Fashion editor Diana Vreeland famously once said “The best thing about London is Paris” and while Londoners may disagree, we cannot deny that our extremely close proximity to North Western France is a blessing. Since we can see across to the French coastline on a clear day, you can take your chances at swimming the channel. If however, you are planning on arriving dry and in one piece, you can also opt for the ferry or train. Whichever way you choose to get there, these are the best places to visit for a day trip to North Western France.
The most well-known and visited place in North Western France is the French capital city, Paris, and it just so happens to only be 2 hours away from London by Eurostar. There is just something about the city and its culture that could turn even the most narcissistic person into a romantic. Spend your day taking in the iconic sites, browsing les bouquinistes, visiting an exhibition at one of the cities many galleries, or impressing your date with a lavish terrace lunch. Don’t forget to stop by the shops on the Champs Elysees and buy some gifts to take home. Whatever you choose to do, we can guarantee you won’t want to come home.
For day trippers wishing to enjoy the less busy, more quaint side of North Western France, take a trip to the small commune of Saint-Omer. With rustic, family-run restaurants, shops and a market in picture-postcard settings, this small town is the perfect place for foodies to enjoy some authentic French cooking while picking up locally made products to take home. If you’re looking to walk off your meal before heading home, take a wander through the beautiful cathedral and abbey ruins.
Renowned as the chic seaside Parisian playground, Le Touquet offers a leisurely escape for both the Brits and inland residents of North Western France. A fifty-minute drive from Calais means you can simply grab your bucket and spade, load up the car, and arrive in less time than it would take to get to Cornwall. Stretch out on the long beach, have a go at some watersports and indulge in some rich ice-cream. Before you drive home, dust off the sand, take a stroll through the town and grab a bite to eat in the form of a seafood platter.
Only 1 hour 30 minutes away by Eurostar, Lille is a fabulous alternative to Paris and offers plenty to fill your day. There is an unconventional museum housed in an old swimming pool building, stunning landscaped gardens and a beaux arts gallery that only comes second to the Louvre. While this city makes a great day trip all year round, consider visiting during one of Europe’s biggest flea markets which takes place on the first weekend of September, and pick up some antiques to bring home. Don’t forget to try the mussels which are a delicacy of this city.
If you are looking for a trip with more history and educational aspects, Dunkirk is only two hours away by ferry from Dover. France’s third largest port and its surrounding beaches were the scenes of some of the most significant events of the Second World War. Though much of the old town was destroyed in the war and has subsequently been rebuilt, the Dunkirk War Museum and Dunkirk Town Cemetry are great places to visit to educate yourself on what took place in this coastal town, as well as to pay your respects to those who fought and sadly died in the war. On a less somber note, Dunkirk is also a destination worth visiting for those wanting to take part in outdoor sports or watch the famous carnival unfold between January and May.
Located on its own island, 1km off of the coast of North Western France sits the Mont Saint-Michel. The abbey and monastery rising from the top of this hill make it look like something out of a fairytale, making it obvious why this is one of France’s most recognizable landmarks. With an extensive history, there is a lot to learn on a trip to Mont Saint-Michel while wandering around the grounds of the abbey. Be sure to spend the whole day here and take photos in differing lights to capture the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before leaving, enjoy a meal in one of the traditional restaurants with a view of Mont Saint-Michel and browse the quaint gift shops.
Fancy seeing artworks from the Louvre but without the hustle and bustle of Paris? Lens is less than an hours drive from Calais and is now home to the Louvre-Lens Museum. This outpost of one of the most famous galleries in the world benefits from artwork and collection loans from the Louvre as well as holding its own program of exhibitions. Once you are there, make a day of it and take a trip to the 14-18 Centre d’Histoire Guerre et Paix for a contemporary take on a war museum that uses multi-media to document the war from all viewpoints. Surprising for a small town in North Western France, these two museums are housed in outstanding works of modern architecture.
For a trip to a picturesque town in North Western France where the mix of French and Flemish influence is clear, pay a visit to the city of Rouen for the day. In the capital of the region of Normandy, you will find a number of cathedrals and churches, all with strikingly different architectural features. Spend the day visiting these buildings as well as walking around the pedestrianized, cobbled city center with its medieval houses and admiring the skyline that was frequently depicted in paintings by Claude Monet.