The English once occupied Calais, from 1347 to 1558. English kings secured it as a bridgehead, so England could conduct trade and military operations with the rest of Continental Europe. The place was captured by the Spanish in 1596, but it was later ceded back to France under the 1598 Treaty of Vervins. In World War II, the entire town was virtually destroyed and flattened.

The surrounding coast and country in Calais offer a perfect place for a short stopover. Everyday, millions of people pass this station to travel via train, via car and ferry, or via cruise ship when going for a long trip. Calais has a very long shoreline, offering breathtaking views of fine white sand and the tall cliffs of Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez. There are also many modestly priced but high standard inns and hotels all over the city. A variety of restaurants to suit most pockets and tastes can also be found throughout the area.

Calais is also a great place to shop. There are three hypermarkets here and six supermarkets. In the town centre, there are various family-run and independent boutiques, plus two vibrant Sunday markets.