Isn’t Calais just a ferry port?
It’s true that more than 30 million people pass through the port every year, but Calais, which lies on the Cote D’Opale, is a tourist destination in its own right, with historical attractions and excellent seafood restaurants.
What is there to see?
Calais has been a centre for lace-making for more than 150 years and is home to the Cite de la Dentelle et de la Mode (cite-dentelle.fr). Set in an 1870s-factory building, the museum charts the history of the town’s lace industry and has a collection of around 1,500 man-made samples. It also explores the use of lace by fashion designers such as Hubert de Givenchy and Coco Chanel.
Another highlight is the imposing hotel de ville and adjacent belfry. Built in the 1920s in a Flemish style and adorned with stained- glass windows, the town hall dominates the main square, Place du Soldat Inconnu. Look up to see gilded statues glistening in the sunshine on the 78-metre-high belfry, and then take the lift to the top for panoramic views over Calais.
The town’s piece de resistance is Auguste Rodin’s bronze statue of The Burghers of Calais, which stands in front of the town hall. The work is dedicated to six citizens who in 1347, during the Hundred Years War, volunteered to become captives of the English king Edward III to save their town.
Where are the best places to eat?
For bistro-style dishes in a 1930s Paris setting, try Histoire Ancienne (mains from €18, histoire- ancienne.com). Popular dishes include peppered steak flambed with brandy, and grilled pigs’ trotters. For cuisine with a modern twist, head to Le Grand Bleu (mains from €19, legrandbleu-calais.com). The newly renovated restaurant specialises in cuisine elaboree such as cod coated in chorizo breadcrumbs, topped off with a cocoa sauce and parsley butter. For seafood, stop at Au Cote d’Argent (menus from €21, cotedargent.com). Recommendations include Calais-style fish soup, roasted cod with charlotte potatoes and thyme, and lobster.
Where can I stay?
Book into the retro Hotel Meurice (doubles from €70, hotel-meurice.fr), half a kilometre from the railway station. The elegant main staircase leads to 39 rooms, which feature period furniture.
How do I get there?
P&O and DFDS Seaways run regular sailings to and from Dover. A shuttle bus runs to the town centre. Some Eurostar trains stop at Calais-Frethun station, which is ten minutes by local train to Calais-Ville. The Eurotunnnel Le Shuttle exit is 20 minutes’ drive from the town centre.
For more information, go to calais-cotedopale.com