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Gateway to France

Calais, which lies in the northernmost tip of France at the closest point to England, is best known for its ferry port and shopping facilities. The town is known to many as the gateway to France, as the ferry port is the busiest in France and is the first part of France seen by many as they disembark to set foot on French soil.

Fascinating and attractive town

Many other visitors from Britain only see certain parts of Calais, namely the hypermarkets, which sell cheap wine, chocolate and other French goods. But to write it off as just a shopping town or a port is to do Calais an injustice. If you take a little time to explore Calais, the town will reward you by slowly giving up its secrets and revealing itself to be a fascinating and attractive place worthy of your attention.

A little history lesson

To understand Calais, you need to know just a little of the town's history. It began life as a mediaeval walled and moated town, but the successive wars in which Calais was bombarded, flattened almost all of the original walls and changed the face of the town for ever. Some parts of the old town remain, however, and the 13th century watchtower and the Church of Notre Dame, from the same time, are reminders of what used to be.

Calais's important geographical position

Calais, holding a geographical position of such importance, was taken by the English king, Edward III, in 1347 after a long siege. This siege forced the townsfolk to surrender in the face of starvation, and this part of the town's history is commemorated by a statue by famous sculptor Rodin. The "Six Starving Burghers of Calais" stands outside the town hall, and is a very well known landmark.

Places to go, things to see...

Take a look at the Citadelle, and make sure you take time to see the lighthouse and the port, such significant features of Calais today. The old harbour is now a very attractive and bustling marina with pleasure craft bobbing on its waters, and a whole new social scene attached. Don't forget also that Calais has some excellent sandy beaches, and a lovely coastal path which positively invites you to enjoy a walk in the bracing air.

Shop 'til you drop

Calais is a shopper's heaven, with so much more to offer than just the booze filled hypermarkets that are the focus of the majority of day trippers. Wandering the streets of the town with time to explore, you will find a plethora of intriguing little shops selling delights such as chocolates, local cheeses, rare wines and particularly, lace. Calais is famed for its lace, and there are factory shops and retail outlets which specialise in providing this dainty fabric at rock bottom prices.

Nightlife in Calais

Spending time in Calais also means that you will be able to sample the lively nightlife in the town. Calais has discotheques, bars, nightclubs and casinos to keep you buzzing for as long as you can stay awake. If your tastes run to something a little quieter in the evenings, however, you may prefer to sample some of France's best gastronomic delights.

Toques d'Opale

There are a number of restaurants in and close to Calais which have formed a group known as Toques d'Opale. These are all top quality restaurants with some of the region's best chefs, and they have undertaken to provide set menus which enable you to eat in the style of a king at a price to suit your pocket. A couple worth trying are the restaurant Aquar'Ail, in the Rue Jean Matin, or the Sole Meuniere in the Boulevard de la Resistance.

Sports and activities

After indulging yourself in one of these fine restaurants you may like to find a little sporting activity to burn off the calories! Calais can offer you most sports and leisure activities in or very close to the town. Golf, tennis, swimming, fishing and go-karting are all easily found, and walkers will enjoy the lovely coastal walks around the town, and in the beautifully kept parks and gardens.

How to get there

The most obvious route to Calais from the UK is to take the ferry from Dover to the port, as so many do every day. Taking your car to the town is also easy, as the Eurotunnel provides a very quick and stress free method of travelling, reaching the town in just over half an hour! The airport of Paris Beauvais has flights from Scotland and Ireland with Ryanair, but to reach the town through air travel from England really necessitates flying to Paris then driving up to the north or travelling the rest of the journey by train.

Property prices and availability in and around Calais

Property in the Calais region will always hold a good value due to the ease of travel from the UK. Government investment in the region should also boost the market. Types of property available vary from modern bungalows on the outskirts of town to farms and country houses in the surrounding areas. Properties on the cost are always popular.

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Calais AT A GLANCE

WHERE IS Calais?

Calais lies in very the north of the Pas-de-Calais department on the coast, in the northernmost tip of France.

Calais Property Map

IN THE REGION OF NORD-PAS-DE-CALAIS

Nord-Pas-de-Calais Guide

Nord-Pas-de-Calais Property Map

IN THE DEPARTMENT OF PAS-DE-CALAIS

Pas-de-Calais Guide

  Pas-de-Calais Map


Population: 80,000


Access: By air: Fly to Paris Beauvais and continue by train or car. By boat: Calais is France's busiest and most popular ferry port, so the ferry is an obvious mode of travel. By rail: Travelling by rail is an excellent way to reach Calais.


Economy: The economy of Calais is based around the ferry port with day trip shopping significant. The traditional industry of lace making is still apparent.


Interesting fact: Calais was originally a walled city with a moat.


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