Calais, just 26 miles from the famous white cliffs of Dover, is a major port city known as the gateway to France. On a clear day the cliffs can even be seen from Calais. As the largest port in mainland Europe, Calais is a hub of activity with diverse attractions to occupy the more than 10 million people who visit annually.
The city’s coastline, Côte d'Opale, has over 120 kilometres of sandy beaches and seaside resorts. Calais itself is divided into two parts, the old town and the modern town. The city offers excellent shopping, great food and history dating back to the Middle Ages.
Calais is a common departure point for cruises, as well as a frequent port of call and the arrival point in France for ferry services departing Dover.
Calais has an expansive port, so it’s best to check where your cruise arrives or departs from. The port isn’t far from the centre of Calais and there are easy transport links to the city. There are buses and shuttles running to and from the busy port.
The ferry and cruise terminals of Calais are well equipped with the necessary facilities for the comfort of visitors.
Currency exchange services
A quick bus ride to Calais takes visitors to the wealth of restaurants, cafés and shops that Calais has to offer.
How to Get Around
It is possible to take a brisk 10 minute walk into the town centre from the ferry terminal; however, P&O Ferries offers a shuttle between the port and city centre. The buses run every hour from 10am-7pm.
Once in town, there are public buses that are inexpensive, costing only €1 for 2 zones of travel. There is also the Balad’in service, a free mini bus that services the centre of Calais. The bright yellow bus calls at coordinating yellow bus stops approximately every 10 minutes from 9am-7pm, Monday to Saturday.
Calais also has two train stations, Calais Ville in the centre of town and Calais-Fréthun located near the entrance of the Channel Tunnel. The TGV and Eurostar services run from Calais-Fréthun and connect Calais to the rest of France and Europe.
There are also plenty of taxis around Calais that offer reasonable rates.
Currency – The official currency of France is the Euro (€). Denominations are: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent coins and €1, and €2 coins. Bank notes are available in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and €500 notes.
Time Zone – Calais operates on Central European Time (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of Universal Standard Time (UTC). Daylight Savings begins at the end of March, when the clocks are moved forward by 1 hour. Daylight Savings concludes in late October.
Weather – The straits of Dover moderate Calais’ climate, so the city very rarely experiences weather extremes. The average maximum temperature in the summer months ranges between 19 – 22 degrees Celsius. In the winter months, maximum temperatures hover around 8 degrees Celsius. Calais experiences light rain virtually all year round.
Hotel de Ville – The Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) presides over the Place d’Armes and is perhaps Calais’ most famous landmark. The building is a fine example of Flemish architecture, with a clock tower almost 300 feet high. The elaborate interior is worth a look, and the town hall is open to visitors between 8am-12pm and 1.30pm-5:30pm. The impressive gardens of the Hotel de Ville also feature Auguste Rodin’s ‘Les Bourgeois de Calais’ statue.
Côte d'Opale – The coast near Calais is popular among families due to the mild weather and long stretches of sand with views across the water to the shores of England. There are plenty of seaside resorts and coastal towns along the Côte d'Opale, perfect for a beach getaway in French style. The coast is also of historical significance, home to the remains of Nazi Germany’s Atlantic Wall. It is a great drive along the scenic coast, and is well worth exploring.
Shopping – Calais is a great spot for shopping, especially for the French specialities of wine and champagne, which can be bought for a much cheaper price than in nearby England. Rue Royale is the most popular shopping street in Calais, with stylish new bars and cafés alongside beautiful stores selling diverse products, from crockery to tea and chocolate. Calais is famous for its lace production, so make sure to check out stores with lace goods. Not only is Calais less expensive, but it also offers a fascinating shopping experience with unique stores that can’t be found anywhere else.