• The port of Calais is the departure point for many passengers and merchandise headed to England. Indeed, it is the largest passenger port in France.
    © Jerome Berquez - age fotostock
    The port of Calais

    The port of Calais is the departure point for many passengers and merchandise headed to England. Indeed, it is the largest passenger port in France.

Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination France

Calais, the nearest French town to England, is located on the Straits of Dover less than 22 mi from the English cliffs.
It is a proud town of sailors and also an important lace centre. It started out in its present-day form in 1885 when the two separate towns of 'bourgeois' Calais Nord and 'working class' Saint-Pierre were joined together.
After being all but destroyed during the Second World War, the town picked itself up again to become France's number one tourist port, and, in 1993 it became the French home of the Channel Tunnel.

Calais: what to do?

Hiking holds pride of place; there are 32 walking and cycling routes. More than 1,860 miles of marked and maintained hiking trails are available for exploring the heritage of the region and its surrounding areas. You can also go horse riding around the marshes, rivers, gardens, canals, hills and dunes of the Opal Coast. You can choose your own route and customise it to suit your needs. The more adventurous can also go paragliding, skydiving, rafting, jet-skiing and paintballing. If you prefer more peaceful activities, Calais is a paradise for sailing, golf and fishing.

The Tour du Guet. This 38-metre high tower dating back to the 13th century has been listed as a historical monument since 1931. It is one of the oldest monuments in the city.
The citadel, on which work began in 1560, has been destroyed and rebuilt many times throughout history. Its interior was destroyed during the Second World War, but you can still explore the Medieval ramparts and wander along the flower-lined paths of the Porte de Neptune (Neptune's Gate).
The 'Feu de Walde' (Light of Walde), the former lighthouse of Walde, was built in 1857 and is on the verge of being demolished due to damage from a propane explosion in 1953.
The Church of Notre Dame, which suffered extensive damage during the Second World War and has only been partially rebuilt. The choir, the altarpiece and the Chapel of the Virgin Mary are closed to the public and have been awaiting renovation for more than 60 years.
Among the museums of Calais are the Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle (Fine Arts and Lace Museum), the Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode (International Centre of Lace and Fashion) and the Musée de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale (Second World War Museum).

  • The proximity to England and Belgium.
  • The various sports and cultural facilities.
  • The wealth of the historical heritage.
  • The more often than not bad weather.
  • The price for parking and the lack of cleanliness on the pavements.
  • The city is divided into two parts, which gives it the impression of being constantly empty.


In summer, take a jumper to wear in the evenings.
The shops are closed between 12:00pm and 2:00pm.

To avoid

The city centre, with its dirty and slippery pavements, is completely deserted.

Calais: what to eat?

The cuisine of Calais is composed of dishes served in fine, authentic restaurants and local products sold directly by producers and artisans. You can enjoy fish, meat and poultry accompanied by endives, watercress, cauliflower and Ratte potatoes, all washed down with a glass of beer or Genever gin (a fruit flavoured spirit). Throughout the year, the city hosts local festivals, including the Fête du Hareng (Herring Festival), the Fête de la Fraise (Strawberry Festival), the Fête de la Dinde (Turkey Festival) and the Foire à l'Echalote (Shallot Fair).

Calais: what to buy?

A sugar pie, Genever gin, and lace.

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