Departmental capital: Charleville-Mézières
Main cities/towns: Rethel, Sedan, Givet, Nouzonville, Bogny-sur-Meuse, Vouziers
Ardennes – a small, historic piece of north east France that will forever be, in the minds of many Britons, associated with World Wars One and Two.
This green and pleasant part of the country – the smallest of the four departments that made up the old Champagne-Ardennes region, now subsumed into the Grand Est super-region – frankly deserves better.
It is a genial mix of farmland and forest, dotted with small, bustling towns brimming with Belgian, Dutch and German influences. It’s all wide-open spaces, big sky, and quiet, meandering roads to somewhere.
Full disclosure, however: it can get as cold as inner continental lowland Europe in some winters and quite often snowier, particularly in the north.
Do not be fooled, however, into thinking that the Ardennes is in the middle of nowhere. Transport links are excellent.
It is connected to the TGV network, motorways connect to Strasbourg and Paris, while just over the border, in Belgium, the easy-to-reach Charleroi airport offers connections to Europe and further afield.
Belgian and Dutch second-home owners are tempted to this part of France by the relatively low house prices. You may be, too, especially if you had not considered this area of France before. A typical home in the Ardennes costs, on average, €1,003 per m². In popular Rethel, the average price rises to €1,395 per m², while you can expect to pay around €1,318 per m² in Charleville-Mézières, the only town in the department with a population above 20,000.