If you're spending a weekend or short stay in Boulogne-sur-Mer, with family or on business, don't hesitate to take a little time to visit the iconic locations of this flagship city of Pas-de-Calais. To visit Boulogne-sur-Mer is to discover an extraordinary heritage. So, if you're wondering what to do in Boulogne-sur-Mer, here are some tips to guide you.
The sea: the economic and tourist heart of Boulogne
Positioned between two seas – the English Channel and the North sea – Boulogne-sur-Mer is an unusual city within the French provincial landscape. Did you know that it was the first fishing port in France? The maritime waters of Boulogne are full of fish, which pass from one sea to another. As a result, no less than 35,000 tonnes of fish pass through the local auction each year, contributing to the city's economy.
In town, you'll have the chance to taste whiting, the most fished species in Boulogne, or even sole or turbot – it’s up to you. The flavours of the sea dominate in Boulogne: in summer, enjoy spending the afternoon on our terraces and try Gaignée, a local dish that brings together fish, vegetables, onions and crème fraîche.
With its auction, the marina is the heart of Boulogne. Located in the city centre, here, you can moor your boat at one of the 600 rings.
Finally, one of the best ideas for an outing in Boulogne-sur-Mer is undoubtedly the National Sea Centre, known as Nausicaá. A must see for any visitor, it has been labelled a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by UNESCO. It has built up a host of records: the largest aquarium in Europe and even the fourth largest in the world! Visiting Nausicaá offers the chance to meet 58,000 marine animals in 70 tanks. Nausicaá is much more than an aquarium, it’s a dedicated centre working to raise awareness of the problems of the marine environment. Discover everything from the birth of zebra sharks to the tribulations of the great manta ray, meet the Cape penguin or the sea lion, and learn coral cutting. Don't forget the touch pool, offering the chance to discover these fish up close.
In town: secret places to explore
Like any visitor, you love to wander the city, strolling wherever your heart takes you. You might find yourself at the Gambetta Market, one of the most beautiful in France. This is an authentic Boulogne market, the favourite of any self-respecting lover of local cuisine looking to discover local produce and all its specialities.
The old town of Boulogne-sur-Mer is fortified behind its beautifully preserved 13th century ramparts. Don't miss the Notre-Dame Basilica, which dates back to the 19th century, erected on the remains of an old cathedral. The crypt, itself recent and constructed on the remains of the medieval crypt, extends below the surface of the basilica. It contains a range of permanent collections to be admired. In the walled city, don't hesitate to admire the belfry: listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the castle-museum.
And if you have some time left, why not take a stroll along the Jean Muselet promenade? This pleasant walk offers to the chance to wander along the boards, between the Marguet bridge and the garden of the Nausicaá centre, admiring the port. Of course, there are plenty of other activities on the Opal Coast: why not try sand yachting, a bike ride, or even a trip on the sea?