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Review: Dunkirk


Dunkirk, France

Dunkirk – a Great Place to Visit

  • By SilverTraveller Peter-Watson

    2 reviews

  • Jun 2011
  • Family including children under 16

108 people found this review helpful

Many people, when they think of crossing the Channel think of Calais as the French destination. Dunkirk, served by the DFDS ferries from Dover, is the lesser known alternative but it’s well worth visiting. Where Calais is an industrial city and mostly just a gateway to the rest of France, Dunkirk is a market town and holiday resort in its own right. Set amid fifteen miles of lovely sandy beaches, Dunkirk can be the perfect destination for a day trip, a stop off on the way to somewhere else, a weekend away or a short holiday.

The crossing only takes two hours and there’s plenty for families and children to do on board. If your final destination is the Low Countries, Germany or indeed most of Europe, crossing to Dunkirk will save you a lot of driving. For Paris and the South of France, it doesn’t make much difference but Dunkirk still makes a lovely start a holiday. Never occupied by the English in the same way that Calais was, Dunkirk has nevertheless played an important part in our history. The Spanish Armada was defeated at the Battle of Gravelines. Picardy was fought over during the First World War and in the Second, the Operation Dynamo evacuation of Dunkirk was a key turning point.

Dunkirk is a great place for families. The beaches are wide (fifteen miles long if you count the whole length going up into Belgium) which means that even at peak times they never feel too busy. The beach is long and slopes very gently down to the sea which is ideal for toddlers to play and paddle. Along the promenade above the beach there are shops and open air restaurants – lovely places for a very French lunch though the food has influences from Flanders and Belgium as well as typical French dishes. After lunch, you can drink your coffee or wine in the sunshine while younger members of the party enjoy playing on the beach or on the trampolines and similar attractions which are so much part of the French seaside.

Away from the beach, there’s lots to do with the port, the old town and ancient fortifications to wander round as well as a zoo, a lighthouse and several museums to visit. The River Aa which separates Dunkirk and Gravelines also offers lots to do along its banks. Dunkirk has a "Famille Plus Mer" scheme and wherever you see the logo displayed on restaurants, shops or hotels, you know that they are geared up to entertain families. There are lots of hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts and you can find lists on, an English language website, which also acts as a useful guide to events and attractions in Dunkirk and the local area.

We (my fourteen year old daughter and I) crossed from Dover to Dunkirk by DFDS ferry. We spent a day there on our way to a short break at Parc Asterix near Paris. Good as the park was, the day in Dunkirk was our best bit and we’re making plans to go and spend more time there. We’ve always crossed to Calais before and we couldn’t believe what we’d been missing.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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