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Many of us have been to Calais, but few have really explored it. Only 34kms as the crow flies from Dover, Calais is most Briton's gateway to France. Either by the ferry, or the Channel Tunnel. But if you give it a bit of time you'll realise that there's quite a bit to see and do in and around Calais, and it's an easy base for both the Cote d'Opale and Normandy with most of the best places to stay in Calais being within striking distance of all these.
There are all sorts of bits and bobs to interest visitors to Calais, and the highlights will depend on your tastes. But here's a flavour of the most popular:
? Calais was once a textiles giant, especially well know for its lace production. The Cite Internationale de la Dentelles et de la Mode is both a working lace factory and museum to the process. There are some bizarrely complicated and beautiful specimens on display, but the highlight has to be watching an ancient loom with 35,000 vertical threads and 11,000 horizontal ones.
? Baffroi de Calais is the belfry of the Town Hall, a landmark you can see from anywhere in town. Don't be put off by the height, you can take a lift to the top, from where you get a lovely view of the city and coastline.
? Calais' beach is a stretch of sand around 10kms long. In addition to the normal beach-side charms, you can watch the huge car ferries come in.
? Definitely worth strolling past is Rodin's famous Burgers of Calais. This famous statue honours six local men, who in 1347 held off the besieging army of Edward III for eight months.
There's also a modern art museum, an excellent fish market, a cathedral, and a pretty citadel.
Opposite the white cliffs is an often dramatic coastline of undulating green stretching between Calais and Boulogne. If you've been to Cornwall you might find the coves and sandy beaches here quite familiar. And like Cornwall the Opal Coast also has pretty fishing villages with wonderful, rustic seafood restaurants. Even the road between the villages is charming - you've got your scenic cliff top views and your dips into rural green.
The Cote d'Opale is one of the best places to stay in Calais and surrounds for surfers. It's also a great destination for families looking for a beach break. There's loads of flat sand, plenty of rock pooling opportunities and despite the beauty it never seems to feel too full.
If you're using Calais as a base to explore Normandy, you'll probably be interested in visiting the Musee Memoire 1939-1945. This museum occupies the bunker built as German Naval command, when they were the occupying army here. And commemorates the part Calais played in WW2.
The Hotel Guru's pick of the best places to stay in Calais are ideal whether you're just here for a quick night en route either home or further afield in France, or for those who want to scratch below the surface and explore this fascinating area.
For central location
- If you want to be right in the centre of town one of the best places to stay in Calais is Le Cercle de Malines. This charming old lacemaker's house is both stylish and welcoming with some quirky touches - like a stuffed crocodile - which show the owner/manager's fun side. This is a great choice if you're looking for something full of soul and character. And with only four rooms it's got a very intimate feel too.
For a country escape
- Just out of town, Château de Cocove is perfect if you're looking for classic French elegance. The restaurant, in the converted stables, is excellent and unpretentious, and if you prefer a country escape feel - maybe for a little romance? - then this is definitely one of the best places to stay in Calais.
- Alternatively you could look at Le Manoir de Bonnigues des Ardres. Here you can expect traditional understated elegance in a Napoleon III manor house. It's fantastic value too.
For history buffs
- If you've come to check out some WWII historic sites, where better to base yourself than Dunkirk? We'd recommed L'Escale Malouine. It's a charming B&B in the centre of town and incredible value for money.
Still not sure which property to book? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Calais, or call, or email, one of our gurus for advice. Alternatively widen the net and check out all our Channel Port recommendations.
Best Hotels in Calais
Le Manoir de Bonningues les Ardres 5 rooms from $86Calais
An elegant country Napoleon III manor. Just five romantic bedrooms with parquet floors, high ceilings and attractive fabrics. Traditional, understated, and great value for an escape to the countryside or stop over en route to tunnel or ferry.Local markets - Good for local colour.Sights nearby - Well located for major sights.Great walks - Good for walkers.Recommended by - Sawdays
Le Cercle de Malines 4 rooms from $97Calais
Maison d’hôte in a late 19th-century lacemaker’s house renovated with taste and charm. It is eclectically decorated and has a small peaceful garden. On the edge of Parc Saint Pierre and just minutes from the ferries. A perfect stop off.Value chic - Great value and even the dog is allowed to stayLocal exploring - Boasting excellent transport linksLocal markets - Large Calais shopping centresGreat walks - Calais beach walks
Chateau de Cocove 27 rooms from $112Calais
Classic 18th century chateau near Calais with a gourmet restaurant and excellent wine cellar. Beautiful elegant bedrooms with high ceilings and pastel furnishings. The restaurant, formerly the stables, has wonderful views of the parkland. A romantic country escape.Great walks - Good for walkers.Sights nearby - Well located for major sights.