Things to Do in Boulogne-sur-Mer
For an amazing day trip or memorable weekend without the hassle of long travel plans, look no further than Boulogne-sur-Mer – often simply ‘Boulogne’ – a fine old town just 35 minutes’ drive from the port of Calais.
Once upon a time, this elegant port town advertised itself as ‘Real France, Real Close’ - and today the sentiment remains the same. Despite being a commercial hub, Boulogne has retained that authentic charm that made it the prize of territorial disputes over the centuries.
Whether you’re looking for fresh seafood in picturesque harbour restaurants, historic monuments steeped in regal history or days out the whole family will love, you’ll never run out of things to do in Boulogne.
Exploring the Harbour of Boulogne-sur-Mer
Although it’s the smallest of France’s three main Channel ports (Calais and Dunkirk being the other two) Boulogne is often regarded as the most important. As the chief fishing seaport in France, the town is renowned for its close connections with the sea and show-stopping seafood.
Hundreds of Atlantic species of fish are caught and hauled every day, so take the time to sample some fresh delicacies including herring and mackerel on the stalls alongside the edge of the port. Foodies will love a visit to Capécure, the expansive commercial harbour where fish is salted, smoked and frozen before auction.
When it comes to dining out, Boulogne’s pleasing range of restaurants around the lower modern town of Basse Ville all serve up exquisite interpretations of moules marinières, France’s beloved national dish.
History and Shopping in the Old Town of Boulogne
If you’re seeking excellent cafes, restaurants, and independent shops with the added bonus of a gorgeous view over the port, why not take the steep walk up to the old town?
Located on top of the hill stands Haute Ville, a gem of a town hidden behind beautifully conserved medieval ramparts on the east bank of the river Liane. Behind the rosebud-lined ancient walls you’ll find curious law courts, an amazing château and a town hall just waiting to be explored.
The 12th-century belfry on the L'Hôtel de Ville is the oldest monument in town – the UNESCO World Heritage Site is only accessible via guided tour. Check out the museum in the Château de Boulogne-sur-Mer, a horseshoe-shaped castle built in the 13th century by the son of King Philip II of France. Here you can absorb artefacts from ancient Egypt and Greece as well as inuit masks, and spy the genuine foundations of the Roman settlement at Boulogne.
Plenty in Boulogne for the Whole Family
Other things to do in Boulogne-sur-Mer include Nausicaa, France's national sea life centre which invites you to explore all of the world’s oceans. This colossal aquarium is home to 35,000 species of fish, and as well as tiny swimmers, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with playful California sea lions, magnificent sharks and a vivid tropical lagoon.
A 30-minute drive south of the city is Opalaventure, a treetop adventure park where the whole family can enjoy zipping through the trees and practicing their Tarzan jumps.
If you have an interest in wartime history, the cemetery of Étaples lies close by. This poignant destination is the resting place of over 10,000 French and British soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the First World War.
Tempted? Start your Boulogne-sur-Mer adventure with P&O today when you take a ferry to France via our Dover to Calais route.
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