It is a hilltop town overlooking the La Manche (English Channel), that is best known for its fishing and seafood. Boulogne-Sur-Mer also includes one of France’s largest aquariums and the Notre-Dame cathedral whose dome can be seen for miles around. It even hosted a royal wedding in 1308, that of Edward II of England and Isabelle of France, the daughter of French King Philippe de Bel, in an attempt to reconcile French and English relations. (It didn’t work, they still argued.)
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History of Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
Boulogne-sur-Mer started out as a settlement for a local Gaelic tribe before the Romans conquered the area and started laying the foundations of the town. Once the Romans were gone, the English and French armies came fighting a lot for the land in Northern France which included Boulogne and nearby Calais.
Eventually, peace came to the area until Napoleon came to power. He improved the defensive fortifications and gathered his grande armée in the town as he prepared to conquer England. His attempt failed, defeated by Nelson and the British Royal Navy in the Battle of Trafalgar at sea.
The town became peaceful once again until the First and Second World Wars where Boulogne got the brunt of the damage. It was heavily bombed during the Battle of Britain, a battle that took place over the sea and damaged a lot of Dover, Folkestone, Calais, and Boulogne.
After the war, the town was rebuilt, though much of the old historic center remained intact.
Top 3 Things to do in Boulogne-sur-Mer
1) Notre Dame de Boulogne Cathedral
The Notre-Dame Cathedral is the main landmark but do explore every room. There are some nice artworks on display and the dome is quite impressive. Also, pay a small fee to check out the crypt and see some amazing artwork as well as some spooky tombs.
Walking along the cobbled streets of the upper town and check out the Chateau-Musée. Its defensive walls are worth walking on top in the summer months as they have some great sea views. On a clear day visitors may even see England!
3) Rent a bike along the Côte d’Opale
If you are into cycling and want to do some sightseeing at the same time, rent a bike and cycle north along the Côte d’Opale. There are beautiful seaside villages along the coast, with some great seafood restaurants, as well as wide golden beaches and a few museums from the World wars.
Local Specialties – What to eat in Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Being a maritime town, there is a lot of international influence on food here. Apart from seafood, the main meal is Welsh Rarebit (or rabbit) which is served with a savory sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to get to Boulogne-sur-Mer?
Boulogne-sur-Mer is located in the Hauts-de-France region and is under a three-hour drive north of Paris. Also, there are trains a few times a day from Paris via Arras or Lille to reach the seaside town.
How many days should you stay in Boulogne-sur-Mer?
One night is probably enough, counting time to arrive and a late departure the next day. Here are some accommodation options that there are in the village.
Insiders’ tips for Boulogne-sur-Mer
For me, apart from all the sightseeing, I recommend having a seafood course in a restaurant in the Upper town. And if you are into shopping, check out the street market which is on in the Lower town on weekends. One of the best I have been to in Northern France.
A bientôt !
✎ Photos and Guide by: Danik Bates | Danik the Explorer
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