Day trips to France from the UK

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Day trips to France

Visiting France for the day

France starts less than 21 miles from where England ends. Standing on the White cliffs of Dover on a clear day, France looks amazingly close.... and it is. Just 35 minutes in the Channel Tunnel, or 100 minutes on a ferry, and you're in France.
   But a quick hop over the Straits of Dover to Calais is not the only option for a day trip to France. You can also fly to France for the day, take the Eurostar from London for a day in Lille or Paris, or make a long day of it by crossing overnight on one of the longer ferry routes to France. About-France.com lists the different options available
Go to ►  Tunnel or ferry from Dover Other ferry options
Eurostar from London Low cost flights Other options

Day trips from Dover or Folkestone to Calais

These are the fastest and easiest for cars, cyles and foot passengers. Both the ferry companies operating out of Dover, as well as Eurotunnel, offer cheap day return offers, specially at times when their boats and trains are not usually full.
  In early 2016, DFDS Seaways were offering a day return for car and passengers to Calais or Dunkirk from £49, and P&O Ferries  had a day trip offer at £29 return – both for a car and up to 9 passengers.  As for Eurotunnel le Shuttle  their best rates for a day or two-day return was £23 each way for car and passengers. The Shuttle is not open to pedestrians or cyclists.


  If the sole or main aim of the trip is to stock up on cheap wine and beer, then Calais is a great destination. Calais has all you need for a shopping spree in France.
  Right beside the Channel Tunnel exit, the Cité Europe is a massive hypermarket and shopping mall ; close by is the Marques Avenue factory outlet shopping mall, and other supermarkets and wine merchants
  From the ferry port, it's 4 km along the road, to exit 3, where close by there is a large Carrefour supermarket, three wine superstores and a large Brico Depot, for all DIY needs.
  Alternatively you can head into Calais town centre, and enjoy a bit of more traditional French atmosphere.
  However Calais is not the most exciting nor touristy of French towns.


Boulogne sur Mer
Historic quarter of Boulogne
  For a more interesting day in France, a better idea is to head 30 km down the coast, on the free A16 motorway, to Boulogne, one of France's biggest fishing ports. Boulogne has the French national sea-life centre, Nausicaa, which is very easy to find if you leave the motorway at exit 32, and head into Boulogne centre along the coast.
  For those with a more cultural bent, the historic centre of Boulogne is well worth a visit. Known as the Old Town or the Citadel, it is entirely enclosed within mediaeval ramparts built in the 13th century. Within the old town are the 12th century belfry, the 19th century basilica, and the historic castle, which houses the city's Museum and art gallery.
  Boulogne has plenty of restaurants, specially down by the port. There are also sandy beaches. Between Calais and Boulogne are a few seaside villages, as well as the area around Cap Gris Nez, which has plenty of rambling and hiking trails. for more on this part of France see Nord - Pas-de-Calais area guide.

Day trips by ferry to Dieppe, Le Havre, Caen and Cherbourg.

DFDS Seaways offer a special rate - £106 return (car and passengers) in March 2016 from Newhaven to Dieppe. There is also a foot-passenger return fare of £30. Dieppe is an attractive little port, and the ferry ties up within a mile's walk of the old town.

Brittany Ferries  offer day trips to France from Portsmouth Poole or Plymouth from £24 for foot passengers and £30 per car, until mid May. Though these give a day in France, this does not include the overnight crossings, so this is really a two-day trip. Among the destinations offered, the most interesting is Saint Malo. The historic fortified old city can easily be visited in a day, with time to enjoy the beach too. A day trip to Caen will allow one to visit the Normandy beaches, or the Bayeux tapestry, but not both. A day trip to Roscoff from Plymouth is only for those who like long hours of night sailing and a day in a fishing village.
Regional information:  see Brittany and Normandy

Eurostar from London to Paris or Lille

A day in Paris or Lille from London by Eurostar requires an early start – bearing in mind that UK time is one hour behind continental time. The earliest departures from London to Paris are around 6 a.m., and the last departures from Paris about 8 pm local time - which in theory can give you up to 9 hours in Paris, which is a big day. Visit our Paris guide for more about the French capital. While a return is in theory possible from £58 per person, most day returns to Paris via Eurostar will cost at least twice that. Check for available offers on the French railways UK site.
   Lille is 40 minutes closer to London than Paris. the city has some impressive art galleries, a historic centre, and a very popular zoo. For more on LIlle see Nord - Pas-de-Calais area guide.

Low cost flights

For a full list or French airports served by low-cost carriers from the UK, see Fly to France.
  But before jumping at ideas, it's best to remember a few points.
a) If you fly to France, you'll either be without transport when you get there, or else you'll need to hire a car.
b) If you want to fly out and back the same day, you'll need an early morning flight out, and an evening flight home. Most of the UK-France routes run by low-cost operators do not offer this possibility. Some routes do not even operate every day. Those that do operate every day may well have different times on different days, so going out on one day and returning on the next could leave you with anything between 18 hours and about 35 hours in France, depending on schedules.
  The only destinations for which a day return trip is possible are large cities, such as Paris, Lyon, Nice or Bordeaux - and then not every day.
 c) Many airports are some distance from their city centre; so  allowing time to get back to the airport, and for checkin, time in the destination city may be very limited.

About-France.com's recommendation : in all but a very few cases, flying to France for the day will not be worth the effort and cost. Far better take a two-day trip, when at least you can enjoy an evening and a night in France. Check out Fly to France. to see who flies where.

Other ideas

Rather than just a day trip, take a day's holiday, and at least take a long weekend. the ferry operators and airlines offer short break deals too, and with a couple of nights in France, or a night in France and a second night on the ferry, the time in France will be less stressful; you'll have time to relax and enjoy a good meal or two, enjoy an evening, and have time to visit a site or a museum, or lie on the beach.

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