The port city of Dunkirk is at the very north of France, only around ten kilometres away from the borders of Belgium. A number of tourists pass through Dunkirk on their way into central France, after taking one of the many ferries to France from England, including the ferry direct to Dunkirk from Dover. However, it’s a great shame to miss out on this beautiful city. It is France’s third biggest harbour (coming after Le Havre and Marseille), and has many glorious sights to see. Most famous for Operation Dynamo, which took place in 1940, Dunkirk (Dunkirque in French) is an amalgamation of history, culture and seaside resort.
If you are a sun worshipper, start your holiday in style by taking an afternoon to visit Malo-les-Baines, one of the most popular beach resorts in the area.
To really immerse yourself in the town’s history, take a trip to the Mémorial du souvenir, a museum dedicated to the Battle of Dunkirk, with a number of exhibitions containing artefacts and photographs from the war. Some other memorials worth a visit that honour those who gave their lives in battle, and that are within walking distance, are the Fort des Dunes, The Memorial to the Battles of May and June 1940, and The British Memorial.
If you want to find out more about Dunkirk’s naval history, spend some time in the Port Museum. You can even climb aboard a schooner in the harbour: The Duchesse Anne was built in 1901, and is great to explore.
If you’re more interested in art than history, Dunkirk’s most famous gallery is Lieu d’Art Action Contemporaine, containing paintings and works of art dating from 1950 to the present. If classics are more your style, wander around Dunkirk’s Fine Art Museum instead for a spectacular collection from French, Italian, Flemish, and Dutch paintings.
One of Dunkirk’s most surprising and popular tourist attractions is its twenty-seven-hole golf course. It has recently been modernised, with nine extra holes added. These additions were designed with the local military buttresses in mind.
Another great monument within the walls of Dunkirk is the Chapel of Light. This was designed and built by Sir Anthony Caro, a British sculptor. Fifteen sculptures stand in an area measuring four-hundred and fifty metres squared, and were inspired by the restoration of Bourbourg’s Saint John the Baptist church.I
f you’ve driven your car over on the Ferry, Dunkirk is a great base to explore the Nord department for a few days. Take a trip to Gravelines, a local walled town which was largely untouched by either of the World Wars, with a great many examples of French architecture still intact.
Once you’ve had your fill, it’s very easy to continue with your onward journey. The drive to Brussels from here is only 99 miles. Rotterdam is 165 miles, Evreux is 196 miles, and even Bled, in Slovenia, is only 625 miles. If you start your journey in the morning you can be well into France, or even in a different country, by the end of the day.