France for the day
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
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
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
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.
Historic quarter of Boulogne
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
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
Newhaven to Dieppe.
There is also a foot-passenger return fare of £30. Dieppe is
attractive little port, and the ferry ties up within a mile's walk of
the old town.
offer day trips to France from Portsmouth Poole or Plymouth
£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
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
for more about the French capital. While a return is in theory possible
from £58 per person, most day returns to Paris via Eurostar
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
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.
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
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.
: 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.
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.