|Arras, hôtel de ville (town hall). Tours start at tourist office, Place des Héros, 62000 Arras.
All year daily 10:30-17.
Closed 25-DEC, 01-JAN, two weeks mid JAN.
Adults EUR 5.30, Children EUR 3.10.
|Rock Mine Limestone Mine Room and Pillar Mining
|Incandescent Electric Light System
|Office de Tourisme, Place des Héros, 62000 Arras, Tel: 0321-5126-95, Fax: 0321-5176-49. E-mail:
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|first chalk mines created but soon forgotten.
|rediscovered and used as cellars.
|used in the battle of Arras.
|used as an air raid shelter.
|opened to the public.
Les Boves are chalk mines, which were created during the 10th century. The plains of northern France, like many parts of northern Europe, are covered by glacial sediments, and the chance to mine rocks for buildings and roads was always used, even if this meant to go underground. The chalk is rather easy to mine because of its softness, still it is stable enough for cellars as much as for creating buildings. It was primarly extracted for the white facades of the city's buildings.
The entrance to Les Boves is a steep stair with Roman arcs. The Roman arcs continue underground, which gives those quarries the style of a crypt. The cellars were built in a room and pillar technique, where pillars were left to support the ceiling and avoid collapses.
Obviously the mines were used during later centuries as cellars. Food and wine was stored, the 11 °C are ideal for wine. Some cellars were used as barns, some even as underground houses. There are various access points to the interconnected cellars, obviously everybody who shared some space wanted a stair down from his house. There are spiral staircases and vertical shafts, which were used to transport the goods with a winch. There are even the remains of a chapel, this place was used for worship.
During World War I, when the fontier was only a few kilometers away, the Medieval passages were used by the British army as a field hospital. Further constructions which were dug by men from New Zealand had an important role which is described on another page: Wellington Caves
The cellars are used until today, especially the part below the town hall, which is open for the public and used for changing exhibitions and special events. Every year in spring the vaults of Les Boves are used for a weird art or plant exhibition. The vaults are full of green plants, each one with its own plant light. In autumn Halloween is celebrated underground. Other parts of the cellars are still in use as cellars by their respective owners. There are even restaurants and bars underground in the vaults.