Dunkirk, also known as Dunkerque in French, is a vibrant city located in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France. With its rich maritime history, stunning beaches, and cultural attractions, Dunkirk offers a unique blend of experiences for visitors. Here are some of the best places to visit and things to do in Dunkirk:
1. Dunkirk Beaches
Dunkirk boasts beautiful sandy beaches that stretch along the coast. The most popular ones include Malo-les-Bains and Bray-Dunes. These beaches are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and taking leisurely walks along the shoreline.
2. The Dunkirk Boardwalk (Le Promenade des Planches)
Take a stroll along this scenic boardwalk that runs parallel to the beach. Lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops, it’s a great place to relax, enjoy the sea views, and savor some delicious local cuisine.
3. Dunkirk Port Museum (Musée Portuaire)
Located in a former tobacco warehouse, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Dunkirk’s maritime history. Discover the city’s role as a major port, learn about its connection to the French East India Company, and explore various exhibits showcasing the maritime traditions of Dunkirk.
4. Dunkirk Carnival (Carnaval de Dunkerque)
If you happen to visit Dunkirk between January and March, don’t miss the famous Dunkirk Carnival. This lively and colorful event dates back several centuries and features parades, masked balls, and traditional music. It’s a unique cultural experience that brings the city to life.
5. Belfry of Dunkirk (Beffroi de Dunkerque)
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Climb up the steps of this historic belfry to enjoy panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. This UNESCO World Heritage site also houses a museum where you can learn about the belfry’s history and its significance to Dunkirk.
6. The 2nd World War Museum (Musée Dunkerque 1940)
Dive into the history of Dunkirk’s role in World War II at this museum. It showcases the events surrounding the famous Dunkirk evacuation, known as Operation Dynamo, through a collection of artifacts, photographs, and interactive displays.
7. Rosendaël Park
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Escape the hustle and bustle of the city at this serene park located in the suburb of Rosendaël. It features beautiful gardens, walking paths, and a lake where you can relax and enjoy the tranquility.
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Just a short drive from Dunkirk, you’ll find the picturesque town of Gravelines. Visit the impressive Fortifications of Gravelines, stroll along the canals, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of this hidden gem.
9. Port Museum Aquarium (Aquarium-Musée)
Located in the heart of Dunkirk’s port, this aquarium-museum showcases an array of marine life from the North Sea and beyond. Discover fascinating creatures, learn about their habitats, and witness feeding sessions and interactive displays.
10. Musee des Beaux-Arts
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Art enthusiasts should not miss the Musee des Beaux-Arts, which houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. From Old Masters to contemporary works, this museum offers a delightful cultural experience.
11. Leffrinckoucke Dunes
Just a short distance from Dunkirk, you’ll find the Leffrinckoucke Dunes Nature Reserve. This protected area is ideal for nature lovers and hikers, offering picturesque landscapes, walking trails, and opportunities for bird-watching.
12. Shopping at Dunkirk City Center
Explore the bustling city center of Dunkirk, where you’ll find a variety of shops, boutiques, and markets. From fashion and local delicacies to souvenirs, there’s something to suit every taste.
13. Kursaal Dunkirk
This iconic building in Dunkirk is a hub for cultural events and performances. Check the schedule to see if there are any concerts, theater shows, or exhibitions taking place during your visit..
14. Boat Trips
Explore the waterways and coastline of Dunkirk by taking a boat trip. Several companies offer excursions, including sightseeing tours, fishing trips, and even opportunities to sail on traditional sailing ships. It’s a fantastic way to appreciate the city’s maritime atmosphere.
15. Dunkirk Market (Marché de Dunkerque)
Experience the vibrant local culture by visiting the Dunkirk Market, held on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings. Browse through a wide range of stalls offering fresh produce, local specialties, artisanal products, and more.
16. Dunkirk’s Windmills
Explore the picturesque windmills that dot the landscape around Dunkirk. Visit the Moulins de Flandre in the neighboring town of Coudekerque-Branche, where you can learn about the history and operation of these traditional structures.
17. Maison de l’Environnement et du Développement Durable
If you’re interested in environmental conservation, head to this eco-center. It offers interactive exhibits, workshops, and educational activities focused on sustainable development and raising awareness about environmental issues.
18. Sports and Outdoor Activities
Dunkirk and its surroundings offer ample opportunities for outdoor activities. From cycling and hiking trails to water sports like sailing and windsurfing, there’s no shortage of ways to stay active and enjoy the beautiful coastal environment.
19. Local Beer Tasting
Dunkirk is known for its brewing traditions, so be sure to sample some local beers during your visit. Visit a pub or brewery to taste a variety of beers, including the popular regional brews like Ch’ti and Jeanlain.
20. Day Trips
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If you have extra time, consider taking day trips from Dunkirk to nearby destinations. Visit the charming town of Bergues with its historic city walls, or explore the beautiful nature reserves of the nearby Flemish region.
21. Dunkirk’s Modern Art Museum (LAAC)
Explore contemporary art at the Dunkirk Modern Art Museum, also known as LAAC (Lieu d’Art et d’Action Contemporaine). The museum features a diverse collection of modern and contemporary artworks, including paintings, sculptures, installations, and multimedia pieces.
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Take a short trip to the nearby city of Calais, which is known for its historic sites and connection to the English Channel. Visit the famous Calais Lace Museum, explore the old town, and enjoy panoramic views from the Calais Lighthouse.
23. La Piscine Museum (Musée d’Art et d’Industrie André Diligent)
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Piscine_Museum
Located in Roubaix, a short drive from Dunkirk, this museum is housed in a former art deco swimming pool. It showcases an extensive collection of art, sculpture, and design, offering a unique and captivating cultural experience.
24. Kite Festival (Festival International de Cerfs-Volants)
If you visit Dunkirk in April, don’t miss the International Kite Festival held in nearby Berck-sur-Mer. Admire the colorful and creative kites filling the sky, enjoy acrobatic displays, and take part in kite workshops.
25. La Péniche-Restaurant
For a unique dining experience, try a meal on a converted barge at La Péniche-Restaurant. Enjoy delicious French cuisine while floating on the canal, immersing yourself in the maritime ambiance of Dunkirk.
26. Musee Dunkerque 1945
Discover the impact of World War II on Dunkirk and its residents at the Musee Dunkerque 1945. Through immersive exhibits, personal stories, and artifacts, gain insight into the hardships and resilience of the city during this period.
27. Dunkirk Beer Festival (Fête de la Bière)
If you’re a beer enthusiast, plan your visit to coincide with the Dunkirk Beer Festival. This annual event celebrates the rich brewing traditions of the region, offering a wide variety of local and international beers to taste and enjoy.
28. Water Sports at Gravelines
Just a short drive from Dunkirk, the town of Gravelines offers opportunities for various water sports. Try your hand at sailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, or kayaking in the waters of the Gravelines marina.
29. Museum of Contemporary Art (FRAC Grand Large – Hauts-de-France)
Located in a striking modern building, this museum showcases contemporary artworks from regional, national, and international artists. Explore the thought-provoking exhibitions and immerse yourself in the world of contemporary art.
30. Malo-les-Bains Beach
Located in the neighborhood of Malo-les-Bains, this is one of the most well-known and frequented beaches in Dunkirk. It boasts a long sandy shoreline that stretches for approximately 1.5 kilometers, providing ample space for sunbathing, picnicking, and building sandcastles. The beach is equipped with modern amenities, including beach clubs, showers, and lifeguard services during the summer months, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors.
31. Bray-Dunes Beach
Situated just a short distance from Dunkirk, Bray-Dunes Beach offers a more tranquil and serene atmosphere. Surrounded by sand dunes and bordered by picturesque dune grass, this beach is perfect for long walks along the shore or simply basking in the natural beauty of the area. The beach is also known for its clean and clear waters, making it an ideal spot for swimming and water activities.
32. Leffrinckoucke Beach
Just a short drive from Dunkirk, Leffrinckoucke Beach is another beautiful stretch of coastline worth exploring. This wide sandy beach is popular among locals for its scenic beauty and calm waters. It’s an ideal spot for beach walks, kite flying, or simply unwinding with a book under the sun.
Places and Things To Do