Places to visit | Local area map | rail travel | FERRY | MULTIMAP


Dunkerque's fishing port - once a haven for pirates. Town Hall helfry in the background.

Historic & Modern Dunkerque
Dunkerque started life in the 8th century as a simple fishing harbour. It became famous as a haven for pirates who preyed on shipping in the North Sea - the most celebrated being the local hero,
Jean Bart. Today's the dunes of Dunkerque make it a seaside resort. The city is remarkably green for a major international port and industrial centre, handling bulk cargoes from all over the world, as well as being a ferry port for cars and freight with many lorries crossing between the UK and Europe.

Jean Bart polish ad St Eloi's church Dunkerque  Dunkerque carnival
17th pirate Jean Bart - here celebrated in a 1930's shoe polish advertisement
(left) - is buried in Saint Eloi's Church in the centre of Dunkeque (centre). Every year his memory is praised in the town's carnival processions and balls (right) - see Carnivals.

A haven for pirates?
You can still discover much of Dunkerque's colourful past in a visit to the town. In the 17th century Dunkerque was the base for French "pirates" who successfully attacked other countries' ships in the North Sea. The most famous was
Jean Bart - who, like the English hero Sir Francis Drake, is said to be "not really a pirate". Both were "privateers", with their monarch's written permission to attack other countries' ships, as well as use of royal ships and harbours.

Fishermen's carnival and the town "giants"
Dunkerque was also an important
fishing port - a past celebrated in the annual two-month long carvival, featuring weekly parades by the town "giants".

Explore the history of Dunkerque docks at the
Port Museum - and on boat tours round the Harbour.

Container ships, tankers, and heavy industry - the modern port area is separate from the town.

The famous wartime evacuation
In Britain many people first associate "Dunkirk" (the English spelling) with the famous
evacuation of British, French and Allied troops in 1940.

The German forces had swept through Belgium into northern France, cutting off the retreating Allied armies in this corner of France. Some could be evacuated by ships that braved the German air offensive to enter Dunkerque harbour. The only hope for thousands of other troops was to wait in the dunes and on the flat sandy beaches along this coast. Many unarmed small boats and ships crossed the Channel in an amazing bid to rescue them - in what Churchill dubbed "the miracle of Dunkirk."

Constantly revisited by heavy fighting, the town of Dunkerque was 80% destroyed during the Second World War. Its rebuilding in the 'fifties left a legacy of contemporary post-war 'fifties architecture that is slowly coming to be appreciated. Fortunately some interesting reminders of Dunkerque's colourful past can still be seen.

Seaside resort
The town's miles of sandy beaches have good facilities for children; the dunes are ideal for a first class golf course...

Modern port and industrial conurbation
Since the last war, the port has greatly expanded along with new industries such as oil refining, chemicals, and steel-making that use the port to bring in raw materials. The steel works and shipbuilding yards, once big industries here, closed in the 1980s. Dunkerque has an international reputation for its efforts to protect the environment whilst finding new jobs: landscaping separates industry from residential areas, and there are notable "green" initiatives, like the "wind farm" on the harbour wall.

The old dockside quays, now too small for today's ocean-going supertankers are being redeveloped as a characterful and elegant cultural and tourist area, centring around the Port Museum and the Université du Littoral.

A car ferry service runs direct between Dover and Dunkerque.

Web links and more information
Tourist information:

4 Place Charles Valentin, 59240 DUNKERQUE
Tel: 00 33 3 28 26 27/28
Fax: 00 33 3 28 26 27 80

Local area map:

Click on places for more information

Places to visit
Fine Arts Museum - Dunkerque
FRAC Contemporary Art Collection, Dunkerque
Port Museum - Dunkerque
Planetarium - see the stars!
Boat trips around the port
Sailing - hire, clubs, lessons and facilities
Coastal footpath - long-distance path around the coast to Berck via Dunkerque - Calais- Boulogne

clipboard helper
QUICK TOUR round Flanders Côte d'Opale, starting with Dunkerque Port Museum...

Background Information:
Dunkirk evacuation & the fall of France May 1940
Jean Bart - Dunkerque's famous 17th century pirate
"Giants" and carnivals
Golf - courses to visit (Dunkerque club + others)
Dover Patrol: based in Dunkerque and Dover, guarding the Channel in World War 1
History of Flanders - when Dunkerque was ruled by Spain
"KID Stations"
Seaside holidays




Bergues Last updated 16th August 2001 © Copyright Invicta Media 1999-2001