- For other places with the same name, see Calais (disambiguation).
Calais (Dutch: Kales) is a city of 73,000 people (2019) in the Hauts-de-France region of France. It is the closest point on the European mainland to England; Dover lies across the English Channel (La Manche) just 32 km (20 miles) away. The town has a major cross-Channel ferry port, and the French entrance to the Channel Tunnel is nearby. Calais is popular with British day-trippers arriving by ferry or on Channel Tunnel shuttle trains one reason being because France has lower taxes on alcohol and tobacco. While most tourists view the town as simply a port, there is much more to Calais.
Large warehouse supermarkets have sprung up on the outskirts of Calais just to serve the British "booze cruisers" who return to the UK with their car suspensions groaning under the weight of cheap alcohol and cigarettes.
By ferry (car and foot)
Calais is connected to Dover in England by ferry services operated by P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways. Ferry crossings between Calais and Dover take typically around 1 hr 30 min and there are up to 46 sailings daily. The check-in time is 30 minutes before departure for vehicles and 45 minutes before departure for foot passengers.
The strait of Dover is one of the most frequented shipping lanes in the world. Calais ferry port allows easy access to the town and to shops outside the town, many of which are designed to sell alcohol to visitors from the UK where higher taxation means alcohol of all kinds is normally priced higher.
Free car parking facilities are available in front of the Calais ferry terminal and the maximum stay is three days.
Passengers travelling by ferry from Dover to Calais/Dunkirk go through French passport/identity card checks in the UK before embarkation, rather than on arrival in France. Passengers travelling in the other direction from Calais/Dunkirk to Dover by ferry go through French exit checks and UK passport/identity card checks in Calais/Dunkirk before embarkation, and UK customs checks on arrival in the UK.
Fares for the Dover-Calais ferry start from £25 (day return) and £39 (single) for a car with up to 9 passengers.
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle
Running from Folkestone to the western edge of Calais (Coquelles), this car shuttle service operated by Eurotunnel takes about 35 min (although only about 20 min in the tunnel) and offers the fastest way to travel between France and the UK. This train service is for passengers with cars only, who remain with their car for the duration of the short trip, as there are no restaurants (except a fast food restaurant) but there are toilets.
Passengers travelling from Folkestone to Calais go through French passport/identity card checks in the UK before boarding the train, rather than on arrival in France. Those travelling in the other direction from Calais to the UK by Eurotunnel go through UK passport/identity card and customs checks in Coquelles before boarding the train, rather than on arrival in the UK.
The port in Calais is directly linked to the French motorway system. The A26/E15, Autoroute des Anglais, which provides access to the heart of France including Paris and beyond and the A16/E40, a gateway to Benelux and the northern European motorway systems. The A16/E402 directs you to western France.
- London St Pancras International station (1 hr 2 min; 3 daily from London; 2-3 daily to London)
- Ebbsfleet International station (44 min; 2 daily from Ebbsfleet; 1-2 daily to Ebbsfleet)
- Ashford International station (35 min; 1 daily from Ashford)
- Brussels Zuid-Midi station (1 hr 2 min; 2-3 daily from Brussels; 3 daily to Brussels)
Note that Calais Fréthun station is some distance from Calais city centre, but there are a number of trains operating between Calais Fréthun and Calais Ville (in the city centre), as well as shuttle buses and taxis.
The Eurostar timetable is available from their website[dead link].
Passengers travelling by Eurostar from the UK to Calais go through French passport/identity card checks in the UK before boarding the train, rather than on arrival in France. Passengers travelling in the other direction from Calais to the UK by Eurostar go through French exit checks, followed by UK passport/identity card checks in Calais Fréthun station before boarding the train, and UK customs checks on arrival in the UK.
Those travelling by Eurostar between Brussels and Calais are within the Schengen Area.
Although the Brussels Midi-Calais Fréthun route can't be purchased through the Eurostar website, it is available on the Belgian Railways website.
Eurostar fares[dead link] start from £66 return (under 26) and £69 return (adults) from the UK to Calais.
Running from Lille, Boulogne, Dunkirk and Paris, Calais is well supported by the French national rail network. Calais Ville is the station serving the city centre, whilst Calais Fréthun is on the outskirts of Calais. There are trains that operate between Calais Ville and Calais Fréthun stations.
- 3 Aéroport de Calais-Dunkerque (CQF IATA) (in the small town of Marck, 7 km to the east of Calais centre). Just across the narrowest part of the English Channel and near France's western border, with customs available on request, it's a convenient stopping point for light aircraft. Lille is probably the nearest large airport.
Most people travel by car around the town, but there is a comprehensive network of buses running from the town centre to the suburbs and Cité Europe. The port is served by a special shuttle bus although via a footbridge the centre, and the harbour terminal are only 15 min apart.
Bus 5 is useful for reaching the large Auchan and Carrefour hypermarkets and the Cite Europe shopping mall and the 6 goes to Calais Frethun Eurostar station. Services run every 30 min during the day and costs about €1 (board through the front door and pay the driver) and all buses terminate outside the Gare D'Ville.
- 1 Les Bourgeois de Calais, Place du Soldat Inconnu (outside the town hall). Rodin's sculpture
- 2 Parc Saint-Pierre.
- 3 Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), Place du Soldat Inconnu. Get in, and go upstairs through the majestic staircase to the first floor and the wedding room, the ballroom and the "parliament" room. Self-visit (signs to read) or guided tour by Opale Tour. It is possible to access the belfry via a lift.
- 4 Light Tower. Visit and climb up to the light. Wonderful view. Small museum.
- 5 Cité Internationale de la dentelles et de la mode, ☏ . An old factory refurbished into a "living" museum about the story of lace, and especially the lace made in Calais on levers. You can see two machines working. Restaurant, bar and lace shop. Worthwhile. Allow at least 2 hours.
- 6 Modern Art museum, 25 rue Richelieu. Permanent and temporary exhibitions. Sculpture, paintings.
- 7 War museum, Parc Saint Pierre (in front the Town Hall, located in a real bunker), ☏ , email@example.com.
- 8 Theatre, Place Albert 1er. Guided tours by Opale Tour.
- 9 Le Channel, Scène Nationale. Shows, library, restaurant, in a former slaughterhouse. Really worth a visit for the architecture.
- 10 Notre Dame Church. Restorations are ongoing and the church is frequently closed, but in any case, you can still see the exterior. In 2017, the church was open for visits in July and August.
- Courgain Maritime and fish market. A former fishermen's quarter outside the walls of the city. Rebuilt after the war, but a nice place to buy fresh fish and have a drink.
- The beach and the jetty. To have a look on the ferries plying the route between France and Britain.
- The White Cliffs of Dover. Visible in the distance.
- 11 Citadelle and Fort Nieulay. Renaissance fort with guided tours.
- 1 Swimming pool, Piscine Ranson or ICEO complex.
- 2 Skating rink (Iceo).
- 3 Char à voile. base des Hemmes de Marck.
- 4 Sailing school, Base de voile, Blériot-Plage (coast road to Sangatte).
- 7 Bowling Alley (Bowling de Calais), 1 Avenue Antoine de Sant-Exupéry, ☏ .
- Visit the Coast up to "Cap Blanc Nez" (White Nose Cap), Unesco Classified site. If you have no car, you can take the bus (double-decker) at the theatre or the station for €1 there along the see road. Really cool.
- Alcohol. Since France has slightly lower taxes on alcohol than the UK various establishments have set up to cater for day trippers, although often it is a little cheaper to go to a local hypermarket (and you can pick up other stuff). The main hypermarkets are Auchan and Carrefour[dead link], the latter within the Cité Europe shopping centre and can both be reached on bus 5. In the town centre, there is a smaller Carrefour located at the back of the Quatre Boulevards shopping centre (near the Opéra).
- 1 Cité Europe, 1001 Boulevard du Kent (Located next to the Channel Tunnel terminal. Junction 41 or 42 on the A16). Large shopping centre containing 147 shops, 20 restaurants, and a cinema. Note that the shops are closed on Sundays and none of them sell tobacco.
- 2 Place Crevecœur Market. on Thursdays and Saturdays.
- 3 Place d'Armes Market. on Saturdays.
- Lace: two places worth a visit:
- 1 La Guinguette, 9 Rue de la Mer, ☏ . Home food, family atmosphere, good quantity/quality value.
- 2 L'Ambrosia, 14 Rue de la Mer, ☏ . Wok specialist but not Asiatic with good value and price.
- 3 L'Hovercraft, 11 Place du Maréchal Foch, ☏ . Bar and brasserie. The largest choice of "welsh" dishes (speciality from Calais/Boulogne). Open late. Big terrace.
- 4 Friterie des Nations, Digue Gaston Berthe. Some chips in front of the sea
- 5 Friterie Wilson, Avenue Wilson, Parc Saint-Pierre (near Town Hall and railways Station). may be the best chips in town
- 6 Café de la Tour, 5 Place d'Armes, ☏ . Great omelettes
- 1 Le bar du Yacht Club, Bassin Ouest. Nice 1980s music.
- 2 La Suite, Rue Jean Quéhen. Night bar: to carry on after Baba ou Mauvaise herbe
- 3 Discothèque 555 (Le 555), 63 rue Royale. Old but famous disco.
- 4 La Nauvia, 16 Rue Jean Quéhen. Disco.
- 5 Le Casino de Calais, 59 rue Royale. Slot machines, blackjack.
- 6 Le Channel Scène Nationale, 173 Boulevard Gambetta, ☏ . Former slaughterhouse, refurbished in a huge cultural centre with various rooms, café, resto, bookshop. A great place.
- 1 Auberge de Jeunesse de Calais (Centre Européen De Séjour), Avenue du Maréchal DeLattre de Tassigny, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Youth hostel, but no age limit with private room. really close to the beach. Nice place
- 2 Le Mouton Blanc, 44 rue du Vauxhall (near the theatre and 4B shopping centre), ☏ . Family owned. Guide du routard recommended
- 3 Holiday Inn, 6 Boulevard des Alliés, ☏ . The car parking is an experience, for good drivers.
- Greece, 12, Boulevard des Alliés, BP 450, ☏ , fax: .
To hitch-hike to Belgium or the Netherlands, if you leave the terminal, you must walk 500 m through a large car park, after which you will see roundabout and an on-ramp to the motorway. That is the place to hitch a ride: there is enough space even for a big lorry.
For a more 'traditional' experience of France, Saint-Omer is 43 km (26 miles) down the road from Calais. The Saturday morning market on the main square, the Place Foch, can be enjoyable. There are also good affordable restaurants and friendly bars, as well as interesting architecture.
- Ardres — for the old city and its lakes
- Guines — with its marshes, forest and old tower
- Wissant — with the Le site des 2 Caps on the seaside
- Oye Plage — with the natural reserve of Le Platier d'Oye
|Routes through Calais|
|Dover ←||NW SE||→ END|
|Folkestone ←||NW SE||→ END|