only of leaving, to flee the Ardennes town which at the time was in the midst of an industrial revolution, and his mother’s home village, Roche. His travels were to take him to the four corners of the earth, to the Dutch East Indies and to Jakarta… He worked in Greece, joined the Dutch colonial army only to desert three months later, and went as far as Ethiopia. Thanks to lighting effects along with video shows and photographs, visitors can enter this world of travel, strangely sensing a certain tension in this virtual world: the modernity of Rimbaud makes itself felt, naturally.


7, quai Rimbaud
08000 Charleville-Mézières
Tel. : +33(0)3 24 32 44 70

À Charleville-Mézières

D - Vidéo - Charleville-Mézières

À Charleville-Mézières

E - Walk

The Mont Olympe leisure area

Just a stone’s throw from Place Ducale, a small footbridge over the Meuse leads to the heart of a natural area dedicated to relaxation and leisure activities, organised around the city’s mooring station. There you can be sure of a holiday atmosphere!

Did you know ?

Needle weir

This type of dam can be used to reduce the flow of the river by using thin “needles”. The gatekeeper regulates the flow by removing or adding long poles. The Meuse is the only river on which this ancestral technique is still practised.  

Find out about this type of dam by following a narrow path along the Meuse, starting from the Mont Olympe leisure area.


The Mont Olympe leisure area links up with the “Trans-Ardennes” green track which follows the old towpath along the Meuse for over 80 kilometres.

> Green track - RAVeL hiking link

Bicycle hire points:Infos>

De Mont Olympe

The sleeper in the Valley

It’s a green hollow, where a river is singing
Crazily hanging on the grasses rags
Of silver; where the sun, from the proud mountain,
Is shinning: it’s a little valley bubbling with sunlight.

A young soldier, his mouth open, his head bare,
And the nape of his neck bathing in cool blue watercress,
Is sleeping; he is stretched out on the grass, under the skies,
Pale in his green bed where the light falls like rain.

Feet in the gladiolas, he is sleeping.Smiling like
A sick child would smile, he takes a nap:
Nature, rock him warmly: he is cold.

Fragrances do not make his nostrils quiver;
He sleeps in the sun, hand on the breast,
Peacefully. He has two red holes in his right side.


A fairly rare occurrence in the city, the camping of Charleville-Mézières is located two minutes walk from the city center and the aquatic center ...

À Charleville-Mézières

F - Museum of the Ardenne

Visitors enter the museum through a lovely inner courtyard, hidden from sight, as it were. But once inside, what a discovery awaits! The museography is extraordinary. Combining glass, ochre-coloured stone from Dom and metal, it tells the story, the Great Story of the Ardenne, covering every age and evoking the major periods of its construction, including the 19th century which saw the birth of the Industrial Revolution. This museum also recounts the recent history of the city, among other things through a fine collection of puppets.

31, Place Ducale
08000 Charleville mezieres
Tel : 0033(0)3 24 32 44 60


Admission to the Rimbaud museum is combined with admission to the Maison des Ailleurs, both of which are dedicated to the genius of the Charleville’s adolescent poet.

Did you know?

As of the 17th century, Charleville was one of the arsenals of the kingdom. In 1812, the arms factory produced over 50,000 weapons a year and employed more than 1,700 workers. These weapons were used by La Fayette’s troops during the American war of independence.

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G - The Place Ducale

1606. One Louis de Gonzague, an Italian nobleman, wanted to move closer to France. On his wife’s land, he created a new city from start to finish, designed in the Italian style! His son Charles, a worthy heir, dreamt up Place Ducale, with its draughtboard pattern and its fine symmetry. He gave his name to this beautiful city and it quickly supplanted Mézières, which had become dated.

Learn more

08000 Charleville mezieres
Tel : 0033(0)3 24 55 69 90
Web :

Did you know?

The Place Ducale was designed by Clément Métezeau, brother of Louis, who created the Place des Vosges in Paris. The twenty-four pavilions in ochre stone from Dom-le-Mesnnil, with blue-tinted slate roofs, clearly reflect the Ardenne region.


How can you fail to be captivated by the charm of Place Ducale, now a pedestrian precinct, and enjoy its many café and restaurant terraces?

À Charleville-Mézières

H - The Our Lady of Hope Basilica in Mézières

She could go unnoticed, and yet… Our Lady possesses a real gem. After the two World Wars, the window was totally destroyed. The town called upon a number of art workshops. Against all odds, the proposal made to Picasso was positively received. The great artist himself took an interest and became fascinated by the project. However, there was a major concern: Picasso was not a believer! No matter: he entrusted this huge commission to his deeply pious pupil, René Dürrbach. He was to devote 25 years to the task, and together with glassmaker André Seurre he created a work covering 1000 m2, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The window is marked by the symbolism of the Picasso School. Completed in 1979, this intimist composition speaks to all and is open to every culture.


The basilica welcomes visitors daily, thanks to volunteers who can offer you the keys needed to ‘read’ this complex work.

10 place de la Basilique
08000 Charleville mezieres
Tel : 0033(0)3 24 55 69 90
Web :

Did you know?

This basilica had the privilege of hosting a royal wedding, that of Charles IX and Elisabeth of Austria: the Medici family wanted to use the occasion to wipe out the troubles of the past.

À Charleville-Mézières

I - The fortified city

Mézières in the 9th century... The quays along the Meuse were bustling with activity. A lot of trading took place: Burgundy wines passed through the city. At this crossroads of the economic world in northern Europe, trading posts and processing workshops sprang up on all sides. The city became rich on 500 years of trade. Many people from Liège brought their know-how to Mézières. Henceforth, iron was to be hammered out along the Meuse. This wealth had to be protected. Mézières took steps to ensure that it was encircled and fortified…

Enter history

08000 Charleville mezieres
Tel : 0033(0)3 24 55 69 90
Web :


Guided tours of the ramparts are organised by the Charleville tourist office in season.


Amedievaltour of the city reveals Mézières’ glorious past (Information from the Charleville tourist office)

Did you know?

One of the world’s first cars, the Clément-Bayard, was built in the Macérienne factory in Mézières. This small racing car was born of the determination of its designer, Gustave-Adolphe Clément, who had engaged the best foundry skills of the time. These buildings still stand today and can be seen along the ramparts.

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J - Event

The world marionette festival

The marionette (or puppet) established its reputation in Charleville-Mézières: the city is the reference point for this art dedicated to both the young and the not-so-young. Every two years, the World Festival of Marionette Theatres brings together 250 troupes, acclaimed by over 250,000 people! See you on September 2017.

Did you know?

The city is home to ESNAM, the National College of Marionette Arts, one of the few puppeteers’ schools in the world.

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K - Meet and savour

Charleville has good taste!

The carolo, a confectioner’s speciality of the city, crunchy ardoises (nougatine), terrines and other cold meats … to be savoured with the local beer produced by the Petite Brasserie Ardennaise established here.

A real delight!

The barge

On the Meuse, in Charleville-Mézières, you will meet Philippe, in the barge from Mawhot, a place where legends are lived and shared around a good beer.

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L - Reception and tourist information site

Tourist office of Charleville-Mézières et sa région

4 place Ducale - BP 229

08102 Charelville-Mézières cedex

Tél. : + 33 (0) 3 24 55 69 90

La vitrine des Ardennes

22-24 place Ducale - BP 419

08107 Charelville-Mézières cedex

Tél. : + 33 (0) 3 24 56 06 08

À Fagnon

M - Did you know?

At the start of the 14-18 war, General Joffre set up his headquarters in the abbey: the rapid advance of the Germans forced him to leave the place very quickly. In September, Kaiser Wilhelm II settled in Charleville: he turned Septfontaines Castle into a casino where he came every day to take tea, accompanied by his senior officers. This game of musical chairs among the generals continued in the 1930s… General de Gaulle liked to stroll through the castle grounds with his wife.


The abbey is now home to one of the finest golf courses in the Ardennes.

Abbaye de Sept fontaines
08090 Fagnon
Web :

À Charleville-Mézières

N - All aboard the 2CV!

The indestructible 2 CV ... Take a ride in a Citroen 'Deux Chevaux', the French motoring icon that symbolised low-cost, reliable motoring for over four decades.  Rétroscapade's 2CV will take you along the roads of the Thiérache region, over the Rocroi plateau and through the Meuse and Semoy valleys: for a day, a weekend, or a week, from the station of Rethel, as you wish, and for as long as you wish.  It's the ideal solution to explore the French Ardennes Regional Nature Park and discover the local gastronomy while you are about it.

Tel. +33 (0)3 24 53 54 73 

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