Home Travel Guides Travel Guide: What’s to See in Calais, France

Travel Guide: What’s to See in Calais, France

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Calais is booming, unlike Dover, the counterpart on the opposite side of the channel. Calais has a new attraction: a giant dragon that walks the shorefront. All buses and boats are free to all.

It is a wonderful weekend getaway, ideal for wine and cheese shopping, and great restaurants. It is easy to forget the beach’s long, sandy expanse, which rises up to the Cap Blanc Nez cliffs, making it a safe place for both children and adults.

Calais Dragon

The Nord region of France is home to dragons. Traditional processions and parades featuring effigies of giants or dragons are now part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Francois Delaroziere designed the Calais Dragon, a massive structure made of steel and carved wooden. The Calais Dragon can carry 48 people on a 45-minute ride along the prom. It towers above pedestrians and parked cars, with mist rising from its body through thirty vents.

The staircase that runs through the tail of the boat allows you to climb aboard and take your place on top deck. The view of the beach and sea from this position is spectacular, even though it travels at a slow 4 km/h. The best part is seeing unsuspecting pedestrians leap out in the way of the dragon as it moves its eyelids and mouth, and then spitting water and fire. It’s all done with teamwork, and six people are required to pilot the dragon. As the dragon docks in the immense shelter at the end the promenade, more technicians are involved.

Calais Town Hall

The Calais Town Hall’s belfry is dominated by a dragon weathervane that sits at the top. Although the building is dedicated to the 1885 merger of Calais Town Hall and Saint Pierre, work on it didn’t begin until 1911. Louis Debrouwer, one of the first architects who used reinforced concrete, was responsible for it being more or less intact during WW1. Despite this, it was not inaugurated until 1925. There were more damages in 1940.

The large staircase leads to the first floor. It is decorated with stunning stained glass windows. These windows tell the story of Calais’ liberation from the English by Duke of Guise, 1558. It is 75m tall and is known as Calais’ landmark. It is home to one of the most stunning chimes in northern France and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For panoramic views of the town and close-ups of the dragon weathervane, climb to the top.

Calais Lace & Fashion Museum

Calais began making lace in 1816, when illegally imported machinery from England was being smuggled into Calais. Later, these industrial looms were modified to use Jacquard technology which allowed for mechanically produced lace that was comparable to the hand-made variety. In 1910, there were over 40,000 people working in the lace trade. Today, there are just a few companies. Calais is still home to around 80% of the world’s lace production. Top designers continue to return to Calais for their materials.

The museum was established in 2009 in a 19 th century-old glass factory. It also has a modernistic steel and glass extension. The museum’s first section focuses on the history of handlace, from the 16 th to 19 th centuries. It displays some stunning examples. The next section is dedicated to industrial production. It began in the 19 th century. Five Leavers looms were installed with their own trained operators. You can see the lace being made and take a guided tour through every stage. The fashion department contains over 3000 items made between 1850-1899.

La Coupole

One of Europe’s most striking remnants of Second World War Europe is located 45 minutes from Calais. La Coupole, a massive domed bunker built by slave labor in 1943-1944 as a launch site for V2 rockets that were aimed at London, is now a national monument. It was bombed heavily by the Allies, and was abandoned in 1944 without the launch of a single rocket.

Mobile units from Holland were responsible for the V2s that struck London and Antwerp on September 1944. It has been transformed into a History and Memory Centre in 1997. This museum focuses on V1 and V2 weapons, as well as the history of Nazi occupation of North France.

To reach the dome of concrete light, you must pass through a dark tunnel. This area was intended to serve as the launch site of the V2 rockets. The exhibition also traces Wernher von Braun’s history. He was captured by the Americans after the war and worked for NASA, which put men on the Moon. He is still divisive, responsible for weapons and mass destruction and a pioneer in the space race.

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