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Dunkirk Dunkerque France Dunkirk

Dunkirk Dunkerque France


Ferries stopped coming to Dunkirk (Dunkerque) in the late 1990s, after the opening of the tunnel link, and since then shops, hotels and restaurants have all started to look a bit run down.

Dunkirk is part of France's industrial core, producing a quarter of the nation's oil and steel, but there is high unemployment in the town. Sadly it was devastated during WWII, especially in 1940 where it was the focus of Operation Dynamo when the allies came close to losing their troops, planes and vehicles before the action had really begun. Malo les Bains is the town to visit if you are interested in seeing the beaches where the operation took place.

Dunkirk has a number of restored buildings that are worth a look, including the 15th century church of St Éloi, the Flemish Hôtel de Ville in place Charles Valentin (very similar to the one in Calais), and the medieval red brick belfry, the town's main feature, which you can climb for €2.50. The tourist office is inside the town hall (03 28 26 27 27).

Museums tend to fare better than architecture in Dunkirk and the Musée des Beaux Arts, place du Général de Gaulle has a fine selection of Flemish, Dutch and French paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Musée Portuaire, at 9 quai de la Citadelle on the Bassin du Commerce, tells the history of Dunkirk using models of boats and tools, from its inception as a fishing hamlet to its present status as France's third largest port.

There are no truly breathtaking hotels in Dunkirk, but the standard is generally acceptable. The three star Hôtel Borel on rue Hermitte (03 28 66 51 80) overlooks the fishing boats on the Bassin du Commerce. The more central Best Western Welcome is to be found at 37 rue Poincaré (03 28 59 20 70). Both have rooms for €55 to €70.

Restaurants in Dunkirk are also a bit neglected in this economic climate, but for good seafood try La Sirène, 65 rue de l'Amiral Ronarc'h with its €20 menu, or Le Corsaire, 6 rue de la Citadelle, with its €15 menu and view of the port and Duchesse Anne ship. Nearby Malo les Bains has a better selection of restaurants, including Hirondelle, 46 avenue Faidherbe, which has a €12 menu and serves excellent seafood. The town of Cassel, 30km southeast of Dunkirk, where the Grand Old Duke of York marched his 10,000 men in 1793, has a distinctly Flemish feel to it and a number of restaurants serve traditional Flemish fare, including 'T Kasteel Hof, 8 rue St Nicolas near the windmill (03 28 40 59 29), which has menus for €15 and local beer to accompany the food.