A magnet for a long and distinguished line of international celebrities down the years, the small seaside town of Le Touquet, on northern France’s Côte d’Opale, is a perfect place for a short break. Here’s how to make the most of 24 hours in Le Touquet.
Le Touquet has long been known for its chic allure, something is retains to this day. A vast sandy beach, buzzing nightlife, boutique shops, high-end restaurants and fairytale villas all help to draw large crowds of visitors from across France and beyond throughout the year, with the town’s streets positively thronging during peak summer season.
The town’s most popular hangout is the expansive, sun-kissed surroundings of Le Touquet beach, set against a wide promenade featuring street entertainment, a carousel, a mini-golf course, and several bars and cafes. The gently shelving beach itself is huge, with soft sand and clear ocean waters proving an enticing combination. Indeed, when the tide is out, it’s possible to walk some way out with only small, gentle waves lapping no higher than your ankles.
Things to do
Just a few steps from the beach is Aqualud, a popular waterpark with more than 2 kilometres of slides, several indoor and outdoor pools with wave machines, a solarium, and a Jacuzzi. The fun-packed park is perfectly located for breaking up a day on the beach, not to mention providing an alternative activity for kids who aren’t such big fans of the ocean.
Back on dry land, more adult pursuits are available at the historic Casino Barriere du Touquet, which is said to have inspired casinos that featured in several of the James Bond novels of Ian Fleming, including Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Service. Inside, the exclusive glamour enjoyed during Le Touquet’s 1920s heyday has been dialled down a few notches, with the venue now exuding a more casual atmosphere. And with some 150 slot machines, live Blackjack and Roulette tables, and poker cash tables featuring Texas Hold’em Poker, there’s something for all gambling tastes.
There are few better ways to get under the skin of a place than to visit one of its markets, and one of the region’s most loved is the Covered Market of Touquet-Paris-Plage. Held twice a week on Thursday and Saturday mornings, all year round, the market positively teems with life. Local traders showcase their wares from stalls that spill out from the main covered building onto the square and surrounding streets. The sheer variety of goods on offer is a sight to behold. The focus is on locally produced food, with everything from fruits and veg to home-made jams, cheese and charcuterie, and fresh seafood available. There are also several arts and crafts stalls selling charming items, such as hand-woven baskets.
Lighthouses not only serve as a striking beacon on the shoreline but often also provide a fascinating insight into a place’s maritime past. Built after the Second World War to replace twin lighthouses blown up during German bombing raids, the present Le Touquet Lighthouse is a short walk from the town centre. Its spiral staircase leads to the top, from which spectacular panoramic views are afforded. There’s also a small museum chronicling the history of the lighthouse. Visits must be booked in advance.
Situated directly opposite Canche Bay, a 10-minute walk from the town centre, the upscale 4-star Le Grand Hôtel Le Touquet-Paris-Plage (4 Boulevard de la Canche) is built in the ornate style of classic grand European hotels. Guest rooms are decorated in either contemporary or a traditional French-style and come with a TV, minibar and free WiFi. Elsewhere in the hotel there’s a choice of two restaurants, plus sauna and spa facilities. For golfing fans, Touquet Golf Club is a quick drive (no pun intended) away.
For a more boutique choice, the 3-star Be Cottage Hotel (41 Rue Jean Monnet) combines a convenient location for enjoying Le Touquet’s main attractions with a cosy and intimate ambience. The hotel’s stylish guest rooms come equipped with a flat-screen TV, tea & coffee-making facilities and a modern bathroom, and downstairs there’s a contemporary bar area that’s ideal for pre-dinner drinks or a nightcap. Immediately next door to the hotel is Le Touquet’s famous covered market, with its array of enticing food stalls. The beach is just seconds away, too.
Well positioned in the city centre, the two-star Red Fox (60 Rue de Metz) is an excellent budget option for those wanting little more than somewhere to get their head down for the night. It’s within easy reach of the beach and all of the town’s amenities, and if you want to grab a quick bite to eat before heading out in the morning then buffet breakfasts are served in the dining room (for an additional fee). As for the guest rooms, they are basic but clean and comfortable, featuring air-conditioning, satellite TV and a private bathroom. The reception desk is open 24/7 and free newspapers and a laundry service are both available.
Eat & drink
When it comes to where to eat and drink in Le Touquet, the town has everything from casual cafes, ice cream salons and live music bars, to the very best in fine dining à la française. If it’s the latter you’re seeking then the Michelin-starred Le Pavillon (5 Avenue de Verger) certainly fits the bill. Housed in the classic setting of the Hôtel Westminster, a beautiful 1930s luxury hotel, the restaurant serves up highly imaginative French cuisine in an elegant dining room decked out in shades of black and gold.
If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to Michelin-quality cuisine then there are plenty of more informal options that won’t break the bank. Nestled on Rue de Metz in the bustling heart of the town, Le Matisse (68 Rue de Metz) is a veritable institution, popular with diners who come to people-watch from the terrace while perched under the eatery’s distinctive red awnings. All the classic French dishes are available including moules mariner, beef Bourguignon and escargots, as well as more kiddie-friendly fare such as burgers and nuggets.
For most families on vacation, a post-dinner ice cream is something of a cherished tradition and in Le Touquet there are several outlets serving up authentic gelato until late into the evening. Perhaps the most acclaimed is Kokoa Glacier (Rue Saint-Jean), which offers an impressive 62 ice cream flavours from its town centre position on Rue Saint-Jean, as well as speciality sorbets, milkshakes, waffles and profiteroles.
Adults travelling without kids, meanwhile, may be looking for alternative nocturnal entertainment. There are a number of music venues in Le Touquet that pump out tunes until the early hours, and among the most popular is L’Impasse (77 Rue de Metz). From its prime position on the same street as Le Matisse, the watering hole attracts late night revellers with its carefully selected sounds, eclectic drinks and tasty bar food, all served up in a fun and friendly atmosphere.