Calais is typically the first port of call when arriving in France from England. Yes, there’s quite a few for other ports but this typically is the most popular, which is great as there’s a heap of the best places Near Calais To Visit that’ll make every trip totally amazing.
From the gorgeous northern towns along the coast, cities like Lille (that are not too far away) and even the rolling hills towards the Champagne region; this area of Frane is a treasure trove of gorgeous spots to explore.
So, to help you along your way, I wanted to share some places near Calais that are totally worth exploring. Now, I’m, making a massive assumption that you’ve arrived in Calais in your car? If so, great, the following spots are totally easy to visit. If, on the other hand, you’re travelling by public transport, then make sure to check the connections and the routes.
It’s certainly not hard to visit these places (below) but it can be a tiny bit more cumbersome without a car.
Anyway, I’m rambling on!
Take a look, below, at the best places near Calais to visit on your trip to France. Have the most amazing time around Northern France.
1.) Citadel of Montreuil
Around a 60-minute drive inland from Calais, the Citadel of Montreuil is well worth a visit on your road trip around the northwest coastal regions of France. Nestled on the remains of an old royal chateau, the citadel dates back centuries and is totally gorgeous to see.
Covering a pretty large expanse, the citadel is the perfect afternoon stop as part of a wider road trip. Easily visited alone, or with a guide, you’ll also be able to take part in some of the workshops held within the citadel, too. You’ll get to try your hands at skills like engraving, stained glass and pottery. You’ll leave a pro!
Afterwards, hop into Le Pot du Clape for their tasty lunches. Their menu is always so delicious.
Probably one of my favourite Northern French cities, Lille is one of the best places near Calais that’s within easy reach of the port. A short drive of around 80-minutes and you’ll have arrived from Calais itself.
Over the years, we’ve visited Lille a number of times and have always fallen in love with it more and more. Once here, be sure to stroll the city centre and stop by Meert that’s an iconic patisserie in Lille. Their waffles are incredible. Heck, all their desserts are!
Afterwards, take a wander around the Citadel, check out the vintage bookstalls in the historic stock exchange of La Vieille Bourse. We always find some treasure to take back home.
And for some delicious food, head over to Le Barbier qui fume. Their smoked meats (with beech wood) are so yummy!
You can easily stay in Lille for a number of days and it’s great for a long weekend break.
3.) Hardelot Castle
Hardelot Castle or Château d’Hardelot in French is well worth a gander and around a 50-minute drive from Calais Port itself. Here, you’ll be able to wander the gorgeous grounds, check out the interiors of the neo-gothic castle that was built back in the 1800s. A great little stopping point for an hour or two.
Plus, you can easily partner this with a trip to one of the best beaches in the region, Plage d’Écault or Plage d’Hardelot. The sandy shore is just so stunning.
Fancy some time to stretch your legs? Head over to Dunes du Mont Saint-Frieux where you’ll find a number of trails that are pretty gorgeous. The whole coastline trails are just spectacular.
It’s so easy to just bypass Calais (I personally think the road system in Calais is designed for this when arriving by ferry). This means that Calais is often seen solely as a through-point to enter France itself. Though don’t be fooled, the town centre has a fair few gems that are worth stopping for a few hours trip (or even overnight).
If you’re pondering a visit, make sure to check out the gorgeous Town Hall, UNESCO protected site and one of the exceptional landmarks in Calais itself. Its construction began in 1911 in commemoration of the merger of the Calais with Saint Pierre. It was finally completed way back in 1925 and is stunning to see.
Inside, it boasts some totally gorgeous renaissance architecture and the whopping clock tower that stands at 75 meters tall.
If that’s not your thing, best sure to check out the nearby lighthouse that’s one of the best places near Calais to visit when at the shorefront. Established in 1848. It reached full automation in 1987 and earned recognition as a historic site in 2011. Now, what makes it really special is its distinct octagonal shape; plus, it offers a spectacular and extensive view of the town and coastline itself. Yeah, you need to climb up 271 steps to reach the balcony but from the top, you can spot the incredible white cliffs of Dover on the other side of the English Channel.
Don’t fancy climbing hundreds of stairs? Then check out Courgain Maritime; Calais’ historic fishing district. It grants a glimpse of the town’s medieval days and is well worth a gander if you’ve got a little time to spare. The 40-meter ancient tower, Tour du Guet, dates back to the 13th century and once functioned as the town’s lighthouse.
Hankering for a stroll, then pop into Parc Richelieu. Across from the Museum of Fine Arts, Parc Richelieu is an open-air park perfect for leisurely strolls on a nice sunny day. You’ll also notice a heap of artwork and sculptures alongside the iconic statue of De Gaulle and Churchill.
Oh, and don’t forget to visit the 600-year-old church known as Eglise Notre Dame. Taking hundreds of years to complete, its Calais’ oldest church is famous for its stunning architecture which is a result of the mix of Flemish and English styles. The statues of Angels, St Louis and Charlemagne are total gems to see.
Come ashore on a rainy day? Head straight over to the Musée des Beaux Arts de Calais. Situated in Parc Richelieu, the major art museum of Calais holds an admirable collection of French, Flemish, and Dutch artworks. Among the thirty exceptional artists featured here are French painter Eugène Boudin and Gerrit van Honthors.
Fancying some time on the coastline? Then pop right over to the city of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Around a 40-minute drive from Calais, Boulogne-sur-Mer is one of the best places near Calais to visit if you’re starting to venture further west.
Once here, you can stroll the historic promenade and chill on the sandy shore in the summer. The beaches in Northern France are incredibly lovely; especially around Boulevard Sainte-Beuve.
For marine lovers, hope into Nausicaá, the largest public aquarium in all of Europe. Alternatively, if that’s not your thing, hop over to the castle of Boulogne-sur-Mer that’s picture-perfect. Oh, and don’t forget about the Crypts of the Basilica of Notre Dame; trust me, it’s well worth visiting for the history.
Saint-Omer is all about history and tradition and the perfect stopping point when driving between Calais and Lille. You see, It’s a gorgeous little market town that’s filled with 18th-century townhouses and cobblestone streets that are too good to miss and perfect for an afternoon galavant.
Once here, you’ll be able to check out the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Eglise Saint-Denis, and pop into Hôtel Sandelin. Not only that, you’ve got the incredible La Coupole, a museum focused on the town’s history to explore.
Getting hungry? Reserve a table at Claire’Marais that serves up some of the best dishes in town!
Around a 25-minute drive from the port, it’s one of the best places near Calais that’s totally easy to visit as soon as you arrive in France. Although this commune is pretty small, it packs a hefty punch when it comes to charm; we love it!
After parking up, head around Ardres and spot the gorgeous Mairie d’Ardres (Town Hall) and grab a bite to eat at La Maison du Chef (their seasonal menu is just so tasty).
Alternatively, drive over to the nearby Saint Joseph Village that’s a total reconstruction of a village from the early 1900s. It’s pretty kitsch and cute.
8.) Cap Gris-Nez
Looking to steer clear of the towns and cities in Northern France? Then, the area Cap Gris-Nez is the spot for you. The whole peninsula is pristine.
As you wander the coastline, you’ll be able to stop off at Lighthouse Cap Gris-Nez, visit some of the historic forts from the war and soak up the sunshine on a nice summer day. Plus, you’ve got the iconic Fort d’Ambleteuse that’s not too far away, either.
It’s one of the best places near Calais to visit if you’re not fancying any hectic plans. It’s all totally chilled around here.
Oh, and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the resident seals that call this shoreline home alongside all the wildlife around the Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez cliff edges.