Just a few days to spare?

It can still be immensely rewarding to head across the Channel even for just a short break. The map shows a few suggestions for destinations, all within around three hours drive from Calais, which are worth heading to - for a change of scene, getting a feel for how our Continental neighbours live, and perhaps to test out your appetite for a longer trip next time.


Ghent - 91 miles, 1h30m drive: A substantial city, with some impressive medieval architecture, but without the crowds and blatant tourism of Bruges.

Namur - 158 miles, 2h30m: an intriguing centre of Wallonia (French-speaking Belgium), with a citadel overlooking its two rivers. The town is also a useful gateway to the wooded emptiness of the Ardennes hills, just to the south.

(see the
Belgium page for further ideas on where to book)

Maastricht - 202 miles, 3h03m: this small, southern Dutch city is a delight. Not much in the way of canals, but an attractive historic centre and far more character than its Euro-reputation might imply. For the more ambitious, it's only a short drive further to Aachen - 213 miles, 3h13m from Calais, to get a taste of Germany in this underrated spa city with a stunning cathedral

And of course there's no reason not to stay in France - just get away from the industrialised far north-east. Three possible highlights from this immense hinterland:

Rouen - 133 miles, 2h03m: a pleasant drive through rolling countryside gets you to the capital of Normandy and a thriving and civilised metropolis.

Epernay - 183 miles, 2h49m: the heart of Champagne production, so an obvious target. Best just select the hotel that appeals most in the triangle formed by Epernay, Chalons and Reims to the north.

Senlis - 150 miles, 2h15m: a gem of a micro-city, just 25 miles north of Paris, but serene and beautiful (perhaps because there is no direct rail connection to the capital). Worth combining with Compeigne, or Chantilly, both with chateaux, and the latter with a good rail link into Paris.
APOLOGIES TO NORTH OF WATFORD: Yes, this is all seen from a South-East England perspective - the short break becomes vastly less appealing if you face more than a couple of hours drive to get to Dover in the first place.
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