If the hustle and bustle of London in December is not for you, a wonderful winter weekend trip across the Channel could bring out your festive cheer instead. 

For those looking to escape London’s crowds but still find some festive fun, ferry operator DFDS runs services from Dover to Calais and Dunkirk, offering easy access to a host of fun and unusual events within a few hours’ drive from London. 

Here, the ferry operator has shortlisted the best Christmas events and activities taking place in France and Belgium this winter. 

The Resident: DFDS FerriesDFDS Ferries (Image: DFDS Ferries)

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Festival of St Barbara in Lens, France 

The former mining town of Lens is just over an hour from Calais and is home to the Louvre-Lens, a satellite of the famous Louvre gallery in Paris, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.  

From December 2 to 4, Lens celebrates the Festival of St Barbara, the patron saint of miners, engineers, and lightning.

The festival is filled with fireworks, light shows, and sound installations, plus performances from DJs, acrobats, and musicians. This truly unique festival is unlike anything you’ll have seen before, with metal, light and fire brought together by some of France’s most innovative artists.  


Wonck Caves, Belgium 

Between Liege and Maastricht lies the town of Wonck, a small Belgian town that would be largely unassuming were it not for two interesting features – its caves and the enigmatic Tower of Eben-ezer.  

The Tower was built in the 1960s and draws its inspiration from the Bible, with each of the four creatures of the Apocalypse atop its four spires. Inside, it is filled with unusual artwork, fossils and artifacts, and its grounds are home to a host of bizarre sculptures.  

The Wonck Caves were formerly used to mine limestone and now house a Christmas market each year. There are 75 stalls lining the underground passages, illuminating the walls with a warm glow that only adds to the festive atmosphere. 

Kerstbierfestival, Essen Belgium 

The weekend before Christmas (December 17 and 18) sees the return of this annual festival with its extensive range of Christmas and winter beers from all over Belgium.  

It takes place in the town of Heuvelhal and brings hundreds of beers and thousands of beer lovers from around the world to the area to sample new brews and stock up on their favourites.  

Most beers are available by the bottle, but there are some by the barrel and even beer that should be served hot, known as gluhkriek.  

Breweries of all sizes, from the smallest of microbreweries to internationally famous brands, gather at the festival, and it has gained a reputation as one of the top international events in the industry. 


Urban Art Route, Amiens, France 

On November 26 and December 11, a brand-new guided tour takes visitors around the incredible street art in the Saint-Leu district of Amiens.  

Considered Amiens answer to Paris’ Latin Quarter, this vibrant and artistic area of the city is the perfect mix of old and new, with trendy bars and restaurants and artisan shops set among the historic buildings and cobbled streets. 

Important and influential urban artists have contributed to the urban art of Saint-Leu, and the route visits approximately fifteen of these projects, including some that have only recently been added.  

DFDS operates up to 54 sailings a day between Dover and Calais and Dunkirk, as well as daily sailings between Newhaven and Dieppe. They also offer two daily sailings between Newcastle and Amsterdam.  

For more information or to book your ferry crossing visit dfds.com


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