France and Belgium are two bordering countries in the middle of Europe. Because of their strategic closeness to each other, it is not a surprise that some of the places in Belgium and in France are culturally intertwined. The lower part of Belgium speaks French while the upper part of France has Belgian influence as can be seen for instance in the architecture. Nevertheless, these two countries are both culturally and historically rich and are beautiful in their own ways. In this blog, I will discuss the French cities that are close to Belgian border, starting from West to East of France (see the map below).
French cities close to Belgian border
1. Calais France
Calais is a historical port city that connects France and England for centuries. It takes around 5 hours by train or 90 minutes by ferry to cross between these two countries. Calais is also close to the border of Belgium. For instance going to Panne Belgium, which is a coastal town facing the North Sea, takes less than an hour drive. Aside from being a major hub for transport between England and France, there are also things to see when in Calais, France even just for a day. Enjoy the sight of the 75-meter high UNESCO heritage site Belfry Tower and the renowned masterpiece of Auguste Rodin’s Burghers of Calais. If you are an art lover, then you can visit the Musees de Beaux Arts de Calais (a museum that features Dutch, Flemish, and French arts), Musee de la Guerre de Calais (a Nazi bunker), and Courgain Maritime Museum. If you want to relax in the nature, then you can enjoy the greenery of City Parks, the golden sand of Calais beach, and the white chalk cliffs of Cap Blanc-Nez.
2. Dunkirk France
Dunkirk is another coastal town just in the North of Calais (around 35 minutes drive) and lies 10 kilometers away from the Belgian border. The name Dunkirk originated from the West Flemish words “dun” and “kerke” meaning “church in the dunes”. Dunkirk was originally a fishing village in the medieval ages and played an important role during the World War 2. More than 300,000 Allies soldiers have been evacuated from Dunkirk when the German halted the attacks to the Allies soldiers to maintain their tanks and to protect their exposed tanks. If interested to know more about this historical account, I suggest to watch the movie entitled “Dunkirk”. Aside from the historical importance, Dunkirk also has popular attractions. These include the Musee Dunkerque 1940 – Operation Dynamo (military museum), Plage de Malo-les-Bains (a promenade), Belfry Saint Eloi (a Cathedral), Bio-Topia-Fort Mardyck Dunkerque (a zoo) and Mairie de Dunkerque (a historical building).
3. Lille France
Lille France is another northern French city close to the Belgian border. It takes less than 30 minutes to reach a Belgian city from Lille. The city of Lille has a strong Flemish influence as can be seen in its Grand Palace and Basilica of Notre Dame de la Treille. Lille also has many educational attractions for family such as the Parc Zoologique Lille (a zoo), Parc Citadelle (attraction park), Parc Jean-Baptiste Lebas, and Palais des Beaux Arts Lille. If you want to know more about this cute Flemish French city, check out my blog on Lille France family friendly places.
Reims France is a French city that lies northeast of Paris France. It takes at least an hour and 20 minutes drive to reach Reims France from other Belgian towns such as Couvin and Bouillon Belgium. Reims was once a famous Roman city during the Roman times and a traditional coronation sites of many kings of France. In addition to its historical importance, Reims is also a city that lies in the Champagne wine region of France. Popular places to see in Reims include the UNESCO World heritage Abbey of Saint Remi, Cathedral Notre Dame de Reims, Maison Ruinart, Palace du Tau, and Champagnes Pommerey.
As the name speaks, Champagne is a famous place for sparkling white wine champagnes. This northeast region of France is just in the border of Belgium. In fact, Champagne-Ardenne is just 10 minutes drive from Belgian Ardennes towns, such as in Bouillon and Vresse-sur-Semois Belgium. You can read my blog about Belgian Ardenne in this link. French towns close to the Belgian border include Charleville-Meziere and Givet France. There are many wine tours and tasting available when in Champagne-Ardenne region.
Metz is a city in the northeast of France that is close to Belgium, Germany, and Luxembourg. From Belgian E411 road, it takes an hour drive to reach Metz France. Popular places to visit in Metz France include Metz cathedral (one of the tallest cathedral in Europe), Place Saint Louis (medieval square of Metz), Eglise Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains (oldest church in France), Centre-Pompidou Metz (a unique looking satellite building), and Portes des Allemands (last remaining castle bridge in France).
Other major French cities in the north of the country
Aside from the French cities close to Belgian border that are mentioned in this blog, there are also major French cities that are relatively easy to reach by public transport from Belgium. These are Paris and Strasbourg France. Paris is the capital of France and is one of the populous French cities. Paris city is known for fashion, gastronomy and science. Meanwhile, Strasbourg is another major French city in the Northeast of France and houses the European Parliament. This city is very close to Germany and Switzerland and therefore has been rich in cultural influence. Interested to know more about these major French cities? Check out my blogs on: Discover Paris with family and friends and Strasbourg France one day itinerary.
Other crossing border countries to visit
Interested to know more other crossing border countries to visit in Europe? Check out the following blogs: