France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   What to See & Do in Calais, Normandy
Calais is defined by its port, but there are other interesting things to see and do here.

 
   

 

Calais is the first port of entry in France for many people coming from Britain. Most people just pass through, en route to Paris or other destinations in France.

If you have a day or two in Calais, you can easily see the main sights of the city center on foot. Weather permitting, you can also enjoy the beautiful, wide, golden sand beaches.

The center of Calais is quite compact, surrounded by various bassins and canals (map). Just across the canal from the center is the beautiful Hôtel de Ville, built in the early 20th century in Neo-Renaissance and Flemish styles. It is known for its art deco stained glass windows, and also as the site of the 1921 civil wedding of Charles DeGaulle and Yvonne Vendroux.

The Hôtel de Ville's lovely bell tower offers wonderful views of Calais and the surrounding area. It's 78 meters (256 feet) tall, and there is an elevator.

In the gardens facing the Hôtel de Ville stands Rodin's famous sculpture, the Burghers of Calais. More...

What about culture? Calais has several museums and a theater. More...

Calais was always important for the defense of the region, and you can see today the remains of several fortresses. Fort Risban guards the entrance to the harbor, while the Citadel sits on a hill overlooking the center of town.

The Tour du Guet, or Watchtower, dates from the 13th century and was also part of the city's defenses. It served as a lighthouse until 1848 and still stand today in the Place d'Armes.

A more recent addition to the Place d'Armes is a statue of Charles De Gaulle and his wife Yvonne De Gaulle-Vendroux. Yvonne was from Calais, and the city proudly claims her. The statue, a grey-white in color, is rather unusual...you can draw your own conclusions. The Place d'Armes also hosts the twice weekly market of Calais, and there are quite a few restaurants in the area.

DeGaulle statue, Calais, France
Statue of Charles and Yvonne DeGaulle, Calais,
with the Phare (lighthouse) in the background.

Although the De Gaulles' civil wedding was at the Hôtel de Ville, the nearby Church of Notre Dame hosted their Catholic ceremony. Parts of this church date to the 13th century, and it has undergone significant restoration.

Near the port is the phare, or lighthouse, in the Courgain Maritime Quarter. You can climb the lighthouse for lovely views of the port and the city. This is also the place to buy fresh fish, and you might even hit on a maritime festival.

And while you're in Calais, you can still see plenty of ferries coming in and out of the port of Calais. Although the Eurostar train has taken a lot of the business, the ferries still keep busy and they're fun to watch.


About Calais

Calais Hotels

Calais Restaurants

Calais Tourist Information

Calais Transport

About Normandy

Normandy Food & Drink

 

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Tour de Guet, Calais, France

Above, The Tour de Guet, Calais,
dating from the 13th century.

Below, The lovely Hôtel de Ville,
with the Calais Belfry.

 

Hotel de Ville, Calais, France

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