Nord for short, is one of the 22 regions of France. It
consists of the departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais, in
the north and has a border with Belgium. Most of the region
was once part of the Southern Netherlands, within the Low
Countries, and gradually became part of France between 1477
and 1678. The historical provinces now included in
Nord-Pas-de-Calais are Artois, Boulonnais, Cambraisis,
Flanders, and Hainaut, and portions of northern Picardy.
These provincial designations are still frequently used by
the inhabitants, which offers a sense of civic pride.
With its 323.7 people per km2 on just over 12,400 km2, it is a densely populated region, having some four million inhabitants—seven percent of France's total population, making it the fourth most populous region in the country—83% of whom live in urban communities. Its administrative centre and largest city is Lille. The second largest city is Calais, which serves as a major continental economic/transportation hub with Dover of Great Britain 26 miles away; the White Cliffs of Dover are visible from Calais on a clear day. Other major towns include Valenciennes, Lens, Douai, Béthune, Dunkirk, Maubeuge, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Arras, Cambrai and Saint-Omer.