Boulogne-sur-Mer is the largest fishing port in France and so the emphasis, as you would expect, is very much on seafood and all things connected with the sea. Apart from the stalls along the edge of the port, there is also Capécure, the commercial port where the fish is auctioned, frozen, salted, smoked and generally processed.
In the middle of the 19th century Boulogne began a long rivalry with Calais to develop the cross-Channel ferry trade. The Folkestone- Boulogne route was developed by steamships operated by the English railway company, South Eastern Railways - which owned the port of Folkestone. They ran connecting train-ship-train services between London and Paris, aimed at wealthy travellers.
At the present time, most of the ferries run the slightly shorter route between Dover and Calais - Boulogne has been abandoned by the major ferry operators in their battle with the tunnel however Euroferries is in the process rviving the Ramsgate to Boulogne ferry route.
Shopping in Boulogne
Boulogne has plenty of quaint shops that hem its cobbled streets, especially in its Grande Rue and the pedestrianised rue Thiers. Fromageries (cheese shops), caves (wine shops) that specialise in French wines, and of course, the hypermarkets and quaint open-air markets. Boulogne, perhaps unsurprisingly, has its own vibrant fish market, so if you are on a day-trip, make sure to bring a cooler bag to fill up with freshly caught fish and seafood.
Restaurants in Boulogne
The charming coastal town of Bouogne has an abundance of eateries – 200 at the last count. As Boulogne is a premier fishing port, so its no surprise that some of its most elegant restaurants specialise in seafood dishes. There’s also a fine choice of brasseries and even pubs, especially around Place Dalton and also in the old’s town’s rue de Lille.
Old Town Boulogne
At the top of the town, lies the ‘old town’, the administrative and religious centre of the town, dominated by the belfry and dome of the Cathedral.
The Rue de Lille leads up from the square where the Town Hall stands and is lined with a variety of shops and plentiful restaurants where you can revive yourself before visiting the historic sites. In the crypt of the Cathedral, you can still see the stone cannon balls employed by Henry VIII when he besieged and captured Boulogne at one stage.
Vast ramparts built at the beginning of the 13th century on the foundations off the Gallo-Roman walls, with four gateways, surround this part of town. From the walkways there is an amazing view of the old port and the main town. In a corner is the 13th century Château, with its moats filled with water and waterlillies, modified in the 16th and 18th centuries.
Boulogne also has a Natural History Museum. At the City Library in the Annunciates, you can visit the gardens and cloisters whilst the Maison de La Beurière chronicles the life of fishermen in the olden days.
There is also a Casino, a bowling alley and two golf courses nearby. Overall, Boulogne has much to offer, whether for a day trip, a weekend break or perhaps a longer stay to soak up the many pleasures to entrance you in this charming seaside port.