Calais Travel Guide

Calais beach, France.

About Calais

A stunning beach resort on the northern coast of France, Calais is a major port city with excellent links to France and the rest of Europe. With a wide range of shops, restaurants and attractions, it’s also an excellent holiday destination in its own right.

A DFDS Seaways ferry to Calais from Dover takes just 90 minutes, with multiple crossings every day for greater flexibility.

If you wish to make the most of your holiday, why not touch down in Calais and return to Dover via our alternate ferry route from Dunkirk – or vice versa – so that you have more time to enjoy the sights of France without doubling back on yourself?


Located in the French department of Nord-Pas de Calais, the city of Calais is the closest port in France to England, and for many years was the subject of frequent territorial disputes between the two countries. During peacetime it became a key centre for trade and tourism due to its close proximity to the English port of Dover. On a clear day, the famous white cliffs of Dover can easily be viewed from the beaches of Calais.

The city of Calais is separated into two distinct parts, the old town, known as Calais-Nord, and the modern town, known as St-Pierre. Calais Nord is located on a unique man-made island bordered by canals and harbours, while St Pierre lies further to the south, and houses the city’s bustling shopping and restaurant district.

Shopping in Calais

Calais is well known for its extensive shopping district, long popular with tourists and day-trippers in search of low-cost goods, from beer and wine to designer clothes and specialist items. The city’s most popular high street is the Rue Royale, which has been extensively renovated in recent years and is now home to a wide range of gorgeous boutiques, cafes and bars.

For great prices on a huge selection of designer brands, a visit to Marques Avenue is a must. Famous names including Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Nike, Calvin Klein and Guess can all be found among the dozens of designer shops all housed under one roof.

Most shops in Calais open between the hours of 9am and 7pm from Monday-Saturday, with relatively few trading on Sunday. 

The Beach

The sandy beaches of Calais are represent an ideal spot for spending a sunny day. Rows of white beach huts on soft sand make for the perfect picnic location, while the seafront plays host to numerous fun activities for the whole family, including beach volleyball, windsurfing, a mini golf centre and seasonal funfairs. There are also some excellent cycle paths for active sightseeing.


With a rich history and a vibrant culture, there are many interesting places to visit in Calais. Here are just a few of the city’s must-see tourist attractions.

• Calais Lighthouse – Standing at 51 metres and with a 271-step spiral staircase to the top, ascending the Calais Lighthouse isn’t a task for the faint hearted, but the spectacular views across the English Channel from the very top are well worth the effort.

• Rodin’s Six Burghers – The most famous landmark in Calais, this unique sculpture depicts the six French Freedom Fighters who in 1347 surrendered themselves to England’s King Edward III to be hanged, in the hope that their city would be granted freedom from the English rulers in return. The King’s wife Queen Philippa de Haunault took pity on the men and begged for their lives to be spared, although Calais would remain under English rule for another two centuries.

• Notre Dame Church – Calais’ oldest church is a striking mixture of Flemish and English architectural styles. Heavily damaged during World War II, the ancient building has recently been the subject of significant renovations.

 Fort Nieulay – Long ago, when much of Calais was just marshy land, a single road via the River Hames was the only entrance point for visitors. The Nieulay Bridge, which connected Calais with the west, was protected by a small fort that was designed in such a way that it could flood the land in front of the town in case of enemy attack, making it virtually impossible for invaders to breach the city. Today, the ruins of the Nieulay Fort form an integral part of a beautiful surrounding park.

Tourist Office

For more information, visit the Calais Tourist Information Office which can be found at 12 Bd Clémenceau, 62100, Calais or visit their website before you visit.


Our ferries to Calais

DFDS Seaways provides a Dover to Calais ferry service with a crossing time of around 90 minutes, with up to 10 ferries per day in both directions. We offer competitive fares and run regular special offers, with voyages running from early morning to overnight 365 days a year.

We also run regular ferry services into France from Dover to Dunkirk, Portsmouth to Le Havre and Newhaven to Dieppe. Take a look at our Ferries to France homepage for more information about our services.