Calais is known for being the quickest entrance port into France from England, and because of this, it has become a hub of trade. Instead of being a town people pass though on their way to Paris or destinations further afield, people come to Calais for the day or on an overnight trip to do copious amount of shopping.
Over the past thirty years, more and more shops have sprung up, and the entire town is like a huge shopping mall. Calais is famed for its low prices, so even though you have to travel further afield, it’s possible to save a fortune on ‘big shops’. A lot of people do these trips before Christmas, or before the summer, and load up on many items that are cheaper across the Channel, such as cheese, wine, beer and cigarettes – hence the name often given to such trips: “the booze cruise”.
The main reason people go is to purchase alcohol. The wines in France are second to none, and the Champagne is incredible. You’re bound to get a great deal on an excellent product, and many of the wines are available at half the price that they would be in the UK. Overall, the average saving is about 20%, so it’s completely worthwhile the hop across the channel.
You can get there one of two ways – by a ferry to France, or through the channel tunnel. The ferry brings you right into Calais, and at only 26 miles away from Dover, it’s hardly a long journey. Average ferry times are around 45 minutes. Simply drive onto the Ferry with an empty car, and drive off to fill up with goodies!
The best street to shop on is Rue Royale. It’s the most popular, and has become the high street of Calais. It’s been modernized in recent years, and is now home to a number of bars and cafes, so when the shopping gets a bit too much, you can take an hour off to rest and refresh yourself. As well as some big stores, there’s also a number of specialty outlets on Rue Royale, including chocolate shops, quaint tea stores, and local pottery outlets.
Another great place to go is The Living Centre, which is one of the newest shopping centres in Calais. Also near to here is Royal Dentelle, an excellent lace shop. Calais is famed for its production of fine lace wares, and there are some great goods on offer, including underwear and tablecloths.
Calais is also the perfect place to visit during the sale seasons. The best time is just after Christmas. For most of January, there are some really great price cuts, so you’ll get plenty more for your money. June is also a good time to visit for sale items.
On a practical note, during your shopping trip, make sure you always have a one Euro coin to hand for the shopping trolleys. It’s also advisable to bring a cool bag with you. France is famous for its exceptional cheeses, so load up the bag and they’ll stay fresher on your journey home. Try to avoid going to Calais on Sunday as many shops close for the day. And if you’re planning on loading up your car with cigarettes and alcohol, make sure you pay attention to EU regulations. If you’re car is checked and you’re over the weight limit, you might be fined.