ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting Roubaix, France: architectural magnificence, polarities and apparent contradictions

Updated on March 12, 2013
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Facade detail of Roubaix's City Hall
Facade detail of Roubaix's City Hall | Source
St. Martin's church, Roubaix
St. Martin's church, Roubaix | Source
Map location of Roubaix, France
Map location of Roubaix, France | Source

Its Grand'Place has excellent examples of civic and ecclesiastical architecture

Roubaix, has among the most magnificent architecture of northern France. The Grand'Place of this major French city has outstanding examples of both civic and ecclesiastical architecture.

Famous people associated with the city also typify important trends in French history and culture.

City Hall

The City Hall (Hôtel de ville) was completed in 1911. The building's design has various motif references to the large, local textile industry which formerly gave the city (known as the 'French Manchester') much of its prosperity.

The architect responsible was Victor Laloux. He also worked on other notable buildings such as the American Embassy in Paris.

Of the various impressive frontages of northern French City Halls, that of Roubaix probably impressed me among the most.

Church of St. Martin

The church of St Martin (Eglise Saint-Martin ) was substantially built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its site is on that of a church originating several centuries earlier.

In the 19th century, the architect Charles Leroy, who also worked on Lille's cathedral and other significant projects in the region, was responsible for restoring the building.

Famous people associated with Roubaix

A number of famous people have associations with Roubaix. These include:

Pierre Pflimlin , born in Roubaix in 1907, was Prime Minister of France in 1958 preceding General Charles de Gaulle's appointment to that post; as it happens, I remember seeing Mr. Pflimlin by chance at a congress hall in Belgium, when he later was serving as the President of the European Parliament.

Maxence Van der Meersch , also born in 1907 in Roubaix, was a novelist whose works were largely set in Flanders; again, I recall spending many hours of fascinated reading as I devoured works which described the many places in northern France and Belgium which I had visited over a number of years. His books also evoke much tension between secular and religious themes. His Quand les sirènes se taisent ('When the looms are silent', 1933) is set in Roubaix. He died in 1951.

Jules Guesde (1847-1922) served as a parliamentary deputy representing Roubaix. As a student I recall being very struck by the complexities of his thought which — on the surface — seemed contradictory. Later, studying his ideas and life, I am led to surmise that his life exemplifies many of the interwoven strands of thought and political culture which so deeply typify France itself. A revolutionary Marxist, and defender of trade unionists, he ended up opposing the way church and state were separated in 1905 because he claimed that the Combes ministry was violating the same right to freedom of association for religious orders that workers were claiming for themselves. An avowed internationalist who regarded worldwide worker brotherhood as being more important than French nationalist positions, he ended up joining the French government as a minister in 1914 after the beginning of World War 1 against Germany. This, despite the fact that Germany possessed a large labour movement with which Guesde had previously professed solidarity.

Also worth seeing

Menen, Belgium (distance: 16 kilometres), situated in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, has an interesting octagonal tower, dating from the 17th century, on its Town Hall.

Tourcoing (distance: 4 kilometres) has many distinguished buildings, including a belfry, and the City Hall dating from 1885.

Lille, France (distance: 13 kilometres), has cultural attractions too numerous to mention, but these include the picturesque place du Général de Gaulle , with its Old Stock Exchange (la vieille Bourse ) and the nearby Chamber of Commerce belfry; and General de Gaulle's birthplace museum.

Comines, France (distance: 18 kilometres), separated by the Lys River from the Belgian part of its conurbation, itsTown Hall belfry is interesting, and there is a bust of the Medieval chronicler Philippe de Commynes in the grounds of St. Chrysole church.

Renescure, France (distance: 67 kilometres), has an old castle, which now functions as the Town Hall, associated with Medieval chronicler Philippe de Commynes.

Mont de l'Enclus/Kluisberg, Belgium (distance: 30 kilometres) is a picturesque, wooded hill through which the French/Dutch linguistic frontier runs.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Roubaix (distance: 109 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains rail links with Roubaix. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)