South-East England and North-West France really are very close together. The 22 mile stretch of water that separates us “Islanders” from “The Continent” across the English Channel is the only thing between the two countries.
The trip to Boulogne-Sur-Mer (Boulogne-On-Sea) was only a day trip whilst visiting my friends in Kent, England. We arrived very early in the morning at the ferry port in Dover and took the 2 hour ferry trip as ‘foot-passengers’ across to the town of Calais in France. The weather was stunning with bright blue skies and glistening seas from the sun. The views looking back to England and Dover’s White Cliffs were unbelievably beautiful.
Once in Calais we disembarked the ferry and caught a transfer bus to ‘Gare Calais Ville’ (Calais Train station) where we purchased a €12 (GB£11) return train ticket to ‘Boulogne Ville’ train station. The train journey last about 38 minutes hugging the coastline.
Some Useful Information
ℹ️ Travel: Boulogne-Sur-Mer can be accessed by train from Calais or by taking route A16 by road.
ℹ️ Currency: The Euro €. France is a member of the EU (European Union)
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every shopping street, with several ‘bureau de change’ around the city centre, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa. There is no fear of an establishment declining card payments.
ℹ️ Weather: Boulogne-Sur-Mer is on the coast and can often be subject to strong winds coming in off the English Channel. As with all Northern European Countries the best times to visit are during the Summer months. Winters can be cold, grey and windy.
Boulogne-sur-Mer is the largest fishing town in France and everywhere there is evidence of the importance of this trade. Fish stalls line the port selling fish direct to the public. There is a huge industrial area where the fish is auctioned and factories freeze, smoke, salt, can and process the fish around the whole of Europe.
Restaurants in the town have fish dishes galore. The Chateau Musée de Boulogne has a fabulous collection of coastal paintings from the area. To seal the deal – there is Nausica, the huge aquarium which has around half a million visits each year.
There are two parts to Boulogne, the modern town with its outlying suburbs and the historic old town. With over 1000 shops, hundreds of bars, cafés and restaurants, several markets a week – there is something going on for visitors pretty much all of the time.
What Can Boulogne-Sur-Mer Offer?
The Notre Dame Basilica
Built between 1827 and 1866 by the abbot Haffreingue on the ruins of the old cathedral, destroyed soon after the French Revolution. This colossal dome together culminating to 101m (331 feet) in height was inspired by Saint Paul’s in London, St. Peter’s in Rome, and the Pantheon.
was built by Philippe Hurepel. Its construction dates back to 1231. Conserved and built in the 13th century on the fortifications of the Roman military camp, it now houses the museum’s collections.
Shopping and Food
Nestled between the harbour and the walled city, the city centre is the ideal place to soak up the warm atmosphere of the city. There are some lovely specialist shops from arts and crafts in the old town where you can buy violet scented, to the cheese shop of Philippe Olivier, Rue Thiers, in the new town where you can buy the notorious Vieux Boulogne – officially designated the smelliest cheese in the world.
Make your way to the marina and discover numerous restaurants with open terraces to sup fine wines, eat great food and watch the world go by.
Throughout the summer months, the graffiti artists create wonderful street art around the streets of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
The local and international artists of the “Urban Art Route” have a blank canvas to give a new face to the city. Passers-by can now admire the varied works of art.
To sum up Boulogne-Sur-Mer its a pretty little French town on the coast that offers quaint little bistro’s up cobbled streets. My trip to the town was only for a day, and from Kent, it is very do-able.
Boulogne welcomed us for the 6 hours we were there and I have to admit it did not feel rushed in any manner. Would I go back? Maybe. But for a day trip I am pretty happy I did it…not least to say the views returning to England as the sunsets are worth it.