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Coat of Arms of Pas-de-Calais
Location of Pas-de-Calais in France
Department number: 62
Region: Nord-Pas-de-Calais
Prefecture: Arras
Subprefectures: Béthune


Arrondissements: 7
Cantons: 77
Communes: 894
President of the General Council: Dominique Dupilet
Population Ranked 7th
 -2006 1,453,387
Population density: 216/km2
Land area¹: 6671 km2
¹ French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries, and lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km2.

Pas-de-Calais is a department in northern France. Its name is the French equivalent of the Strait of Dover, which it borders.



Inhabited since prehistoric times, the Pas-de-Calais region was populated in turn by the Celtic Belgae, the Romans, the Germanic Franks and the Alemanni. During the fourth and fifth centuries, the Roman practice of coopting Germanic tribes to provide military and defense services along the route from Boulogne to Cologne created a Germanic-Romance linguistic border in the region that persisted until the eighth century.

Saxon colonization into the region from the fifth to the eighth centuries likely extended the linguistic border somewhat south and west so that by the ninth century most inhabitants north of the line between Béthune and Berck spoke a dialect of Middle Dutch, while the inhabitants to the south spoke Picard, a variety of Romance dialects.

This linguistic border is still evident today in the toponyms and patronyms of the region. Beginning in the ninth century, the linguistic border began a steady move to north and the east, and by the end of the 15th century Romance dialects had completely displaced those of Dutch. [1]

Pas-de-Calais is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Calaisis, formerly English, Boulonnais, Ponthieu and Artois, this last formerly part of the Spanish Netherlands.

Some of the costliest battles of World War I were fought in the region. The Vimy Memorial commemorates the Battle of Vimy Ridge and is Canada's most important memorial to its fallen soldiers.

Pas-de-Calais was also the target of Operation Fortitude during World War II, which was an Allied plan to deceive the Germans that the invasion of Europe at D-Day was to occur here, rather than in Normandy.[1]


Pas-de-Calais is in the current region of Nord-Pas de Calais and is surrounded by the departments of Nord and Somme, the English Channel, and the North Sea.

Its principal towns are, on the coast, Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer, and in Artois, Lens, Liévin, Arras, and Saint-Omer.

The principal rivers are the following:

Cities > 10,000 inhabitants


The economy of the department was long dependent on mining, primarily the coal mines. However, since World War II, the economy has become more diversified.


The inhabitants of the department are called Pas-de-Calaisiens.

Pas-de-Calais is one of the most heavily populated departments of France, and yet it has no large cities. Calais has only about 80,000 inhabitants, followed closely by Arras, Boulogne-sur-Mer,Lens and Liévin. The remaining population is primarily concentrated along the border with the department of Nord in the mining district, where a string of small towns constitutes an urban area with a population of about 1.2 million. The center and south of the department are more rural, but still quite heavily populated, with many villages and small towns.

Although the department saw some of the heaviest fighting of World War I, its population rebounded quickly after both world wars. However, many of the mining towns have seen dramatic decreases in population, some up to half of their population.


Although Pas-de-Calais is one of the most populous departments of France, it did not contain a university until 1992.

See also


  1. ^ Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509514-6.  

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Pas de Calais is one of two Departments in Nord-Pas de Calais, France. The other being Nord.




Le Touquet


Saint Omer


  • Vimy - of particular interest to Canadian and World War I buffs, th column of limestone surrounded by allegorical figures. Re-dedicated after extensive renovations in 2007, the site is also home to an interpretive centre and two small cemeteries. The whole site is Canadian territory, donated by the French people in recognition of Canada's sacrifices during that war. The town itself is not a major tourist attraction, except for the slow trickle of Canadians and school groups learning about the war. Getting off train, one quickly realizes that there is not even a station or a plaform. Walking from the train stop to the monument takes about 1 hour. Locals would be happy to guide you but only speak French. Only 2 trains come by per day, so don't be late. A bus tour from Lille or Arras may be easier.
  • La Coupole, (Near St. Omer (see website)), +33-321-12-27-27, [1]. Open 9am - 6pm year-round, extended hours in summer. This underground bunker near St. Omer, Pas-de-Calais, was once home to Nazi Germany's V2 rocket programme, and now hosts a museum dedicated to the history of the programme, including its links to the space race. Popular with school groups, the site offers audio guides in English, French, Dutch and German, has a great gift shop, and is bound to make history come alive. 9 euros adults, 6 euros children.  edit
  • La chocolaterie de Beussent Lachelle, 66 route de Desvres, Beussent (See website), +33-3-21-86-17-62, [2]. You can tour the artisanal chocolate workshop at Beussent and learn the secrets of chocolate-making in an entertaining presentation, with a free sample included, before purchasing (slightly pricey but delicious!) chocolates from the on-site shop. 2.80 euros pp for a group tour.  edit
  • Grottes de Naours, 5, rue de Carrières, Naours (Between Amiens and Doullens), +33-3-22-93-71-78, [3]. 1st Feb-30th April & 1st Sept-30th Nov, 10am-12pm & 2pm-5pm; 1st May-31st Aug 9.30am-6.30pm. The 'grottes' are man-made caves carved out of the chalky rock 33m below ground level. Guided tours explain the history of the caves - first created as a Roman quarry, then expanded as a place of refuge for the inhabitants of the region, fleeing the barbarian invasions, the hated 'gabelle' salt tax, and later used as an Allied hospital in World War One and by the Nazis in World War Two. The site also features a small train for the kiddies, a (fairly lame) museum to local handicrafts, and a park with windmills and animals, but the caves are definitely the only reason worth trekking out here for, the rest being essentially window-dressing. 10 euros adults, 8 euros children.  edit
  • See England from Cap Gris-Nez and Cap Blanc-Nez. On a clear day you can see the White Cliffs of Dover, and view the ships on the world's busiest shipping channel, from these points.
  • Beaches The best beaches are along the 25 mile stretch of coast from Equihen-Plage in the north to Fort Mahon-Plage in the south. The wide sandy beach is broken only where the Canche and Authie rivers meet the sea. The sea goes out a long way at low tide. The main resort on this coast is Le Touquet, but there are several smaller seaside towns or villages that, depending on their size, offer shops, cafes, a seaside promenade, as well as access to the beach.
  • Audomarois marshes, 3, rue du marais, Clairmarais (Near St. Omer), +33-3-21-39-15-15, [4]. Visit the marshlands near St Omer, with a guided boat tour, or row yourself! The marshes are home to unique flora and fauna and offer a different experience to the usual tourist activities. Great for bird-watchers, lovers of nature and still a relaxing & interesting experience for anyone else! Be warned, it can get quite cold on the boats. Some tours require booking in advance, see the website. Price varies according to length & type of trip.  edit
  • Greeters (free local tour guides), [5]. The Pas-de-Calais tourist board has recently launched a new initiative: greeters - locals who are happy to spend a few hours showing tourists around (free of charge), and give you expert tips on what to see and do in the region. You can even choose what sites and experiences you want to concentrate on, from history to nature to gourmet food (based on matching with the interests of your volunteer greeter). For more on the 'greeters' experience, see this article from The Observer:  edit
  • Teoria, rue de la Gare, Lottinghen (Off the N42, middle of nowhere :)), +33-3-21-83-76-29, [6]. 10pm-5am Sat year-round, also Fri in summer. Get off the beaten track, escape the tourists (well, possibly not if they read this...) & check out this nightclub in the middle of nowhere! With its rottweiler-patrolled carpark, it may be a bit intimidating at first, but the club itself is a lot of fun, featuring multiple rooms with different musical styles & even an area where you can play games & indoor basketball. Not sure if this is still going, but when I lived there (2007), if 5 of you paid the entry fee, they'd give you a bottle of spirits & a mixer to share plus some coupons for the games. 10 euro entry fee.  edit
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Pas-de-Calais




pas 'a pass, strait' (from Latin passus 'step, pace') + de 'of' + Calais

Proper noun

Pas de Calais

  1. The English Channel or Strait of Dover, the North Sea strait between Dover (England) and Calais (France)

Derived terms


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