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Calais ( ; in English often , traditionally ; ) is a town in northern Francemarker in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arrasmarker.

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

Calais overlooks the Strait of Dovermarker, the narrowest point in the English Channelmarker, which is only 34 km (21 miles) wide here, and is the closest French town to Englandmarker, of which Calais was a territorial possession for several centuries. The white cliffs of Dovermarker can easily be seen on a clear day.

The old part of the town, Calais proper (or Calais-Nord), is situated on an artificial island surrounded by canals and harbours. The modern part of the town, St-Pierre, lies to the south and southeast.


Ferry docked at Calais
People have lived in Calais since ancient times. The Romans 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 closest to England led the English king Edward III, who believed himself the rightful king of France, to cross the Channel and capture the city in 1347. The Treaty of Brétigny in 1360 ceded the city to England. For two centuries Calais remained an integral part of England, with representation in the English Parliament (see Pale of 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 Calais was a major base for the BEF. In World War II it was the site of a major engagement, the Siege of Calais, in which some 4,000 British soldiers surrendered to the Germans after holding out for four days. Four years later, the Allies mounted Operation Fortitude, a deception campaign intended to convince the Germans that the main Allied landing would come around Calais instead of in Normandy. The Allied effort succeeded in causing Hitler to keep significant forces in and around Calais until July 1944, a month after the Invasion of Normandymarker had begun. Calais was finally liberated by the Canadian 1st Army later that year.


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 Dovermarker and Calais. The French end of the Channel Tunnelmarker is also situated in the vicinity of Calais, in Coquellesmarker some 4 miles (6 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 Parismarker (148 miles / 238 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.

Illegal Immigration

Calais is currently home to a migrant camp of around 1,500 expatriates, looking to illegally enter Great Britain..

Some 700-800 immigrants, mostly Afghan, camped in a wooden area near the port nicknamed 'The Jungle' but this was closed by French authorities in a dawn raid on September 22, 2009.


Cranes in the Ferry Terminal, Calais
As well as the large port, the town is served by two railway stations: Gare de Calais-Fréthun and Gare de Calais-Villemarker, the former being the first stop on mainland Europe of the Eurostar line.

Local bus services are provided by STCE.


Calais is represented in association football by the Calais RUFC, and are members of the Championnat National.

Main sights

City hall

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 (and visible well out to sea). Directly in front of the town hall is a cast of the statue The Burghers of Calaismarker (French Les Bourgeois de Calais), by Auguste Rodin. The town centre has seen significant regeneration over the past decade.

Another must see for visitors to the area is the Alhambra cinema, an arthouse cinema located on the same square as the Hôtel de Ville.

On the outskirts of Calais there is Cité Europe, a huge shopping complex with shops, a games arcade, bars restaurants and a multiplex cinema. Located next to Cité Europe is L'Usine, a factory outlet centre for higher-end brands. These are both built on land next to the Channel Tunnelmarker terminal.

Immediately to the west is the Côte d'Opalemarker, an extremely scenic cliff-lined section of coast that parallels the white cliffsmarker 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 (21 miles) away.

International relations

Twin towns - sister cities

Calais is twinned with:

See also


External links

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