Le Touquet is known as the “pearl of the Opal Coast” or “miniature Monaco” and was the creation of the owner of Le Figaro newspaper. It became known as Paris by the sea and was renamed Le Touquet Paris-Plage about 100 year ago. It is popular with Parisians who want a seaside weekend, with the British who want to experience French life without having to travel for hours and with people who live in the region thanks to the great beaches, shops which stock the best of Paris style clothes, smart patisseries and on a Saturday morning a lively market which includes an indoor market in a fabulous listed art deco setting.
It has been the place to go for many decades for the rich and famous and the casino in Le Touquet was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s book Casino Royale after he spent much time in this lovely little town, which is also incidentally where he met his wife.
The town became popular in the 20th Century and many villas were built to accommodate the rich and famous who flocked there to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and all that the town had to offer – not only the casino and shops but its own airport, race course, tennis courts and a golf course. Many celebrities have enjoyed Le Touquet including Sir Winston Churchill, Noel Coward and his smart set, Marlène Dietrich, Serge Gainsbourg, Sean Connery (who signed the contract for his first James Bond film there), Charlotte Rampling, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair.
Le Touquet retains all the elegance and sophistication of the old days as well as the casino and race course but today’s visitors can also take advantage of sports such as sand yachting, sailing, riding and three golf courses (plus two more in neighbouring Hardelot). The La Mer golf course in Le Touquet is considered one of the finest in France – opened in 1931 (it was “tried out” by then Prince of Wales Edward VIII before it opened to the public), it has been rebuilt and refined and has sea views, dunes, pine trees, two great hotels attached and is hugely popular with golfers.
For those looking for a little more relaxation there is a thalassotherapy spa on the beach, three spa centres offering great treatments, the Aqualud water park and much more.
There is riding on the beach or through the forests, there’s even a little train that goes round the town and takes in all the sights – much loved by kids (and adults who want to have a sneaky peak at the homes of the rich and famous who live in the area).
There are numerous restaurants, cafés and bars and people watching from pavement tables is definitely one of the greatest pleasures here whatever the time. All year round weekends are filled with everything from art exhibitions, antique fairs, wine festivals to concerts and sports events and at the end of the year Le Touquet Christmas market is a big regional draw thanks to the great shopping and the lovely light display.
From the UK Le Touquet is easy to get to:
From Eurotunnel in Calais the drive takes about 45 minutes (70km)
From Calais port if you arrive by ferry it’s just under an hour to Le Touquet on the A16
Air: Lydd Air (www.lyddair.com) flies from tiny Lydd Airfield near Ashford, Kent with a flight time of around 20 minutes and you can take a short taxi ride into town.