January 3, 2017

Last-Minute_Holiday_Destinations_Hero A visit to the Louvre-Lens Museum is the ideal last-minute trip. Credit: flexbox


Written by Emily Luxton. Follow her on Twitter here.

 A driving holiday in Europe can make a great last-minute trip. With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it takes just 35-minutes to cross to Calais, and since you don't need to book too far in advance, it's perfect for taking a getaway at the eleventh hour. If you're travelling last-minute, it's a good idea to aim for less popular cities, as these will likely have more availability. Here are a few incredible options for a last-minute driving holiday.

All drive times are approximate and based on Google Maps. Don't forget to account for passport control, as some of these journeys involve multiple border crossings.

Lens, France

Perfect for: Art lovers

The small town of Lens near the Belgian border is a very off-the-beaten-path destination, and you can get there from London within a couple of hours. Local Vincent Malisz (@malisz) tweeted me a few tips for his home city. “It's a very little city. You have the Louvre museum of course, and if you have a chance go to the stadium! It's something!” The Louvre-Lens Museum is one of the city's biggest attractions; built on a disused colliery site and located in a 48-acre landscaped park, the museum exhibits works of world importance. A must for art lovers!

Drive time from Calais: 1hr  

Lille, France

Last-Minute_Holiday_Destinations_1 Discover the bustling location of Lille. Credit: Craig Morey

Perfect for: Families

My sister, Cheryl, recommends the city of Lille, where she headed with her family recently on their driving holiday through the surrounding region. The cathedral is free and very pretty to visit, and you can take a nice walk around the citadel. Cheryl's kids loved the zoo inside the citadel, which is fairly small but completely free, and has a nice play area. “The best thing about Lille is Meert, an old chocolate shop and patisserie... it's very fancy and a bit expensive, but so worth it!”

Drive time from Calais: 1hr 10  

Ghent, Belgium   

Perfect for: Foodies

Surprisingly close to England, Belgium is the perfect destination for foodies. Whilst Brussels and Bruges are likely to get booked up fast, the more underrated cities of Ghent and Antwerp are more likely to have availability. Travel blogger, Victoria, calls Ghent “foodie heaven”! She recommends tasting Purple Noses from the sweetshop Temmerman, and swapping your shoe for a beer at De Dulle Griet (read more here).

Drive time from Calais: 1hr 40

Antwerp, Belgium

Last-Minute_Holiday_Destinations_2 Antwerp is home to stunning architecture. Credit: Pedro

Perfect for: History buffs and shopaholics

Local travel blogger, Lot Wildiers, (Reisgoesting) lives very close to Antwerp, and she recommends a day of history, shopping and good food. For history, she says to visit the cathedral, the Ruien (underground passages and sewers from the middle ages) and the museums housing works from the Old Masters (ThePrimitieven). Shopping lovers should head to the Museum of Fashion Design and enjoy the high end shops around it. “At the end of your day, go and eat some real Belgian fries with stew sauce and mayonnaise, and have a Belgian beer in one of the many pubs and cafés”.

Drive time from Calais: 2hr 20mins  

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Last-Minute_Holiday_Destinations_3 Rotterdam’s Central Station. Credit: Rick Ligthelm

Perfect for: Architecture lovers and trendy hipsters

Last year I spent a month living just outside of Rotterdam and fell in love with the city. Compared with the more popular city of Amsterdam, Rotterdam is quieter and much more chilled out. The city was almost completely reconstructed after WWII, so it's is known for its modern architecture – especially the famous Erasmusbrug bridge, which is an amazing site. It's also a seriously cool city with lots of vintage shops, arty boutiques and trendy coffee shops to discover.

Drive time from Calais: 3hr 10mins

Düsseldorf, Germany

Perfect for: Fashionistas

Home to a world-famous school of photography, Düsseldorf is known for its vibrant art scene and innovative fashion industry. The blogger behind GnomeTrotting recommends a walk along the banks of the Rhine, saying; “it's a good place to hang out, eat, and drink”. Düsseldorf is also considered to be one of the most elegant shopping cities in Germany. Head to the streets of Königsallee and Schadowstrasse, which are lined with boutique shops, to discover why. 

Drive time from Calais: 4hr  

Travel to any of these last-minute driving holiday destinations with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, and get from Folkestone to Calais in just 35-minutes.

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