What to do in Boulogne-sur-Mer
Boulogne-Sur-Mer is a beautiful city located in the north of France. It is known for its picturesque harbor, lovely beaches, rich history, and the Nausicaá aquarium. There are many things to see and do in Boulogne-Sur-Mer and in this article, we’ll give you our best suggestions.
We loved our stay in Boulogne-sur-Mer. On the first day, we visited the city, beach, and harbor and stayed for the night at the Evancy hotel. We spent our second day in the Nausicaá aquarium.
Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s maritime heritage, enjoying the great outdoors, or simply indulging in some French culture, you’ll find plenty of activities to keep you busy during your stay.
1. Visit Nausicaá Aquarium
The Nausicaá aquarium at Place Gambetta is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Boulogne-Sur-Mer. The largest aquarium in Europe houses a collection of fish, coral, and other marine life from around the world.
You can also take a tour behind the scenes or have an AI experience at Grand Large. Read more about it in our complete article about our visit to Nausicaá in Boulogne-Sur-Mer.
We loved our visit to the Nausicaá aquarium. It was also very educational for the kids. Especially the big aquarium with its tunnel and glass wall is impressive. Watch below how the aquarium was built.
2. Walk the fortified walls of Boulogne-sur-Mer
The ramparts in Boulogne-Sur-Mer date back to the 13th century and were built to protect the town from invaders. The walls are made of stone and are up to 3,5 meters (12 feet thick) in some places.
The ramparts include nine towers, each with its own unique name and history. The most famous of these is the Tour Porquet, which offers stunning views of the town and the Notre Dame Basilica.
Other towers include the Tour du Guet, which was used to watch for enemy ships on the horizon, and the Tour des Douves, which was used to defend the town’s water supplies.
While many people may know Boulogne-Sur-Mer only as a beach town, this walk on the ramparts provides great views of the city below. We loved walking between the old trees while watching the sunset in the back.
3. Visit the Boulogne-sur-Mer Cathedral and the Crypt (Basilisque de Notre Dame)
The unique architecture of the Notre-Dame Basilica in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, which was inspired by Saint Paul’s London church and built to house holy bones, hides a brick wall pierced with arched windows.
The deep crypt underneath this historic landmark provides an exquisite view of France’s rich history that is unlike any other place you’ll find on earth!
4. Visit the castle of Boulogne-Sur-Mer (Chateau Comtal)
Visit the castle of Boulogne-Sur-Mer (Chateau Comtal) and you will get a peak into the fascinating medieval history of this region. The castle itself is an imposing sight, sitting atop a hill overlooking the town and the sea.
It was built in the 11th century by Count Eustace II of Boulogne, and it played an important role in the defense of this region during the Hundred Years’ War.
Today, visitors can explore the castle’s well-preserved rooms and ramparts, and learn about its fascinating history. If you’re interested in medieval history, then a visit to Chateau Comtal is a must.
5. Explore the museum in the castle
The Chateau Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Boulogne-Sur-Mer. The museum is located in a 12th-century castle and houses a collection of artifacts that date back to prehistoric times.
6. VISIT Casa San Martin
The Musée du Libertador San Martin in Boulogne-sur-Mer tells the story of a true hero who freed his country from Spanish rule and gave it independence. He is considered one of South America’s most influential figures, because he brought freedom to Argentina, Chile, and Peru.
Visitors can see his furniture and other antiques that were used in this house over time. His letters and belongings are on display as well as many items from his adventures.
Casa San Martin is open all year except January and most of July (usually). A tour is about 30 minutes.
If you need more info about San Martin and the museum, you could check this website with a lot of useful information about the history of San Martin.
7. Have a look at “La Maison de la Beurière”
The Beurière House is a typical example of the kind of house fishermen lived in at this time. The furniture, kitchen equipment, and household linen show just how harsh life was for these men who made their living from fishing over 200 years ago!
The fishermen of Boulogne-sur-Mer called this district ‘La Beurière’ which is derived from the word ‘bure’, describing a small fisherman’s hut.
Tickets for adults costs €4, kids are €2. You can buy tickets at “La Maison de la Beurière”.
8. Look for street art
When you wander the streets of Boulogne-Sur-Mer (as we did), you’ll be surprised by the many beautiful murals that can be found all over town.
The ‘Parcours d’Art Urbain – Street Art’ festival is a unique opportunity to experience the culture of street art.
For several years now, during this event in Boulogne-Sur Mer, artists from all over share their visions of how they see our cityscape. These include Kobra (Brazil), Alaniz (Argentina), Case Maclaim (Germany), etc.
With its wide range of styles, you’ll be able to discover a broad scala of amazing street murals throughout the city.
You can enjoy this journey at your own pace. Have a look at the website about street art in Boulogne Sur Mer with all the artists and upcoming events.
9. Enjoy Boulogne-sur-Mer Plage (The beach)
Boulogne-Sur-Mer has several lovely beaches that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or just taking a leisurely stroll. Also, the typical beach cabins are fun to see.
The main beach is located just a short walk from the harbor and offers stunning views of the coastline. It’s also next to the Nausicaá aquarium.
10. Walk by The Fish Market and harbor
Boulogne-Sur-Mer is a fishing port where, on any given day, more than seventy different kinds of fish can be found.
The Port of Boulogne is a major hub for the landing and processing of fish. There are over 100 accredited buyers present at any given time!
But you can also buy fish next to the harbor. There are about ten stalls where you can buy shellfish such as oysters and mussels and of course a lot of regular fish such as herring, plaice or turbot.
11. Enjoy the restaurants of Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Wondering where to eat in Boulogne-Sur-Mer? The city is home to a variety of local restaurants that serve traditional French cuisine.
Some of the most popular dishes include mussels, seafood, and crepes. There are also several bakeries and cafes located around the city, making it the perfect place to grab a bite to eat.
- Le Chatillon
When you walk into Le Chatillon, it’s like stepping onto the homestead of an old salt. The décor is fascinating with porthole windows and nets stretched across ceilings to create that perfect nautical atmosphere!
- La Matelote
At La Matelote, imagine yourself in a warm, inviting setting with an expertly prepared meal at your fingertips. That is what dining out would be like if you had the opportunity to enjoy one of Tony Lestienne’s restaurants on this coast! The chef has been awarded a star from Michelin and his cooking will leave any guest satisfied.
- L’ilot vert
The gastronomic address is located in the heart of the old town, not far from Notre Dame Cathedral. The large hall of L’ilot vert has been redone with modern colors and London feels to make guests feel at home while they enjoy a meal or drink on their spacious terrace during warm weather months. One of the best places to eat is Boulogne-Sur-Mer.
12. Drive to Equihen Plage
If you’re looking for a beautiful beach outside of the city, look no further than Equihen-plage! This beach is located just a short drive from Boulogne-Sur-Mer, making it the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The sparkling water and soft sand are sure to provide you with a day of relaxation, and the nearby restaurants and cafes make it easy to grab a bite to eat.
Best of all, Equihen-plage is never too crowded, so you can enjoy a peaceful day at the beach without having to worry about finding a spot. And the scenery is absolutely beautiful!
So whether you’re looking for a place to sunbathe or simply want to take in stunning views, Equihen-plage is the perfect destination for you.
13. Take a boat ride
Boat rides are a popular activity in Boulogne-Sur-Mer. Visitors can take a leisurely cruise around the harbor or go fishing.
There are also several restaurants and cafes located around the harbor, making it the perfect place to relax and watch the world go by.
Boulogne-sur-Mer: practical information
How to reach Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Boulogne-Sur-Mer is located in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region of France. It is situated about 16 km (10 miles) from the English Channel and about 56 km (35 miles) from the city of Calais.
The best way to reach Boulogne-Sur-Mer is by car. There is a large public parking lot located just outside of the city center.
Alternatively, you can take the train from Paris or Brussels. The journey takes about 2.5 hours. If you are coming from the UK, there are ferries that operate between Dover and Boulogne-Sur-Mer. The crossing takes about 1.5 hours.
Where to stay in Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Lovely new hotel close to the harbor. Possible to have breakfast. Check our article for more info about our stay at Evancy and Nausicaá visit.
Located in the old town, this lovely hotel is perfect for a family. Only 1km away from Nausicaá. They serve continental or buffet breakfasts.