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Boulogne-sur-Mer might not be at the top of the list of France’s tourist hotspots, but this surprisingly charming fishing port is the country’s largest, and is an easy journey just across the English Channel, to the south of Calais. With a lovely clean beach, a smattering of attractions and great seafood, it’s commonly known as the capital of France's Opal Coast.
Boulogne-sur-Mer is split into two primary areas – the quaint upper town (or haute ville), which includes the maze-like fortified old town, and the more modern lower town (basse ville) by the sea. These are divided by Boulogne-sur-Mer's main street, the Grande Rue. You'll find the best choice of hotels in Boulogne-sur-Mer clustered around this central area –Au Coin Du Spa is one of several hotels with hot tubs and jacuzzis in Boulogne-sur-Mer, just steps from the old town, where you'll find many of the city's top historic sights.
You'll also find a selection of hotels along the nearby Rue Faidherbe, which runs from the River Liane down to the train station, including the two-star Hotel Faidherbe.
The lower town is the place to find beach hotels in Boulogne-sur-Mer – there are a couple of affordable ones along Promenade San Martin. The modern Hotel Opal'Inn has lovely views over the sweeping sands and out to sea, with balcony rooms available.
If you love history, architecture and local heritage, you'll want to base yourself in or near the fortified old town (the ville fortifiée). As well as the imposing Notre-Dame cathedral, there's the city's famous 12th-century belfry and an ornate Roman crypt within the 13th-century city walls.
Hotels near St Nicholas Church on the Grand Rue will put you just a few minutes' walk from the old town in one direction and the little river-docks in the other. You'll also find Casa San Martin along this main thoroughfare, which was the last home of an Argentinian general and national hero, and is now a museum open to visitors.
For a quieter stay, consider hotels near the Chateau-Musée, where the town becomes leafier and less crowded. This 13th-century castle, now also a museum, gives great views from its slightly elevated position.
The seaside aquarium is a popular attraction, especially with families. There are a couple of family-friendly hotels near Nausicaa, including one with triple rooms available. The nearby Beuriere House is also fun for all ages. It's an old fisherman's cottage that gives visitors the chance to see how local people used to live.
This pretty port city is an ideal choice for a relaxed sightseeing trip, especially for couples who want to avoid the crowds on the French tourist trail. Wander down the Grande Rue to the old town, browsing the shops and boutiques as you go, and stop for a classic moules frites for lunch. Hotel Hamiot sits on nearby Rue Faidherbe, another busy shopping street surrounded by a jumble of colourful houses.
The old town, with its castle and cathedral, is the perfect place for romantic hand-in-hand strolls. Explore the maze of tiny lanes lined with cute shuttered cottages and you're likely to come to a central cobbled square with the magical Jardin Ephémère in the middle – this themed garden will delight both adults and children alike. The Ibis Boulogne-sur-Mer Centre Cathédrale is brilliantly positioned for the old town, offering views of the domed 19th-century church.
If you want to impress someone special with a spa hotel in Boulogne-sur-Mer, the Hotel Restaurant La Matelote in the lower town is one of the few four-star hotels in the city. As well as sumptuous traditional décor it has an indoor pool, sauna and fitness centre.
If you're on a budget, you'll be happy with the ample choice of cheap hotels in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Most hotels in the centre are simple two- or three-star bases that are ideal for a sightseeing holiday. The Hotel Alexandra is one example of two-star accommodation in Boulogne-sur-Mer, sitting conveniently between the main upper town and lower town attractions.
You'll also find some well-positioned hotels with a view in Boulogne-sur-Mer, either making the most of a waterside position with beach or quay views, or overlooking prominent landmarks like the Notre-Dame church.
If you're planning on taking the kids here to visit the aquarium, play on the sands or explore the fairy-tale old town, there are a couple of family-friendly hotels in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Les Gens de Mer Boulogne-sur-Mer offers triple and quadruple rooms, and is one of only a few hotels in Boulogne-sur-Mer across the river in the Capécure port area. Kids will love the sailing theme, while adults will find it handily close to the bridge that leads to the Grande Rue.
If you'd rather visit Boulogne-sur-Mer from a more typical seaside-town base, consider hotels in Wimereux. This cute little seaside resort is just three miles (5km) from the historic attractions of Boulogne-sur-Mer, but boasts a bigger beach with a traditional, colourful promenade running along it. For a similar holiday vibe to the south, have a look at our hotels in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage.