Day trips from Calais
Though the buzzing port-side town of Calais is itself a popular tourist resort, venture less than two hours in your car and you’ve got a whole other world to discover. Dunkirk, found 40 minutes east of Calais, is a seaside resort famed for its museums, art galleries and pretty sand dunes, and is also the site of Operation Dynamo – one of wartime history’s most miraculous rescue missions. Venture south-east from our P&O port for just over an hour, and you’ll find yourself in Lille – a glittering cultural hub that’s famed for its Old Town. Arras (again, just over an hour’s drive away) serves as the gateway to the idyllic Artois countryside, while chic Le Touquet is where France’s glitterati go to unwind. Wander along its wide promenade (past picture-perfect beach huts), shop its high-end boutiques, and go for a dip in the sea, all before enjoying an elegant meal at one of the city’s many Michelin-starred eateries. Found yourself in France? Take a look at these day trip destinations from Calais.
A 40 minute drive from Calais port will take you to Dunkirk, a coastal city that’s renowned for holding one of the most miraculous escapes in military history. The Battle of Dunkirk saw the evacuation of 330,000 Allied troops against Nazi Germany across its 15-mile shoreline during World War II. Today, the immaculate beaches are lined with beautiful Belle Époque buildings, cosy cafes, and tiny bars, but you’ll find the events of 1940 remembered in many important sites. The Dunkirk 1940 Museum and the nearby Dunkirk Memorial are both great places to learn more about the evacuation. The city also has a working harbour, making it the ideal place for boat trips (often in one of Operation Dynamo’s ‘Little Ships’), or relaxing walks by the sea.
Home to Europe’s largest flea market and France’s tallest Belfry, Lille is a city that doesn’t do things by halves. With its charming Old Town, impressive architecture, and large student population driving the historic area’s creative vibe, it’s a place that should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list. Found just over an hour’s drive from France’s Calais port, Lille is perfect for a day trip, and offers more than 30 tourist sites and attractions. Once you’ve parked up, travel around the city with free usage of Lille’s metropolitan public transport network (metro, bus, tram) and free entry to must-see destinations across the city with the Lille City Pass, which can cover 24, 48 or even 72 hour intervals. For panoramic views over the city and beyond, those feeling energetic should climb the 104-metre Belfry that dominates Lille’s idyllic skyline. Rebuilt in 1932, the tower is now the tallest municipal structure in France and has since been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site – along with the city’s decorative town hall.
The capital of France’s Pas-de-Calais department, Arras is famed for its strategic location along wartime France’s front line. Lovingly rebuilt brick by brick after its past conflict, its wonderful tree-lined avenues, grand mansions and beautiful Flemish architecture mark Arras out as one of France’s true hidden gems – and it lies just over an hour’s drive from Calais port. With such a rich and varied history, Arras has a whole host of specialist museums to explore. Dedicated to the area’s fine art, the Musée de Beaux-Arts is the best place to see the area’s well known Arras tapestries, while children will love the Cité Nature for its immersive exhibitions on food, animals and more. So whether it’s culture, history or art you’re after, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Arras.
Less than an hour’s drive from the port of Calais, you’ll soon find yourself breathing in the fresh sea air and gazing upon the endless sands of Le Touquet, a chic seaside escape in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France. First developed into a holiday spot in the late 19th century, its beaches, sea view villas and grand Art Deco architecture have since made it a hotspot for British visitors. Stroll along the paved promenade, relax on fine white sandy beaches or walk through a century-old coastal forest full of wildlife, before heading up to the lighthouse for the best views of the surrounding area. Admire the beautiful Town Hall opposite the Belfry, before heading to grab some goodies at the Marche Couvert, a lively market in the heart of the town.