Bologne France (Boulogne) - French Holidays

Although Bologne (Boulogne) (or Boulogne-Sur-Mer) is an important port and fishing town in Northern France, much like Calais, it has heaps of charm that Calais, unfortunately, lacks. Cross Channel ferries no longer dock here, which has had a slight effect on the local economy and closed down a few shops, but nothing too noticeable as yet.

Bologne is divided into lower (basse ville) and upper (haute ville) where the lower town is modern and rather plain, and the upper town is medieval and quite charming. The upper town is found within the old defence walls and the Basilique Notre-Dame, which is not unlike St Paul's Cathedral, is a 19th-century focal point. The lower town, however, is redeemed by numerous good food shops and restaurants.

Map of Bologne

The tourist office at 24 quai Gambetta (03 21 10 88 10) can advise you about accommodation on the spot but you are better off booking it well in advance as hotels fill up quickly, especially during the summer. Le Metropole, 51 rue Thiers (03 21 31 50 30) offers three-star accommodation for €70-€90, and is quiet in spite of its situation on a busy street. Vanheeckhoet Chambres d'Hote, 24-26 rue de Lille (03 21 80 41 50) is an attractive old-town B&B with rooms from €30-€45.

Bologne is good for shopping, with the Grande-Rue and surrounds being especially noted for food shops (note that most are closed on Mondays). At 43 rue Thiers the fromagerie stocks over 200 cheeses, and the place Dalton market (Wed/Sat) presents a good opportunity for sampling local produce.

The two most popular museums are the Centre National de la Mer (Nausicaá) on the boulevard Ste-Beuve, which costs €10-€20 and is looking a bit dated despite only being 20 years old. If Greek pots, Eskimo masks and Egyptian artifacts are more your scene, go to the Château Musée in the old town (+-€5 alone or you can buy a combined ticket with Nausicaá). Amusingly, the Château Musée also displays the head of a statue of Napoléon that the British (accidentally) decapitated during WWII.

For a good view of sea and town climb the 12th-century belfry (free, entrance through Hôtel de Ville), or wander along the old town walls which are equipped for picnics with benches, paths and rose beds.

When your thoughts turn towards an aperitif, head to place Godefroy de Bouillon or place Dalton for their drinking establishments. As for dinner, the Estaminet du Château, 2 rue du Château (03 21 91 49 66) offers +-€15 menus in picturesque medieval surroundings, or La Matelote, 80 bd Ste-Beuve (03 21 30 17 97) has +-€30 menus, fish à la carte for +-€20, and is the best (albeit the snootiest) restaurant in Bologne.

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