Dunkerque is a 69,000-inhabitant town of the Nord department, in Nord-Pas de Calais. The town and its surroundings belong to the former County of Flandre. Dunkerque is located 70km north to Lille and 10km from the Belgian border, at the northernmost part of France.
Dunkerque belongs to the natural French region called ‘Blootland’ featured by flat landscapes and many canals. The town was formerly a small community of fishermen which settled in a cove protected by dunes. Its name originates from the Dutch: ‘duin’ meaning ‘dune’ and ‘kerke’ meaning ‘church’. Until the middle of the 20th century, the town was located in the Dutch language area, but nowadays, French has replaced Dutch even if we can still hear some people speaking the local Dutch dialect.
Dunkerque developed a lot since its creation and fortifications were built around the town in order to face the numerous invasions during the Middle Ages. Indeed, the harbour city was much disputed between England, Spain, the Netherlands and France. Dunkerque is nowadays a very active town whose harbour is the third of France.
The town is renowned for its carnival, which is held since the 17th century and attracts thousands of people every year. Dunkerque has very good facilities in terms of education (home to many schools and also universities) and leisure. Its pleasant way of life will definitely seduce you.
Dunkerque offers high prices in terms of real estate. The average price for a property to buy there was in May 2009 €2,923 / square metre, against €2,595 / sq m for the Nord department and €3,197 / sq m for France. As regards rentals, it costs about €15/sq m/month to rent a property in the town. This figure is also higher than the national average of €12.22/sq m/month.
In May 2009, the price for an apartment was about €3,052/square metre. It costs about €2,712 / square metre to invest in a property there at the same period. There are good rental opportunities in the area as almost 54% of the locals rent their properties. In 2008, prices for apartments varied between €1,430/sq m and €2,210/sq m. As far as new apartments are concerned, prices were much higher, going from €2,600/sq m to €3,320/sq m.
To get updated info about the property prices in the Nord department, please browse our French Property Market Reports published in the News Section every month.
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Events: the carnival definitely made the town famous. During several days, dressed-up people parade on floats in the streets of Dunkerque, dance on music and do the party all day long until late in the night. The carnival originates from the 17th century. A big party was organised for fishermen before they leave for 6 months to fish in Iceland. Nowadays, many people come to Dunkerque for ‘mardi gras’ to see this celebration and be part of the carnavaleux (people attending the carnival).
Culture and historical heritage: the town houses many monuments and museums which recall its history. The mémorial du souvenir evokes the battle for Dunkerque and Operation Dynamo of May and June 1940. The town suffered a lot during the two world wars. In May 1940, German soldiers invaded the area. More than 300,000 French and British soldiers could be evacuated to England. Winston Churchill called it the ‘miracle of Dunkerque’. The Fine Arts Museum has Flemish, Dutch, French and Italian paintings as well as a section about local history and natural history. The ‘Musée Portuaire’ is also worth visiting as it tells a lot about local history. Dunkerque is home to a wonderful belfry and town hall (listed by UNESCO), as well as the ‘Leughenaer Tower’, an octagonal tower remaining from the 15th century, Notre-Dame-des-Dunes chapel, Saint Eloi church and Risban lighthouse amongst others.
Activities: the cultural heritage of Dunkerque and its surroundings is rich. There are indeed numerous monuments and museums linked to the sea, but also other facilities such as a ‘Palace of Universe and Science’ (Cappelle-la-grande), a zoological park (Fort-Mardyck) and a 27-hole golf course. Activities that can be practised in the area are varied, from water sports to bike going through hiking and fishing.
Sea: the area around Dunkerque or ‘Dunkerquois’ offers an unspoiled coast of beaches and dunes on 15km with pleasant seaside resorts from Malo-les-Bains to Bray-Dunes. Thus, you can enjoy wonderful and natural sceneries and spend a relaxing time on the beach before going to have a drink in a local café for instance.
Location – transport infrastructure: Dunkerque is located close to two motorways: the A25 which links the town to Lille and Paris and the A16 which links it to Calais, the Channel tunnel and Brussels. Given its location, you can easily access major European cities in a few hours only: Amsterdam, London, Luxembourg and Cologne are reachable in about three hours from Dunkerque. As regards railway, there are direct trains every day to Paris (1h35-2h), Lille (35min), Arras and Calais. Ferries also go from Dunkerque to Dover, enabling people from the UK to access France very quickly and vice versa.
Town houses: these properties always have a good layout and are situated in the town centre. Their size may vary, they can be 3-room houses or villas with more than 5 rooms. Town houses can be made of red or brown bricks as many properties in the north of France, or in cement and painted in light colours, white generally. They are close to all amenities and thus very practical for families.
Apartments: you can find many apartments or studio flats in Dunkerque. Along the sea or in the town centre, these properties are either part of houses or belong to buildings in housing estates. They are perfect for students and couples. The style of such properties vary from a building to another, apartments can be authentic but also modern, depending on when it was built and how it was equipped. It is definitely worth investing in an apartment in Dunkerque.
Click here for more info about the Architecture in Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
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