Calais, on the north-western tip of France, is the country’s primary passenger port and its closest point to the UK, located just 20 miles from Dover. This proximity to England makes Calais a shopping destination for British foodies. A train to Calais from the UK arrives at Calais-Fréthun train station, 7 km from the city centre. This station is also linked to major cities around France such as Paris where the journey time is 1h35, and travelling from Belgian neighbour Brussels takes 1h05. Calais has two other railway stations: Calais-Ville in the town centre, served by the regional express TGV network; and Gare des Fontinettes, serving the suburbs.
The best way to get to the town centre after hopping off your train to Calais is to take a quick 8-minute train to Calais-Ville station. From there, it’s a 5-minute walk west along Avenue du Président Wilson to the town’s main attractions, including the magnificent town hall, which was designed in a 15th-century neo-Flemish style, with ornate decoration and soaring turrets. Its bell tower is said to have one of the most beautiful chimes in France. In front of the building stands Rodin’s famous statue commemorating the Burghers of Calais.
After exploring this area, cross Georges V Bridge and head north up Rue Royale to Richelieu Park, full of lakes, fountains and flowers, where you can sit back and relax. Next to the park is the Fine Arts Museum, providing an insight into how Rodin’s famous bronzes were created. It also has a collection of 20th-century masterpieces by artists such as Dubuffet and Picasso. After continuing north up Rue Royale for 5 minutes, the 13th-century watchtower can be seen. This is one of the city’s oldest monuments and is topped by a dovecote for carrier pigeons.
Here, visitors find themselves in the heart of Calais-Nord, on an artificial island surrounded by canals and the harbour. This is the most popular area for a quick bite, with lots of little restaurants, charcuteries, fromageries and patisseries. It’s a place to taste special delicacies like salt herring, roll-mop or local speciality waterzoï, which is a regional variant of fish stew. Whatever the gastronomic choice, why not wash it down with a local beer, like Jenlain or Goudale? And then, finally, enjoy a stroll on the beach!