Dunkerque (or Dunkirk, in English) is a harbour town in the North-East of France. Dunkerque is most famous for being the sight of the largest military evacuation in history: between 27th May and 4th June 1940 almost 340,000 French and British soldiers were rescued from its beaches. Life-boats, privately and commercially owned fishing vessels and pleasure boats sailed across the Channel from the South coast of England to rescue soldiers who had been unable to resist the force of the German invasion. In the face of such disaster, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill proclaimed it to be "a miracle" that anyone was spared.

A little over four years later, on 6th June 1944, Allied Forces landed only a little further along the coast to reclaim land previously controlled by Hitler's army. The Germans did not relinquish control of Dunkirk, however, at the time of the D-Day landings: the town was not officially returned to French control until May 1945.

Dunkerque also became known as a haven for pirates who made a career out of harassing ships on the North Sea in the 17th Century. The remains of Jean Bart, perhaps the most notorious French pirate of the era, now lie within Saint Eloi's Church in the centre of Dunkerque.

Today, most visit Dunkerque only as they disembark from, or wait to board, a ferry. There are few reasons to spend a prolonged period of time in Dunkerque, but visitors should not find it too difficult to amuse themselves on a short visit.


The Memorial du souvenir is a museum dedicated to educating its visitors about the Battle of Dunkerque and the rescue operation which became known as 'Operation Dynamo.' The museum's exhibits include military documents, uniforms and weapons.

The Musée Portuaire can be found on the Quai de la Citadelle and provides information about how Dunkerque made the transition from a small fishing village to the third largest harbour town in France. The museum is situated in an old tobacco house and the emphasis lies on the ordinary inhabitants of the town throughout its history. Model ship enthusiasts ought to be impressed by the collection on display.

The Musée des beaux arts in the town centre houses an interesting collection of 16th to 19th Century French, Dutch and Italian paintings.


In addition to a number of traditional weekly French markets, Dunkerque has many supermarkets and hypermarkets and a large modern shopping centre. The town is the ideal destination for those making what has become known as a "booze cruise" from the UK: alcohol can be purchased in bulk from hypermarkets, and is likely to be less expensive than on the other side of the Channel.

Nightlife and eating out

Visitors to Dunkerque should not find it too difficult to amuse themselves in the evenings. There are numerous bars, cafés and restaurants in and around the town centre. If you feel like something a little more active, there is a bowling alley on the Sentier de la Vallée and an ice skating rink on the Place Paul Asseman. Those who are feeling lucky might like also like to visit the casino on the Place du Casino.

Tourist Information

The Tourist OfficeRue de l'Admiral Ronarc'hTel: +33 (0)3 28 66 79 21E-Mail: accueil.dunesdeflandre@ot-dunkerque.frwww.ot-dunkerque.fr/uk/index.aspx


The nearest major airport is in Lille - some 46 miles away from the centre of Dunkerque. For this reason, most visitors arrive by ferry, car or train. There are frequent crossings between Dover and Dunkerque, and the town is well connected to other French towns and cities, including Calais, Lille and Paris, by rail.

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