Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture
Subprefecture is an administrative division of a country that is below prefecture or province.-Albania:There are twelve Albanian counties or prefectures, each of which is subdivided into several districts, sometimes translated as subprefectures.-Brazil:...

. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras
Arras is the capital of the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France. The historic centre of the Artois region, its local speech is characterized as a Picard dialect...


The population of the metropolitan area at the 1999 census was 125,584.

Calais overlooks the Strait of Dover
Strait of Dover
The Strait of Dover or Dover Strait is the strait at the narrowest part of the English Channel. The shortest distance across the strait is from the South Foreland, 6 kilometres northeast of Dover in the county of Kent, England, to Cap Gris Nez, a cape near to Calais in the French of...

, the narrowest point in the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

, which is only 34 km (21.1 mi) wide here, and is the closest French town to England, of which Calais was a territorial possession
Pale of Calais
The Pale of Calais is a historical region of France that was controlled by the Kingdom of England until 1558.- History :After the Battle of Crécy in 1346, Edward III of England, having renounced the throne of France, kept some territory within France, namely Aquitaine and the area around Calais,...

 for several centuries. The White Cliffs of Dover
White cliffs of Dover
The White Cliffs of Dover are cliffs which form part of the British coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France. The cliffs are part of the North Downs formation. The cliff face, which reaches up to , owes its striking façade to its composition of chalk accentuated by streaks of black flint...

 can easily be seen on a clear day.

The old part of the town, Calais proper (known as Calais-Nord), is situated on an artificial island
Artificial island
An artificial island or man-made island is an island or archipelago that has been constructed by people rather than formed by natural means...

 surrounded by canals and harbours. The modern part of the town, St-Pierre, lies to the south and southeast.


People have lived in Calais since ancient times
Ancient history
Ancient history is the study of the written past from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, with Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC...

. The Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 called the settlement Caletum. As the centuries passed it grew in importance as a port. While sovereignty over Calais passed from one authority to another, the people spoke mostly Dutch. Its position as the point in continental Europe
Continental Europe
Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent, is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands....

 closest to England led the English king Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

, who believed himself the rightful king of France, to capture the city in 1347, after a siege of eleven months following the Battle of Crécy
Battle of Crécy
The Battle of Crécy took place on 26 August 1346 near Crécy in northern France, and was one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years' War...

. The Treaty of Brétigny
Treaty of Brétigny
The Treaty of Brétigny was a treaty signed on May 9, 1360, between King Edward III of England and King John II of France. In retrospect it is seen as having marked the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years' War —as well as the height of English hegemony on the Continent.It was signed...

 in 1360 ceded the city to England. For two centuries Calais remained an integral part of England, with representation in the English Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 (see Pale of Calais
Pale of Calais
The Pale of Calais is a historical region of France that was controlled by the Kingdom of England until 1558.- History :After the Battle of Crécy in 1346, Edward III of England, having renounced the throne of France, kept some territory within France, namely Aquitaine and the area around Calais,...

). In 1558 Calais was finally recaptured by the French. In 1805 Napoleon massed troops there for his planned invasion of England. In World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 Calais was a major base for the BEF. In World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 it was the site of a major engagement, the Siege of Calais
Siege of Calais (1940)
The Siege of Calais was a battle for the port and town of Calais during the German blitzkrieg which overran northern France in 1940. It immediately preceded Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force through Dunkirk....

, in which some 4,000 British soldiers
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 held out for four days against a German armoured division, suffering 60% casualties. Four years later, the Allies mounted Operation Fortitude
Operation Fortitude
Operation Fortitude was the codename for a World War II military deception employed by the Allied nations as part of an overall deception strategy during the build up to the 1944 Normandy Landings...

, a deception campaign intended to convince the Germans that the main Allied landing would come around Calais instead of in Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

. The Allied
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 effort succeeded in causing Hitler to keep significant forces in and around Calais until July 1944, a month after the Invasion of Normandy had begun. Calais was finally liberated
Operation Undergo
Operation Undergo was the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division's operation to take the fortified French port of Calais in September, 1944. A subsidiary operation was executed to silence and capture the heavy batteries at Cap Gris Nez, which threatened the sea approaches to Boulogne...

 by the Canadian 1st Army
First Canadian Army
The First Canadian Army was the senior Canadian operational formation in Europe during the Second World War.The Army was formed in early 1942, replacing the existing unnumbered Canadian Corps, as the growing number of Canadian forces in the United Kingdom necessitated an expansion to two corps...

 later that year.


Calais port is known as the no. 1 ferry transport port in France, there are a number of ferry companies that come in and out of the port everyday:
Seafrance, P&O Ferries.
Calais port is also used by the frame word 'the gate way to France'.


The city's proximity to England has made it a major port for centuries. It is the principal ferry crossing point between England and France, with the vast majority of Channel crossings being made between Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

 and Calais. The French end of the Channel Tunnel
Channel Tunnel
The Channel Tunnel is a undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point, it is deep...

 is also situated in the vicinity of Calais, in Coquelles
Coquelles is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department near Calais in northern France.It is known informally as the town of the Channel Tunnel. The town comprises a shopping centre, hotels and farm in vieille Coquelles , part of the L'Européene autoroute and the Channel Tunnel terminal.The...

 some 4 miles (6.4 km) to the west of the town.

The mainstay of the town's economy is, naturally, its port, but it also has a number of indigenous industries. The principal ones are lace making, chemicals, and paper manufacture. It possesses direct rail links to Paris, 148 miles (238.2 km) to the south.

Calais has restaurants that are popular with English visitors, in the tradition of seaside towns, but shopping is its most popular attraction.


Calais is currently home to around 1,000 migrants, mostly looking to enter the UK avoiding the strict immigration controls at the port.

Some 700-800 migrants, mostly Afghan, were camped in an area among the dunes near the port, locally called 'The Jungle', but this was destroyed by French authorities in a dawn raid on 22 September 2009. The inhabitants were partly imprisoned at the nearby Centre de Rétention of Coquelles, but many more were taken to detention centres all over France before being released and having to make the long journey back to Calais by foot. After the closing of the camp, the French authorities have threatened to repatriate "sans-papiers" ("immigrés en situation irrégulière") to Afghanistan.


As well as the large port, the town is served by two railway stations: Gare de Calais-Fréthun
Gare de Calais-Fréthun
Calais-Fréthun is a mainline and international railway station in the suburbs of Calais, France, one of three stations serving the town. the other two are Calais-Ville in the town centre and Gare des Fontinettes in the suburbs....

 and Gare de Calais-Ville
Gare de Calais-Ville
Gare de Calais-Ville is a railway station in the city centre of Calais, France. It is the principal station for commuter and short distance rail services in Calais. Another station Calais-Fréthun which is where longer distance services depart from is connected by a free shuttle bus service...

, the former being the first stop on mainland Europe of the Eurostar
Eurostar is a high-speed railway service connecting London with Paris and Brussels. All its trains traverse the Channel Tunnel between England and France, owned and operated separately by Eurotunnel....


Local bus services are provided by STCE.

Free car parking facilities are available in front of the Calais ferry terminal and the maximum stay is of three days.


Calais is represented in association football by the Calais RUFC
Calais RUFC
Calais Racing Union FC is a French football club based in Calais, France.-The Club:The club was founded 1902 as Racing Club de Calais and was in the year 1974 renamed in Calais Racing Union Football Club....

, and are members of the Championnat National
Championnat National
The Championnat de France National, commonly referred to as simply National or Division 3, serves as the third division of the French football league system behind Ligue 1 and Ligue 2...

. Calais RUFC have a reputation as being great giant killers in French cup competitions and went as far as the final in the 99/00 season, losing out finally to Nantes.

Main sights

Virtually the entire town was destroyed by heavy bombardments during World War II, so little in Calais pre-dates the war. The Tour de Guet, situated in Calais Nord on the Places d'Armes, is one of the few surviving pre-war buildings.

The German wartime military headquarters, situated south of the train station in a small park, is today open to the public as a war museum.

The town centre is dominated by its distinctive town hall, built in the Flemish Renaissance style
Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance...

 (and visible well out to sea). Directly in front of the town hall is a cast of the statue The Burghers of Calais
The Burghers of Calais
Les Bourgeois de Calais is one of the most famous sculptures by Auguste Rodin, completed in 1889. It serves as a monument to an occurrence in 1347 during the Hundred Years' War, when Calais, an important French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for over a year.-History:The...

(French Les Bourgeois de Calais), by Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
François-Auguste-René Rodin , known as Auguste Rodin , was a French sculptor. Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past...

. The town centre has seen significant regeneration over the past decade.

Another sight is the Alhambra cinema, an arthouse cinema located on the same square as the Hôtel de Ville.

Immediately to the west is the Côte d'Opale
Côte d'Opale
The French Opal Coast covers the seaside holiday area of the Pas de Calais, from Calais in the north to Berck in the south, but also extends to Le Crotoy...

, a cliff-lined section of coast that parallels the white cliffs
White cliffs of Dover
The White Cliffs of Dover are cliffs which form part of the British coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France. The cliffs are part of the North Downs formation. The cliff face, which reaches up to , owes its striking façade to its composition of chalk accentuated by streaks of black flint...

 on the British coast and is part of the same geological formation.

On clear days, the buildings of Calais can quite readily be seen with the naked eye from the British shore, 33 km (20.5 mi) away.

Twin towns - Sister cities

Calais is twinned
Town twinning
Twin towns and sister cities are two of many terms used to describe the cooperative agreements between towns, cities, and even counties in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties.- Terminology :...

Bardejov is a town in North-Eastern Slovakia. It is situated in the Šariš region and has about 33,000 inhabitants. The spa town, mentioned for the first time in 1241, exhibits numerous cultural monuments in its completely intact medieval town center...

, Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, since 6 September 2002 Brăila
Brăila is a city in Muntenia, eastern Romania, a port on the Danube and the capital of Brăila County, in the close vicinity of Galaţi.According to the 2002 Romanian census there were 216,292 people living within the city of Brăila, making it the 10th most populous city in Romania.-History:A...

, Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, since 8 May 2002 Duisburg
- History :A legend recorded by Johannes Aventinus holds that Duisburg, was built by the eponymous Tuisto, mythical progenitor of Germans, ca. 2395 BC...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, since 25 June 1964 Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, since June 1973

Fanga is a commune and small town in the Cercle of Yélimané in the Kayes Region of western Mali. In the 2009 census the commune had a population of 7,753....

, Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

, Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

, since 19 November 1976 Wismar
Wismar , is a small port and Hanseatic League town in northern Germany on the Baltic Sea, in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,about 45 km due east of Lübeck, and 30 km due north of Schwerin. Its natural harbour, located in the Bay of Wismar is well-protected by a promontory. The...

, Germany, since December 1971

External links

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