At the threshold of Belgium and the UK, the Calais region is made up of coastal areas as well as the countryside. The hills of Flanders and Artois lead right up to the Côte d'Opale, or Opal Coast, with beaches surrounded by dramatic cliffs that open onto the coastline of the English Channel. The seaside resorts in this area (Berck-sur-Mer, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and Boulogne-sur-Mer) combine the pleasures of the beach with the thrills of the casino, and water sports activities. The Grand Site des Deux Caps, covering 23 of the 120km of this coastline, offers a beautiful landscape that is constantly changing depending on the time of day. In the east, the plains of the Cambrésis give way to groves and woods of the Thiérache and the Hainaut. The Avesnois Natural Regional Park, together with the Caps et Marais d' Opale Regional Natural Park and Scarpe-Escaut Regional Park, offer over 3500km of paths to explore by foot.
The architecture of the Calais region is particularly attractive, and boasts an abundance of Flemish influences. Great examples include the grandiose Grand Place in Arras, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Grâce in Cambrai, the Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange) in Lille, the Belfry, the Belfry and the Bourgeois de Calais (one of the most famous sculptures by Rodin), Cambrai (belfry, citadel, cathedral), Tourcoing and its Flemish heritage, Valenciennes…
History has played a major part in shaping the identity of the region, which is both industrial and artistic. This history can be seen at the Mining History Center, the Museum of Art and Industry of Roubaix, the International Center of Lace and Fashion in Calais, the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern (Contemporary and Outsider Art - LaM), the Musée des Beaux Arts in Valenciennes (dedicated to the Flemish school of art), not forgetting the future Louvre-Lens Museum. Even more, don’t miss the Chemins de mémoire (paths of memory), which retrace the history of conflicts within the region. With around fifty national museums, this northern region is filled with a rich and diverse history.
“Les souvenirs de 14-18” (The memories of 1914-18)
We’re just a few months away from the centennial of the beginning of the Great War, so be sure to visit these many great sites: the Military Museum of Tragette in Neuville Saint-Vaast, La Coupole in Wizernes, the European Centre for Peace in Souchez (at the foot of the Hill of Lorette), and the Vimy Memoral (built for Canadian soldiers).
A blend of Flemish and Picard influences, the cuisine in the Calais region boasts produce that is unique to the area, such as endives. The top specialties of the region are the Carbonade Flamande (a sweet and sour beef and onion stew made with beer), rabbit with prunes, and Potjevleesch (potted meat). Choose from the artisanal beers and local liquors, such as genièvre (made with juniper), to accompany your food. The cheeses of the region are full of character, especially the Vieux-Lille and the strong cow’s-milk cheese Maroilles (orange in color), which is used to make the local savory tart called the Flamiche. The famous moules-frites should be eaten with your fingers, fresh from a chip stand !
The region features many leisure and wildlife parks, which are great for the family. One spot in particular, the Nausicäa, hosts the greatest aquarium in the whole region. Cyclists can enjoy riding on the famous cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix, while others can enjoy hot air ballooning at the Montgolfiades de Lille (where the competition takes place), or fly a kite at the International Kite Meeting in Berck-sur-Mer. Plenty of festivals and events take place throughout the year in the region, from the unique Wazemmes accordion festival in May, and the booming Dunkerque carnival in February. For shopping, check out the Braderie de Lille grand open-air flea market in Lille, and for art, check out the Braderie de l'art in Roubaix. The programming of lille3000 allows for a whole new way to discover the city. And don't forget to check out the legendary cycling race of Paris-Roubaix and its famous cobblestone routes.
A young and dynamic region full of luminous charm, Calais welcomes you into a whirlwind of festivals, history and culture.