2012 was the 100th anniversary of Le Touquet Paris-Plage gaining the title of “commune.” It officially became a town in 1912 and there are plenty of celebrations planned to commemorate this historic event.
Le Touquet is the “Monaco of the north”, a flamboyant little seaside town with character and class that always seems to be buzzing and vibrant. It attracts the wealthy and not the so-wealthy, drawn by its charm and uniqueness – it is one of a kind.
Since it became a town in the early 20th Century it has always attracted the great and the good – rich Parisians who could drive or take the train from the City and be at the seaside and the country within 3 hours. It also became the playground of wealthy Brits who could indulge in an overseas holiday by taking a shortish boat ride across the English Channel and be in a different world. Aristocratic and showbiz types came here in numbers and even politicians chose to conduct discrete holidays here – it was THE jet set destination in the roaring twenties.
H G Wells eloped here in 1909 with his then love Amber Reeves; Noël Coward, P G Wodehouse and Ian Fleming all holidayed here – indeed Ian Fleming based his iconic Bond story “Casino Royale” on a casino he visited in Le Touquet.
Princess Margaret visited, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor holidayed here; Kings, Princes, Lords and Ladies frolicked in its bars and restaurants. Winston Churchill stayed as well as numerous other MPs. The lifestyle was free and easy; one could be discrete but still actively enjoy all that was on offer – from the golf course to the race course, from the casino to the art deco lido on the beach.
Le Touquet today is still very much recognisable as a playground for holiday makers though not so scandalous as in its day.
A 7km long beach of soft white sand with pretty little beach huts, a water theme park on the beach with heated pools and a choice of spas are on offer; art deco architecture abounds and you can take the little train ride around Le Touquet to view some of the magnificent turreted buildings in the town and the forest on the outskirts of the centre. The streets are filled with chic French boutiques where you can buy Donna Karen and Chanel alongside less expensive but equally stylish brands; there are specialist food shops, chocolatiers, wine caves and patisseries offering French fancies; classy restaurants and tea rooms that cater to the wealthy Parisians who have taken ownership of most of the villas once owned by the Brits – this is still a very popular choice for Le Weekend. The Saturday morning market in the covered art deco market area is popular with visitors and locals with its wide choice of goods and stalls selling such gems as recycled hotel goods from table cloths to chef’s aprons and sellers of fresh spices, chichi handbags, traditional woven baskets and much more.
There’s a small wooded area in the middle of town with a free gym – wooden apparatus available to all for a quick work out al fresco and marking Le Touquet’s reputation for leisure. Le Touquet is still a haven for sports enthusiasts with its golf courses, tennis courts, sand-yachting, volley ball competitions, athletics, sailing – there’s an annual regatta, sand yachting, cycling and riding. All of the sports facilities here can be enjoyed by visitors – they’re not just for the locals (Le Touquet has a population of a little over 5,000).
The spirit of Le Touquet is unchanged from its glory days. It began in 1876 when Hippolyte de Villemessant, the founder and owner of the Paris newspaper, Le Figaro decided to create a resort.in what was then a place of forests and sand dunes. People came to take the sea air and ride in the forests all round – as they do today. In 1903 two Englishmen set out to develop the town and targeted rich Britons and the upper classes. The development had attracted the most talented architects of the day and many of the British visitors bought villas or stayed in the Hotel Westminster which retains its elegance to this day.
The links forged with Britain are still in force. Le Touquet remains high on the list of short breaks for Parisians and Brits and with a busy programme of events year round it’s easy to understand its enduring popularity.
We have lots more information about Le Touquet and how to get there.