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A weekend in Calais with kids – why Calais is more than just a booze cruise destination

September 22, 2022


How to spend a weekend in Calais

As we arrived at the port for our weekend in Calais I didn’t really know what to expect - the most I’d previously seen of Calais was a series of roads and roundabouts and the inside of a French supermarket. However to say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement - there is so much more to Calais than filling up your boot with bottles of cheap plonk.
We may have had the benefit of a beautiful sunny weekend but we found Calais to be a colourful destination perfect for exploring with children.

Why Calais?

If like me you live in or near Kent, Calais is relatively easy to reach and if you are savvy when booking your trip can actually be cheaper than taking the whole family to London.
Having recently undergone a huge rejuvenation, the Huat-De-France region is becoming a lot more popular with tourists. There is lots to do in Calais (more than you can fit into a weekend) which will keep the whole family busy, all within walking distance of the centre.

Here are my main suggestions for how to enjoy a wonderful weekend in Calais with the family.

Things to do

As I’ve said, there is loads to do in Calais and we really enjoyed walking between the different attractions. The streets of Calais are colourful and filled with street art which the children loved spotting. Here were our favourites;

A definite favourite with my little boy was the Calais dragon. You’ll find this 25m long, mechanical dragon on the Calais seafront. Standing 12m high and breathing real fire, no weekend in Calais is complete without a ride on the dragon along the Calais seafront

The town hall, l'Hôtel de Ville de Calais, is Located in the heart of the city. This stunning building has a 78m high belfry which offers panoramic views of Calais. Close by, in the square of the town hall, is Les Bourgeois de Calais, a sculpture by Rodin, depicting the self-sacrifice of six of Calais’ leaders.

Another impressive building is the Calais Lighthouse. On a clear day you can climb the 271 spiraling steps to catch a glimpse of the White Cliffs of Dover.

Calais Seafront

A twenty-minute amble from the town centre gets you to the beach - a beautiful stretch of golden sand. Perfect for sunbathing and building sancastles in the summer, or perhaps for taking a wander and watching the firries that ply the waters. If you walk to the edge of the jetty this provides a great vantage point and makes for a pleasant walk.
For the kids there is a huge playpark closeby which kept mine entertained for ages and had a range of amazing equipmet.
Take a wander and you’ll even find an original Banksy.
Close to the beach is a range of places to grab some takeaway food. We opted to grab bags of frites, enjoyed whilst watching the gorgeous sunset. For dessert there was plenty of places to buy ice cream.

Other places to visit:

The Fine Arts Museum
Eglise Notre Dame
The World War II Museum
International City of Lace and Fashion
Fort Risban
Nausicaa Sealife Centre

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A Coastal Drive

Much like Kent, Calais (and beyond) has a gorgeous coastline. On the Sunday we hopped in the car and took a drive along the coast. We stopped off at a few destinations to really take in the views;

Cap Blanc-Nez
The 134 m high cliffs are topped by an obelisk and offer amazing views across the Channel. Depending on where you choose to park the viewing points are either a short, easy walk or a much longer walk to the top. We chose the later and were rewarded with stunning views throughout. The children loved climbing the path, determined to reach the obelisk at the top.

Cap Griz-Nez
There is a 16km trail along the cliffs which takes you from Cap Blanc-Nez gto here however short of time and with tired children we took a quick drive to our next stop. Again another popular site to view the White Cliffs, this was just a short and easy walk from the carpark.

Our final stop was to Ambleteuse, a small fishing village between Calais and Boulogne. Ambleteuse is best know for its impressive fort situated on the beach, at high tide it is surrounded by sea and is unreachable. We stopped for an ice cream and a play on the beach before heading back.

Other seaside towns you might like to visit;


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Food and Drink

On a whistle stop tour we didnt have much time to sit down and eat, luckily we found it really easy to grab food on the go. With patisseries almost everywhere we turned there was plentiful supply of croissants, pain au raisin and delectable cakes and pastries to keep us going as we traisped around the city. Our favoruites were from Pain & Levain situated next to Calais Vins.
oN sunday we visited a supermarket and bought french stick and an array of french cheeses to keep us feulled for our long walk up Cap Nez-Blanc

However if you did fancy a sit down meal here are some places you might like to try;

Le Chill
L’Antre du Dragon
Histoire Ancienne
Au Vieux Fourneau
L’Hovercraft Calais

Where to buy wine

Now I know I said that there was more to Calais than filling your boot up with wine. But there’s no reason why you can take advantage of the great-tasting wine and even better prices whilst you are there.
We visited Calais Vins, a family-run business with over 25 years of experience. We met with Jerom the owner who was clearly passionate about wine and took great care in choosing the wines to be sold in his store, making relationships with the winemakers. What great is that you can try before you buy and in the ‘tasting room’ Jerom expertly guided us through a selection of wines so that we were confidently able to make our choice.

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How we got there

We were invited to travel with DFDS Ferries which for the children was an adventure in itself. They loved travelling by ferry. As parents, it is much easier to entertain children on a boat than on a plane or train. The children have the run of the ferry and loved being out on deck.
The whole journey went really smoothly and was a stress-free way to travel. We had access to the premium lounge which was a comfy place to relax. Here there were complimentary drinks and snacks.

Where we stayed

Our stay in Calais was hosted by the local tourist board - Pas-De-Calais Tourisme. We stayed at Ibis Style Calais Centre. This was a great location meaning we could walk to all of the main tourist attractions in Calais.

How long do you need?

For our weekend in Calais we travelled to France on Saturday morning and returned on Sunday evening. I would recommend however staying longer if you can as there was simply not enough time to do everything on our list.

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September 22, 2022