The name rings a bell … Where is it?
Situated on the Côte d’Opale in the Pas-de-Calais département, Boulogne-sur-Mer is France’s most important fishing port. The city has been a trading hub since Roman times and is renowned for its abundance of seafood restaurants and attractive old centre, which features vast ramparts dating from the 13th century.
What is there to see?
Plenty! Boulogne is made up of the Haute-Ville (Upper City), with its narrow cobblestone lanes, centuries-old buildings and ancient stone walls, and the Basse-Ville (Lower City), which is home to an assortment of rectangular-shaped, post-war structures. Begin your visit in the Haute-Ville; a gentle stroll along the Promenade des Remparts will uncover a host of impressive buildings including the neoclassical Hôtel Désandrouin (an 18th-century private mansion once used by Napoleon); the roseate-hued brick Hôtel de Ville, with its square medieval belfry; and the Italianate basilica, its towering dome visible in all parts of the city (main picture). Not far from the basilica lies the Château-Musée, one of few museums to house Egyptian antiquities, which sit alongside a mixture of artefacts including remnants of a fourth- century Roman wall.
Is there anything for children to enjoy?
Yes! The jewel in Boulogne’s crown is Nausicaä, a world-class aquarium not far from the main port. Among the highlights is the stunning Coral Lagoon, home to 3,500 species; the Californian sea-lion pool; and the tropical lagoon with its vast collection of sharks.
Any good places to eat?
For fresh seafood, go to Le Chatillon. Tucked among the port’s warehouses, the maritime-themed restaurant is a popular haunt with fishermen, thanks to dishes such as wild turbot and sole meunière, as well as seafood platters, oysters and squid.
For fine dining, try La Matelote. The Michelin-starred restaurant serves the best of mer et terre, with favourites including a lobster and turbot fricassée, and a sirloin of veal cooked à la plancha.
Where should I stay?
Book into Les Terrasses de I’Enclos, a quaint guesthouse set in a 19th-century building in the old town. Rooms are decorated with references to local historical figures. The restaurant serves traditional French cuisine.
How do I get there?
Boulogne is 35km from Calais, where DFDS Seaways and P&O run regular crossings to and from Dover. Trains from Paris Gare du Nord take around three hours.