Best Family Holidays in France
The rich history that binds England and France together certainly plays a role in the irresistible attraction Brits feel towards their closest neighbours. Satisfying this curiosity is most rewarding, as France boasts a never-ending supply of wonders for the whole family, and all within a reasonable driving distance from Calais port. The affectionately titled Hexagon, a moniker that nods to the country’s shape, is home to world-renowned landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower and the magnificent castles of the Loire Valley. However, don’t forget to explore further afield too – those wishing to unwind and enjoy quality time with loved ones will love the pristine beaches of Normandy, or soaking up the historical wonder of beautiful Lille. Interested? Take a look at these destinations for the best family holidays in France.
Family holidays in Boulogne-sur-Mer
A 30-minute drive south-west from the port of Calais will take you to the coastal city of Boulogne-sur-Mer. This charming city will nicely introduce you to France’s medieval past, making it the perfect place for a family vacation. Be sure to visit its time-defying fortifications – a walk on the towering ramparts is a must – before heading to the labyrinthine crypt of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne. Follow this subterranean adventure with a delightful above-ground promenade in the rue de Lille, a cobbled pedestrian thoroughfare teeming with restaurants and antique shops. Grab unique souvenirs or delicious ice creams for your children – and yourself – before heading to the out-of-this-world Nausicaá, the largest aquarium in Europe, and home to some of the ocean’s most illustrious inhabitants. In 2018, the million-litre High Seas exhibit opened, with scalloped hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and shimmering shoals of fish viewable from either the massive 100m2 viewing window or 18-metre underwater tunnel. End the day on another magical note with a visit to the city’s ephemeral garden – it’s reinvented every year.
Family holidays in Normandy
A popular destination for the French themselves, the region of Normandy will instantly win you over with its seaside location and north-western charm. Kids will love spending a day at one of the area’s many beaches, boat spotting and building sand castles, while history fans will want to immerse themselves in its storied past. Brits have a particularly special relationship with Normandy, the beaches of course being where their heroic elders debarked upon on D-Day of 1944 during the Second World War. Several of the area’s D-Day museums are wonderfully modern and child-friendly too, with interactive exhibits that mean that kids will be able to learn some history without becoming bored. A short drive across the coast will get you to Honfleur, a picturesque town immortalised in the paintings of Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet. There is nothing quite as relaxing as sitting in one of the restaurants bordering the old port here and feasting on a Norman crepe, the flavour of which is enhanced with a dash of Calvados, an apple brandy. Rested and content, you can then take a memorable family road trip across the impressive Normandy Bridge to the picturesque Le Havre.
Family holidays in Paris
Stepping into Paris – located only three hours away from Calais by car – has the magical quality of re-enchanting one’s world. Known for its romantic charm, the city of lights is also ideal for creating life-long family memories. Children will marvel at the Eiffel Tower and gasp in excitement upon meeting their favourite cartoon characters at Disneyland Paris, while parents will admire masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo in the Louvre. But Paris is not solely its cultural activities. It’s also its savoir-vivre. Wander into the Halles – the central market, or ‘belly’, of Paris – and the rue Montorgueil which is abundant with artisan’s shops. Sip a coffee, and your children a grenadine, on the ‘rive gauche’ while imagining Victor Hugo’s hunchback jumping from one Notre-Dame’s gargoyle to another. Book a table in a lively brasserie on the Grands Boulevards and then stroll through the opulent alleys of Palais-Royal. Treat everyone to local refined pastries and venture into the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden and zoo that Parisian families like to go to on the weekend. As Ernest Hemingway wrote, ‘Paris is a moveable feast,’ and ‘wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you.’
Family holidays in Lille
Conveniently situated only an hour’s drive from Calais, Lille hosts the biggest flea market in Europe each September, a traditional event dating back to the Flemish fairs of the 12th century. This is just one example of the history found throughout its cobbled streets; be sure to see the remarkable gothic vestige of the Palais de Rihour, as well as the colourful walls of old Lille’s buildings and the stunning stock market place that now hosts booksellers. With shelves upon shelves of books from a myriad of disciplines, a wander around here will delight all ages. If you’re travelling with little explorers, be sure to visit the city’s zoo – where you can see meerkats, marmosets and even a red panda. Don’t do all this exploring on an empty stomach though: we recommend trying out the ‘fricadelle’, a very popular dish in the north of France, humbly consisting of succulent fries and a sausage – great for even the fussiest of eaters. For something sweet, check out one of Lille’s many patisseries. Merveilleux – essentially meringue pieces that have been sandwiched together with whipped cream and chocolate – are loved by kids and adults alike.