Dunkirk is the northernmost town in France and is just 10km from the border with Belgium. Its name has Flemish origins “dun(e)” and “kerke” (church). Its Flemish origins are so strong that it French was only the primary language from middle of the 20th century.
Over the centuries Dunkirk has been disputed amongst the English, Dutch, Spanish and the French, and was part of England when Oliver Cromwell defeated the Spanish in the “Battle of the Dunes” in 1658. King Charles II then sold it to the French in 1662 for £320,000.
Dunkirk is known most of all for the dramatic events of operation Dynamo in 1940, when British forces got cut off from the French army in the German advance. The British got surrounded and had to be evacuated by a fleet of 900 boats, small and large, from all over the south coast. In all 320,000 men were evacuated including 123,000 French soldiers, but were forced to leave behind 40,000 vehicles.
Visit the War Museum in Dunkirk for a fascinating insight into the events of these days.
Short Breaks in Dunkerque and French Flanders: A themed short break programme for stays in Dunkerque and the French Flanders region is available through the Office de Tourisme Dunkerque Dunes de Flandre region.
Maritime Discovery Weekend from 69 euros per person to discover the Maritime and Wartime history of Dunkerque : includes a Tourist Pass to museums, including the War Museum, the Port Museum and its ship collection including the sailing ship Duchesse Anne, a port tour, free public transport, activities, a shopping coupon etc. On a basis of two people sharing a double room, this package includes 1 night B&B in a 2 star hotel, dinner on the Saturday night (one drink included), booking fee and visitor tax.
Other breaks include:
Dunkerque Gourmet Weekend from 105 euros per person (double room based on two people sharing) – 1 night B&B in a 3 star hotel, dinner on Saturday night (drink included), tea and pastry, wine tasting, booking fee and visitor tax.
Discovering the fortifications of Gravelines and the history of those who built them; the Counts of Flanders, the Spanish and finally the French under Louis XIV – Charm and Gourmet Weekend from 143 euros per person (double room based on two people sharing – 1 night at a bed and breakfast or hotel, gourmet dinner on Saturday night, museum entry, canal tour, audioguide of the walled town, booking fee and visitor tax.
How to get to Dunkerque
Dunkerque town centre and the French Flanders region are just a short drive from the Port of Dunkerque served by the exclusive Dover – Dunkerque ferry operator DFDS Seaways. The company provides 24 sailings daily, crossing time just under two hours, with fares starting from £19 one way for car and passengers.
Where to stay
***Hostellerie Saint Louis
Housed in a country manor house in the tiny village of Bollezeele, between Dunkerque and St Omer, the Hostellerie Saint Louis offers elegantly furnished rooms and features an excellent restaurant.
Close to the beach and the town centre, l’Hirondelle provides comfortable accommodation and a warm welcome in the heart of the seaside resort of Dunkerque.
**Le Gens de Mer
Situated just a few steps away from the city centre and facing one of the lovely area ports sits the comfortable and affordable Hotel Les Gens de Mer.
A small luxury hotel a few miles from Dunkerque with just 9 rooms but an excellent restaurant.