Ferries to Dunkirk, France

The port of Dunkirk is an alternative means of entry into France and is worth quoting up if you are considering sailing to Calais, given it is just 24 miles (about 39 kilometres) from there.

Less well known than its neighbour, Dunkirk port handles tourist and freight traffic looking for an alternative route to avoid Calais.

The port benefits from very frequent cross channel ferry services sailing to Dover. Therefore those travelling from Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands should quote up a journey through Dunkirk as it shaves off driving time compared to travelling on to Calais.

Getting to Dunkirk

Ferry Routes

Operator Route Services Travel Time Price
Dover Dunkirk 12 daily 2 hours See prices °

This information is for reference purposes only. Journey times are approximate. Frequency is based on typical schedules. Schedules are subject to availability and weather conditions. Information correct at the time of writing.

Taster Cruise Ship Itineraries

Sorry, no mini cruise routes can be found sailing to Dunkirk sailing on a cruise ship.

Top 3 Cruise & Ferry Deals

  1. Cruise & Maritime Voyages 2 for 1 sale from £279
  2. 2 for 1 Guernsey mini cruise on Condor Ferries from £32
  3. Day trip to Rosslare with Stena Line from £5.50pp

Sightseeing

Grand Place (Lille)

The Grand Place is the central square in Lille where the great and the good hang out. There are a variety of cafés for a mid-morning snack or fabulous lunch. It is the ideal spot to sit, relax, and enjoy some people watching.

Sitting in the midst of the square, you will be surrounded by gorgeous Flemish architecture as well as colourful and striking monuments. The cobbled streets are a perfect finishing touch to make your time in the Grand Place a real trip down memory lane into the area’s past whilst still allowing you the pleasure of the here and now.

Musee d’Art Moderne (Lille)

One of the largest museums in northern Europe, the Musee d’Art Moderne just outside Lille is a fascinating place to visit. There are around 4,500 different exhibits in this massive building, and each one is from either the 20th or 21st century, making this a truly up to date and interesting venue.

Discover works by relatively unknown artists and revisit some more by those whose names are everywhere (including Pablo Picasso). There is even an outside space for the larger sculptures and garden work, as well as a large separate wing for Art Brut (‘outsider art’). Enjoyable and memorable, this gallery is a very different kind of museum.

Tour de Lille

The Tour de Lille is conducted on an open top bus, and can be booked (and boarded) from the main tourist office in the town. With inbuilt screens to watch in a variety of languages (and headphones to help you hear all the information), the tour takes around an hour.

During that time you will be lucky enough to see the beautiful architecture and cobbled streets of the old town, you’ll find out where the most popular museums are (which you can then visit), and you’ll be treated to some of the history of the town itself. This tour is a lovely way to explore the town itself and get an overview of everything it has to offer.

La Citadelle (Lille)

The Lille Citadel is a monumentally astounding building. Once the outer walls of a small town, this area is now used for military purposes, so it’s not always possible to step inside the fortress.

However, even if it is closed when you visit, the gardens surrounding the place are lovely, and well worth a walk through. Not only that, but there is often a funfair here, and military exhibitions and displays. If you do wish to go inside then you will need to book in advance, and it is not always possible. Check beforehand so that you are not disappointed.

LAAC (Dunkerque)

The LAAC Museum in Dunkerque is a beautiful modern sculpture museum with a twist – all of the artwork is outside in gorgeously kept gardens. With a number of permanent exhibitions and children’s areas, this is a wonderful way to indulge in your modern art fantasies.

If the weather is bad there is also an indoor section of the Museum of Dunkerque which will give you an even great appreciation of the place in general.

Memorial du Souvenir (Dunkerque)

Dunkerque (or Dunkirk) is famous for one thing in particular; the part if played in World War II. The Memorial du Souvenir is a museum that is housed in one of the old coastal defence fortresses along the coast.

It was, in fact, the headquarters for the French and British soldiers during the Battle of Dunkirk, and Operation Dynamo. It is this story that the museum tells as it offers up true pieces of history for you to look at and interact with.

The museum has many interesting artefacts within it, including maps of the battle and how it was to be fought, and film of the soldiers as they went about their duty. Interestingly, it’s not just information about the Allies that can be found here – there are many German artefacts too.

A very interesting exhibit is the gallery of items – the ‘souvenirs’ themselves – that were found on the beach after the battle. Thought provoking and touching, this is a lesson in recent history that should be listened to.

Musee de la Chartreuse

Set in a former Carthusian monastery that dates back to 1559, this imposing and impressive museum is a fantastic day out. At the Musee de la Chartreuse you will find a series of collection of ‘beaux arts’ including paintings, sculptures, and silver work.

These exhibitions are all wonderful, and are worth the admission price (although bear in mind that it is free to visit this museum of the first Sunday of the month), but the building itself is an added bonus. With stunning architecture and beautiful grounds, this is a two for the price of one day out.

Goolfy (Lille)

Goolfy is a fun and interactive mini golf experience that really is like no other. The reason it’s so different? It is all played inside, in near darkness, with fluorescent balls! This bizarre yet addictive place has various themed holes throughout, including pirates and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The obstacles are glowing neon too, so although it’s tricky it’s not impossible, giving everyone the chance to be a winner!

Hotels

According to TripAdvisor there are over 225 hotels within this region of France so there's plenty of choice to suit all budgets and tastes. Here are a couple of suggestions you might consider.

Located near to many of the main historic WWI and WWII cemeteries, the Ibis Budget Petite Forêt is great value. From breakfast that costs just a few euros to the bedrooms themselves (including free WiFi, ensuite bathrooms, and comfortable beds), this is a great place to set up base for an exploration of the Nord Pas De Calais area. Handily, it is also near a variety of restaurants, so after a busy day out and about you can relax and enjoy some good food.

With a fabulous gourmet restaurant, and spacious, luxurious rooms to relax in, L’Hermitage Gantois, Lille, is a beautifully appointed building that dates back to the 15th Some of the larger rooms have gorgeously decorated fireplaces or woodwork, and it’s possible to get a glimpse of history. Only 10 minutes from the town centre, this is a superb hotel.

Also in Lille is the lovely Hôtel Barrière. Close to the Gare de Lille where the Eurostar stops off, and within walking distance of the main shopping centre, this is a fine base for exploring the area. You will be welcomed like family, treated like royalty, and can enjoy the on-site casino as well!

Restaurants

There are plenty of restaurants in Nord Pas De Calais that offer superb value for money. Here are a few suggestions.

The food at La Grilladine is traditional French cuisine cooked with a light and modern touch. Expect to find escargot and scallops on the menu. Great food and exceptionally friendly service, it’s no surprise that visitors go back to this Berck restaurant time and again during their stay. Once you discover it, you won’t want to eat anywhere else!

Located in Tourcoing, the Frit St-Anne Chez Gaiguette is a Belgian restaurant which is high on taste yet low on price. Although perhaps not the place to linger (turnover of tables needs to be quick at these prices), it is an excellent way to enjoy a breakfast or lunch whilst on the go. Fries are a speciality, of course!

When to Visit

Since it is the history of Nord Pas De Calais that is so important, visiting on any of the remembrance dates for World War I or II is advised if you really want to understand what the region went through during that time. These dates include 27th May to 4th June (Operation Dynamo and the evacuation of Dunkirk), 6th June (the D Day landings), and 24th June (the surrender of France).

The Nord Pas De Calais region has other excitement to offer as well. There is a wonderful Christmas market, a sea festival and wine growers’ fair in March, a kite festival in April, the Golden Ladle soup festival in May, the strawberry festival in June, the Parade of the Giants in July, the garlic fair in September, and the hops fair in October! Not to mention the fantastic La Grande Braderie de Lille that takes place every September. This is basically like a massive car boot sale that takes place on the streets of Lille, where the townsfolk sell their unwanted possessions. For those who love a bargain this is ideal – who knows what treasures you might unearth?

Handy information

Where you will dock

Dunkirk port is closer to Gravelines than it is to Dunkirk yet it takes the name of the former. The port sits to the west of Dunkirk in an industrialised area. The port is 10 miles (about 16 kilometres) to the town centre and 6 miles (about 10 kilometres) to Gravelines.

Nearest airport

There are no international airports located relatively close to Dunkirk. Therefore the nearest options are Ostend-Bruges International Airport (45 miles (about 72 kilometres) east of the port) and Lille Airport (60 miles (about 97 kilometres) to the south east).

Nearest railway stations

As the port sits inside an industrial area there are plenty of rail links although these are sadly for freight services only. The nearest passenger train station is Grande-Synthe, 7 miles (about 11 kilometres) to the south. 7 miles (about 11 kilometres) to the west is Gravelines station and 11 miles (about 18 kilometres) to the east is Dunkirk's station.

Currency

The currency used in France is the Euro (€). 100 cents make up 1 Euro. Euro coins are available in 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents coins. Euro bank notes are available in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 values.

The exchange rate is currently around £1 equals €0.00. The rate you get when exchanging currency online or on the high street may differ to this rate as this figure comes courtesy of the European Central Bank. The foreign exchange rate may differ from this so it pays to shop around to get the most currency for your money

Ferry Routes

Operator Route Services Travel Time Price
Dover Dunkirk 12 daily 2 hours See prices °

This information is for reference purposes only. Journey times are approximate. Frequency is based on typical schedules. Schedules are subject to availability and weather conditions. Information correct at the time of writing.

Taster Cruise Ship Itineraries

Sorry, no mini cruise routes can be found sailing to Dunkirk sailing on a cruise ship.

Top 3 Cruise & Ferry Deals

  1. Cruise & Maritime Voyages 2 for 1 sale from £279
  2. 2 for 1 Guernsey mini cruise on Condor Ferries from £32
  3. Day trip to Rosslare with Stena Line from £5.50pp
Tip: This route serves as an alternative route to the Dover to Calais ferry route or the Channel train from Folkestone to Calais.

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