Overlooking the English Channel on the Côte d’Opale, Boulogne-sur-Mer is a lively coastal city and fishing port in northern France. It centres around a fortified old town and a UNESCO-listed belfry and is home to one of Europe’s most impressive aquariums.
Things to do in Boulogne-sur-Mer
An architectural highlight of Boulogne-sur-Mer is its 12th-century belfry, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally established as a count’s dungeon, it houses a museum of religious art on its ground floor and offers sweeping views across the city from its parapet walk.
Topped by a 101-metre-high dome, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne can be viewed throughout the city and is known locally as the “cathedral”. It was inspired by both Classical and Renaissance architectural styles, with rows of Corinthian columns dominating its nave. It boasts one of the largest crypts in France, where you’ll find the foundations of a Roman temple and cannonballs dating from a 16th-century siege.
One of the most popular attractions in Boulogne-sur-Mer is the Nausicaá, a state-of-the-art marine science research centre and the largest public aquarium in Europe. Come face-to-face with manta rays, oceanic sunfish and hammerhead sharks in “The High Sea” tank and watch sea lions being trained before learning about the effects of global warming on our oceans at the “In the Eye of the Climate” exhibition.
Getting around Boulogne-sur-Mer
Boulogne-sur-Mer is a 35-minute drive from Calais and around 1.5 hours from Lille Airport, which has flights to destinations across Europe and North Africa. Trains connect to Gare de Boulogne Ville while buses travel throughout the city. The centre of Boulogne-sur-Mer is compact enough to explore on foot.