Hauts-de-France Road Trips

Calais to Paris Road Trip (An Alternative Drive)


Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Calais to Paris by Car

Driving from Calais to Paris is straightforward, but if you are on holiday and want to have fun, there’s no rush to reach the French capital.

Fancy soaking up some beautiful sights and scenery of France before getting to Paris? No problem. Here’s a fun Calais to Paris road trip to take in your stride, allowing you a few days to unwind and enjoy a slower pace of life. This Calais to Paris drive is a good alternative to the more popular routes through Lille or the Opal Coast, and it is a good combination of history and sightseeing.

This road trip itinerary crosses the departments of Pas-de-Calais and Aisne, both in the region of Hauts-de-France, and covers some of the most beautiful places to visit between Calais and Paris.

If you are wondering where to stop between Calais and Paris, this road trip is for you! This itinerary Calais to Paris by car is one of the best road trips in France. Read more about road tripping in France:

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Calais to Paris Drive Overview

  • Start: Calais
  • Finish: Paris
  • Duration: 4 days
  • Suggested Route: Calais – Arras – Laon – Paris
  • Total distance: 262 miles, 5 hours drive in total (262 miles, 5 hours drive with option B)
  • Regions covered: Hauts-de-France
  • Best for: sightseeing, small towns, architecture.

If you are landing in France via Dunkirk, you can also follow this itinerary but consider spending one day in Dunkirk sightseeing before the drive from Calais to Paris. For your night in Dunkirk, book the top-rated Hotel Borel, with an excellent location, easy parking, and comfortable rooms.

Click here to book Hotel Borel

Road Trip Calais to Paris Itinerary

The starting point of this road trip to Paris is Calais, the main crossing point for ferries between France and England. Haven’t you booked your ferry to Calais yet? Click here for the best prices.

If you need to spend a night in Calais, the top-rated B&B Les Secrets des Loges offers comfortable and stylish rooms, free private parking, and a delicious breakfast.

Click here to book your stay at B&B Les Secrets des Loges

Day 1 | Calais – Arras

Morning at St.Omer

The first stop of this drive Calais to Paris is the pretty town of St Omer, just a short drive from the ports of Dunkirk and Calais. There’s plenty to do in and around St Omer and it is definitely worth a stop on your way to Paris.

Historically a region of marshes, these were in part drained to create a fertile environment for growing vegetables. This explains why you’ll find many markets offering fresh produce in the area.

Saint-Omer has an attractive center, with beautiful 17th-century houses and buildings to be admired, many in the Flemish style typical of the region. Place Foch, the main square, is St Omer’s beating heart and it is dominated by the Town Hall built in neo-classical style. The streets around Place Foch are worth exploring too: they have been hosting commercial activities since the Middle Ages.

The list of interesting things to see and do in St Omer includes:

  • Place Foch and its surrounding streets
  • Cathedral of Notre Dame, in Gothic style and with beautiful paintings by Rubens
  • The large public gardens, with a section of the original Vauban fortifications of the town. 
  • The evocative ruins of the 14th-century Abbey of Saint Bertin.

After lunch, drive to Arras where you will spend the night. On the way to Arras, you can do a short stop at the Fontinettes Boat Lift (marked on the map) to have a look at this curious engine listed as a Historical Monument since 2014.

For your night in Arras, book at the B&B Entre Cour et Jardin, a former private mansion with a lovely garden and free private parking on site.

Click here to book your stay at Entre Cour et Jardin B&B

Afternoon in Arras

The beautiful city of Arras is the capital of the historic region of Artois. Arras has a strong Flemish accent, and you will quickly notice it in the architecture and the gastronomy.

The arcaded Grand’ Place and Petite Place (also called Place des Héros) are the two main squares in Arras and they boast a splendid collection of unique façades of Flemish baroque architecture, and elegant cafés and bars.

On Petite Place, you can climb the belfry for a bird’s eye view 246 feet above the center of Arras. The belfry is built in flamboyant Gothic style and it was completed in 1554.

Arras is a small and compact city, perfect for an afternoon stroll. The list of fun things to do in Arras includes:

  • Grand Place
  • Petite Place
  • The Carrière Wellington, a museum in the underground tunnels and living quarters dug for the WWI Battle of Arras (1917)
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts
  • Art Deco Heritage at Rue Gambetta,Rue Saint-Aubert, and Rue Ernestale
  • The 17th-century Vauban Citadel, a UNESCO Site

For your dinner in Arras, we recommend La Faisanderie (42 Grand Place, Arras), a cozy restaurant with brick walls and vaults located in the Grand Place. It proposes French cuisine with beautifully presented dishes and friendly, efficient service.

Day 2 | Laon

The second day of this Calais to Paris road trip explores Laon, one of the most beautiful walled cities in France and home to one of the first Grandes Cathédrales. For your night in Laon, book at Logis du Parvis, a beautiful hotel with an unbeatable location just in front of the cathedral and lovely rooms.

Click here to book your stay at Logis du Parvis

Day in Laon

Laon, in the Aisne department, is a medieval city built on the top of a 330-meter-high limestone rock that punctuates the flat plains around. In early Medieval times, Laon was the capital of the Carolingian Empire and its high town encircled by eight kilometers of walls and formidable gates is France’s biggest protected historic center.

Laon is one of the best places to visit in Northern France, best known for its gothic cathedral Notre-Dame de Laon. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre Dame de Laon is one of the first major Gothic Cathedrals in France, contemporary with Notre Dame de Paris. The interior elevation is representative of the first Gothic art whilst the upper parts were built in a more evolved gothic style, known as ‘classic Gothic style.’

Take the time to visit the cathedral and wander around Laon’s medieval streets, there are more than 80 historic monuments to discover! The list of fun things to do in Laon includes:

  • Laon Cathedral
  • The 12th-century Chapelle des Templiers
  • Musée d’Art et d’Archeologie
  • The walls’ impressive gates like Porte d’Ardon or Porte de Soisson
  • Former Hotel-Dieu
  • Église Saint-Martin
  • Laon’s underground galleries, dug more than 2,000 years ago
  • Basilique Notre-Dame de Liesse

TIP: Laon’s underground galleries can be visited through a guided tour run by Laon’s Tourism Office. This is a very popular tour so book your spot as soon as you arrive at Laon.

For your dinner in Laon, book at the Zorn Côté Bistrot (45 Boulevard Brossolette, Laon). This top-rated restaurant offers some of the classics of French cuisine, with friendly and efficient service. Keep some room for a dessert, they are always excellent!

Day 3 | Laon – Ermenonville

On day 3 of this drive from Calais to Paris, we have two different proposals. Choose Option A or Option B history or family fun before heading to Ermenonville for a unique stay in a French château.

Option A: Visit Vauclair and Longpont Abbeys

If you like medieval ruins lost in time, visit these two beautiful abbeys, located on the way to Ermenonville.

Vauclair Abbey is today a mystical place out of time. It was a Cistercian monastery founded in 1134 at the request of the Bishop of Laon. The building survived the Hundred Years’ War and the French Wars of Religion but it was abandoned during the French Revolution. Unfortunately, the Abbey succumbed during the First World War.

Walk around the ruins of the Abbey and visit the Abbey’s vast medicinal garden.

Vauclair Abbey

The imposing Longpont Abbey, today in ruins, was founded by the monks from the abbey of Clairvaux in the 12th century and it worked until the French Revolution when it was abandoned.

The Gothic Abbey church, today roofless and with a giant empty rose window, was consecrated in the presence of the King of France Saint Louis.

On the right, there are two buildings surrounding the courtyard. In these buildings, you can still see the monks’ warming room (13th century), the old Gothic cellar (13th century) fitted out in the eighteenth century to accommodate guests , and the 18th-century vestibule with its large stone staircase adorned with a wrought iron banister.

Option B: Fun at Parc Astérix

Family Fun at Parc Astérix

Meet two of the most famous Frenchs – Astérix and Obélix – in their Gallic village and amusement park. Hop on a Roman roller coaster and enjoy more than 40 attractions exciting for all ages and shows at Parc Astérix. Family fun guaranteed! – Click here to buy your tickets to Parc Astérix

Evening and Night at Château d’Ermenonville

For the third night of this road trip, you could sleep already in Paris but why rush to the hustle and bustle of the capital when you are having fun?

For a unique stay, we recommend booking at Château d’Ermenonville, an 18th-century castle working today as a hotel. The château offers unique rooms decorated in classical style and a killer breakfast. Take the time to visit the château’s beautiful grounds and you can also go rowing on its moat.

Click here to book your stay at Château d’Ermenonville

For dinner, book (in advance) a table at Le Relais de la Croix d’Or. This is an authentic place located within walking distance from the château, which offers good regional cuisine made of fresh and quality produce. Their dinner (set menu), with 2-3 entries, mains, and desserts, is a very good deal.

Day 4 | Arrival in Paris

Paris - France

Paris is the last stop of this road trip. Instead of an easy 3-hour drive (the distance from Calais to Paris is only 147 miles – 292.9 km), it took us four days to reach the French capital but we hope that you enjoyed the detour!

After the delicious breakfast at the château (optional), enjoy a last stroll around the château’s grounds before driving to Paris.

If this is your first time in Paris, check out this article to decide how many days to stay in Paris. This Paris trip planner will help you to decide where to stay, and what to do.  

So, what are you waiting for? Book your France road trip Calais to Paris today!

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