The port town of Calais in Northern France was infamously on the global news spotlight several times because this is where thousands of desperate immigrants who want to cross the English Channel and hope to enter England are (still currently) stuck.

The breathtaking town hall of Calais. For me, this building easily wins one of the most beautiful mairies or city halls in France.

With this negative news on the background, which may suggest insecurity, is it worth visiting this town? Let me find that out in this day trip from Lille.

A Day Trip to Calais

The northern region of France was bestowed with blue skies and sunshine once again so I immediately thought of “going outdoors” on mission to discover a new French town and to make “profit” of the rather “rare” weather.

Like my trip to St. Omer, I took a TER regional train to visit Calais. With my SNCF discount card, I paid nearly 30 EUR for a return trip.

A regional TER train is key to my adventures in northern France.

The train left Lille-Flandres at 12:13pm stopping at most stations which made the entire journey to last for over an hour. It was amusing to pass through the French town of St. Omer as I was just there yesterday.

Upon arriving at 1:30pm at Calais-Ville, the main train station of the city of Calais, I realized that I only 4 hours to see the town. Is that enough to see enough of Calais? We’ll see… but here is where exactly I can employ all the travelling skills I’ve developed from my past, numerous backpacking trips in Asia.

Alors, from the station I headed first to the Calais’s town hall which is located just across the street.

Such a picturesque city hall in northern France.

And, oh my, it legitimately wins the crown as one of France’s most beautiful city halls, easily beating the ones I’ve seen in Lille and Roubaix.

They really loved towers in the past in this region of France.

Thanks to the spring season, the landscaped garden in front of it gives a Disney theme park-liked feeling!

Braggy French city hall that deserves a praise.

After I allowed my breath to be taken away by Calais’s town hall building, I headed straight towards the direction of the beach.

This video shows how spectacular and sophisticated the town hall of Calais is.

I watch French TV news regularly so I am keen to see the “Calais Dragon” which they’ve shown on TV. I knew that I could find it near the beach so to the beach I go — and to there, I went.

Shortly before entering the old town as I crossed a bridge, I saw some people basking in the sun by the river banks. I could be wrong, but they did not look like they were locals and resembled closely the immigrant people I’ve seen on TV. This kind of reminded me to be on alert, especially that my phone is always visible as I constantly took photos.

There was a bunch of people below this bridge (visible on the bottom left) with some having large backpacks and sleeping bags. Could they be those people who are waiting for a chance to cross into the UK?

A few minutes of walk brought me to a large square with some water fountains and statues called Place d’Armes,  and an old tower called Tour de Guet. This places noticeably has many restaurants, night clubs, and even a casino. I wondered if they were designed for tourists who just arrived to Calais from the UK? Hmmm…

The Place de l’Armes square in Calais.
The Tour de Guet. I’m guessing this was used as a lighthouse in the distant past.

Next, I crossed another bridge with a view of a marina and entered a promenade which points to the Calais beach.

Calais’s Port de Plaisance.

Then I saw a wall with some historical importance. It turned out to be Fort Risban.

Fort Risban near Calais beach.
This wall served an important function during wartimes.

Further down,  the quickly horizon opened up and voilà, I saw what I think is the main highlight of the VIlle de  Calais: the Calais Plage (Calais beach)!

Bienvenue à Calais Plage !
The main highlight of Calais when the weather is good!

My oh my, no wonder some people jokingly refer this place as Calais-fornia.

Breathtaking view at Calais beach in Northern France.

Like the beach I have seen in Dunkirk, the Calais beach is large, wide, and golden. It’s like a beach in Australia, except it was colder ha ha ha.

Such as an immense beach!
This is what I think I am here for: the sound of waves on Calais beach!

There were many people who were walking their dogs by the beach, elderly couples, and young folks who are out and about and enjoying the weather under the blue skies like me.

The Phare de Navigation lighthouse on Calais beach.

Then I followed a group of people who were walking towards a lighthouse. From this vantage point, I really enjoyed the sight of the beach, some people who were fishing, and also the sight of the white cliffs of Dover, UK, across the English Channel sea.

Ladies and gentlemen, Calais-fornia! 😁 Another lovely beach found in northern France.
View of the boardwalk from a lighthouse.
Calais’s city hall tower is great landmark to understand where you are in the city as it rises over the town prominently.
The white cliffs of Dover in the United Kingdom were visible on the beach horizon.
So are large ships like this.
Fishing and taking the slow lane. I love how French people enjoy living life.

I really appreciated that there were many open shops on Calais beach where I bought some snacks and drinks while enjoying the sights.

Frites (French fries), crepes, waffles, kebabs, and various types of coffee are available on the beach! Note: Make sure to bring cash.

It was satisfying to munch a piece of crepe au nutella and a can of Coca Cola zero while immersing my senses with the beach ambiance, the breeze, the sound of seagulls.

Calais beach is perfect for watching large ships pass by.
I wonder what it’s like to be here during summer.

On the way back to town, I finally saw the much-talked about Calais Dragon. People can pay tickets and ride on it as it strolls on the Calais Plage. I imagine how fun it is to be on it, especially for kids.

I found the Dragon of Calais !

I felt happy and super glad to be here today. And yes, at this point, I thought that a day trip to Calais was worth it!

View of Calais’s town thoroughfare.
Calais Coeur de Vie one of the city’s main shopping malls.
The Grand Theater de Calais is an iconic place and landmark in Calais, France.

Now that I have been here, I know have some idea on how to get myself closer to Northern France’s Opal Coast by public transport.

I have been wanting to visit the scenic white cliffs of Cap-Blanc-Nez and Cap-Gris-Nez. However, as they proved difficult to reach without a car as they are not linked directly to the railway, I needed to figure out on how to get there by public transport as much or as close as possible.

See you in the next blog post and thanks for reading. May the weather be always in our favour! 😊

Have you been to Calais? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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