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Ardres is a pretty, unspoilt medieval town in the department of Pas de Calais in Northern France. Only 25 minutes drive from the port of Calais, Ardres is a favourite destination for weekend visits from the UK. It is considered one of the most typical market towns in the region with its well-preserved architectural heritage overlooking the flat coastal marshlands towards Calais and the Channel. A canal runs inland from Calais harbour and continues from Ardres all the way to Saint-Omer and Lille and there are several lakes providing excellent facilities for leisure activities. There are approximately 4,500 residents living in the town.
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The towns of ‘Les Trois Pays’ (the Three Countries) have been fought over for centuries and include Ardres, nearby Guines and Licques (which was originally part of Spanish Flanders). The “Field of the Cloth of Gold” at Balinghem where Henry VIII of England and Frances I of France met in 1520, is in the immediate neighbourhood.
The English occupied Calais from 1347 to 1558 – serving as a base on the other side of the Channel for trade with the Continent and a convenient gateway from where armies congregated before being despatched for wars across Europe.
The weekly market is held on Thursday mornings at the Champ de Foire offering a wide variety of local produce. This ancient market has won awards in France’s annual “Ville Fleurie” competition.
Chapelle des Carmes, built in 1679, positioned on a hillside street, is listed as a historical monument. Formerly a Carmelite convent, it was used as a town hall and is now the Office de Tourisme. Eglise Notre Dame de Grâce (1503), located in the middle of the Place d’Armes, is open to visitors every day and is well worth a visit to see its stained glass windows which are delightful. The Fête Historique is held during the first weekend in June and an arts and crafts exhibition takes place in November.
Also worth visiting are the underground corn granaries and the Bastion Royal which bear witness to the military past of the town which was frequently caught up in conflicts between the French, the English and the Spanish in the 16th century.
The Lake at Ardres is particularly popular with locals and visitors alike with opportunities to enjoy fishing, sailing, canoeing and a wide choice of watersports. The Maison de la Nature at the Lac d’Ardres is a bird sanctuary and incorporates an educational pond and a garden of medicinal plants.
Throughout the year, Ardres is a lively town with a variety of sporting, cultural and festive events for all the family and is a well-favoured place to stop whilst exploring the Nord Pas de Calais region. There are plenty of places to visit within easy distance of Ardres including World War I battlefields, Bruges and some lovely beaches along the Côte d’Opale. A popular way of exploring the surrounding countryside is to cycle along the canal tow path at a leisurely pace stopping at villages for a bite to eat during your travels. Places to visit include Saint Joseph’s Village which is just outside Guines, famous for its rural craft exhibition, the Maison du Marbre is a museum of marble and geology near the quarries of Marquise and the Citadelle is an interesting excursion showing the line of defences around Calais.
The rail station is at Pont-d’Ardres (a few miles from the town centre).
By car, Ardres is 224km from Paris, 14km from the port of Calais and Saint-Omer is 23km.