A Mystery Trip brought me to this coastal city in the north of France. Beforehand I didn't know where I was going, and not even with whom. It turned out to be a lovely trip with 5 other ladies to visit Nausicáa, the largest aquarium in Europe. In this blog post I will give you my travel tips about spending a day (or two) in Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Nausicáa is much more than just an aquarium. It's a unique centre for discovering the marine environment which is fun, educational and scientific all at the same time. Their main focus is the relationship between mankind and the sea. Raising public awareness, and the need for better management of our oceans and the natural resources in them, is Nausicáa's mail goal. They have breading programs to prevent several types of fish from extinction, cultivate coral and do research with prominent scientist from all over the world.
Besides the aquarium, Boulogne-sur-Mer has got more to offer. It has a wonderful rugged coastline for long walks, lots of street art and a fortified old town.
I woke up early on a Saturday morning to visit the old town on my own, before breakfast. This long walk made me very happy, because the streets were desolated, the bakery just opened it's doors (and had the most delicious French pastries on offer), and the fruit and vegetable market slowly came to life.
The old town has got a rampart walk which was unfortunately closed for renovation works during my visit, but it has reopened in the course of 2019.
When I entered the walled city through the main gate I immediately saw the robust 12th century Belfy Tower, which is the the oldest monument in town.
Another eye-catcher is the Notre-Dame Basilica with its 101 meters high dome. When roaming the winding and charming streets you will see this huge monument pop up every once in a while when turning around some corners.
It's all about the details...
There are still some remembrances of Napoléon Bonaparte's camp in 1803 and the First and Second World War, like this old home for wounded soldiers and veterans.
From Napoléons camp just outside of the city, he assembled the 'Grand Army' which is also known as the 'Army of the Ocean' to invade Britain.
The square in front of the Belfry Tower had got some nice planting with tulips and other spring flowers, there even was a small pond and a kitty who was trying to catch some fish :)
Inside the moated medieval castle there is a Castle-Museum with for example Egyptian and Greek Antiquities, Medieval and Fine Arts and art from Oceania and Africa. I took this picture from the city wall with on the right the Castle and in the background the Notre-Dame Basilica.
The entrance to the castle during sunrise.
Every time I am in France I am always pleased to see the old charming street lanterns and bollards (iron poles to protect the pedestrians). It gives cities that extra chique feeling with its nostalgic features. Fun fact: in the past bollards were often made from old cannons.
Those who like street art will probably love Boulogne-sur-Mer! There is a street art route which you can follow so you won't miss one of these pieces of art. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to see them all, but here are some of my favourites.
Gaawouel (Gaël Navet) is actually a tattoo artist from Boulogne-sur-Mer, but who enjoys making street art too. And I think he is very good at it :) Several pieces in town are made by him, these are the ones I liked most:
The Canadian artist Jarus made this wall with a fisherman as Boulogne-sur-Mer has got the largest fishing port of France.
The Spanish artist Dourone made this beautiful vibrant artwork.
But the sea and its coastline probably have got the biggest attraction to the visitors of this city. This 120 kilometres (75 mi) long coast is called the Côte d'Opale (or Opal Coast in English). I was amazed by the high cliffs, huge desolated beach and rugged landscape. It was the best place for a walk during sunset. So don't forget to take your hiking boots and discover the trails in the dunes, fields and forests!
I have had a pleasant stay at Hotel Metropole which is situated in the city centre. The room looked brand-new, offered all the comfort I needed and had a balcony.
The view just before sunrise from the balcony of my hotel room:
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