Known as a major gateway from the UK to mainland Europe, Calais is a city in the French region of Nord-Pas de Calais, close to the border with Belgium in the northeast of the country. Calais has long been a major port and has offered visitors from across the English Channel a chance to see what life in France is actually like. The city itself is split into two parts – Calais-Nord is the older part which lies on a separate island, while the newer part to the south is St Pierre. The city has plenty of significant historical buildings in the older areas, while it has become a major business hub for the region, owing to its coastal location. Some 10 million visitors come to Calais every year.
For getting onto a ferry and through the older part of Calais, a smaller car in the form of a supermini or city car would be ideal.
Driving in Calais
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Important things to note
Road traffic leading to the city’s Ferry Port tends to peak on weekday mornings, especially along the N215 which leads to the port.
If driving into Calais from the Benelux region, the easiest route to take is the A16/E40, which comes in from the northeast.
The main route from Calais by ferry is to Dover, while trains from the UK via the Channel Tunnel are another route to the city.
Highlights & Hotspots
The Musée des Beaux Arts et de la Dentelle is an art museum in the centre of Calais-Nord. It features works from some of the most famous artists in French history as well as a few pieces from a few unknown painters and sculptors.
Calais also has a war museum - Musee de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. It documents everything from World War Two imaginable, which is apt as Calais played a big role in the conflict, set in a former Nazi bunker.
Le Théâtre Municipal is the largest theatre in Calais. Here, you’re likely to see plays, operas, ballet and other live stage performances, all of which are in French. The theatre was built in 1903 and is something of a local landmark.
If shopping and sightseeing are two things you have in mind, the best place to go is the Place d’Armes, the largest public square in Calais. You can see the majestic town hall from there as well as a market which is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Calais Ferry Port is located to the north of the city centre, connected by the N215 heading eastwards. The port offers ferry rides almost exclusively to Dover in the UK.
A ride between Dover and Calais takes around one and a half hours to complete, while there are as many as 41 journeys from Calais every day. Sailings take place between 7am in the morning and 9pm in the evening.