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Boulonne-su-Mér  (Picard)
Bonen  (West Flemish)
Boulogne vue generale phare beffroi mer.jpg
A general view from the Brecquerecque Quarter:
The modern lighthouse, the medieval bell tower and the English Channel
Drapeau ville fr Boulogne-sur-Mer.svg
Blason ville fr Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais).svg
Location of Boulogne-sur-Mer
France location map-Regions and departements-2016.svg
Red pog.svg
Hauts-de-France region location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Coordinates: 50°43′35″N1°36′53″E / 50.7264°N 1.6147°E / 50.7264; 1.6147 Coordinates: 50°43′35″N1°36′53″E / 50.7264°N 1.6147°E / 50.7264; 1.6147
Country France
Region Hauts-de-France
Department Pas-de-Calais
Arrondissement Boulogne-sur-Mer
Canton Boulogne-sur-Mer-1 and 2
Intercommunality CA du Boulonnais
  Mayor (20202026) Frédéric Cuvillier [1] (PS)
8.42 km2 (3.25 sq mi)
62.8 km2 (24.2 sq mi)
667 km2 (258 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2019) [2]
  Density4,800/km2 (12,000/sq mi)
 (2018 [3] )
  Urban density1,300/km2 (3,500/sq mi)
 (2018 [3] )
  Metro density240/km2 (620/sq mi)
Demonym Boulonnaise
Time zone UTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
62160 /62200
Elevation0–110 m (0–361 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Boulogne-sur-Mer (French:  [bulɔɲ syʁ mɛʁ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); Picard : Boulonne-su-Mér; Dutch : Bonen; Latin : Gesoriacum or Bononia), often called just Boulogne ( UK: /bʊˈlɔɪn/ , US: /bˈln,bˈlɔɪn/ ), is a coastal city in Northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department of Pas-de-Calais. Boulogne lies on the Côte d'Opale, a touristic stretch of French coast on the English Channel between Calais and Normandy, and the most visited location in the region after the Lille conurbation. [4] Boulogne is its department's second-largest city after Calais, and the 183rd-largest in France. [5] It is also the country's largest fishing port, specialising in herring. [6]


Boulogne is an ancient town and was the main Roman port for trade and communication with its Province of Britain. After a period of Germanic presence following the collapse of the Empire, Boulogne was integrated into the County of Boulogne of the Kingdom of France during the Middle Ages. It was occupied by the Kingdom of England numerous times due to conflict between the two nations. In 1805 it was a staging area for Napoleon's troops for several months during his planned invasion of the United Kingdom.

The city's 12th-century belfry is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site (along with other belfries of Belgium and France), [7] while another popular attraction is the marine conservation centre Nausicaa.


The French name Boulogne derives from the Latin Bononia, which was also the Roman name for Bologna in Italy. Both places – and Vindobona (Vienna) – are thought to have derived from native Celtic placenames, with bona possibly meaning "foundation", "citadel", or "granary".[ citation needed ] The French epithet sur-Mer ("on-the-sea") distinguishes the city from Boulogne-Billancourt on the edge of Paris. In turn, the Boulogne in Boulogne-Billancourt originates from a church there dedicated to Notre-Dame de Boulogne, "Our Lady of Boulogne[-sur-Mer]".


Origin of the city

The foundation of the city known to the Romans as Gesoriacum is credited to the Celtic Boii. In the past, it was sometimes conflated with Caesar's Portus Itius, but that is now thought to have been a site near Calais which has since silted up. A tall lighthouse was built at Gesoriacum circa 39 AD by order of the Emperor Caligula, [8] possibly in preparation for an invasion of Britain. Known as the Tour d'Ordre, coastal erosion caused it to topple into the sea in 1644.

The Tour d'Ordre, a Roman lighthouse, in 1550. It fell into the sea in 1644, having stood for over 1600 years. La Tour d'Odre en 1550, Boulogne-sur-Mer..jpg
The Tour d'Ordre, a Roman lighthouse, in 1550. It fell into the sea in 1644, having stood for over 1600 years.

From the time of Claudius's invasion in AD 43, Gesoriacum formed the major port connecting the rest of the empire to Britain. It was the chief base of the Roman navy's Britannic fleet until the rebellion of its admiral Carausius in 286. As part of the imperial response, the junior emperor Constantius Chlorus successfully besieged it by land and sea in 293. [9] The name of the settlement was changed to Bononia at some point between the sack of Gesoriacum and 310, possibly as a consequence of its refounding or possibly by the replacement of the sacked and lower-lying city by another nearby community. [10]

The city was an important town of the Morini (the 'sea people'), and Zosimus called it Germanorum ("Germanic-speaking") at the end of the 4th century. [11]

Middle Ages

Eustace II, Count of Boulogne, as shown on the Bayeux Tapestry. Eustache de Boulogne-Bayeux.png
Eustace II, Count of Boulogne, as shown on the Bayeux Tapestry.

In the Middle Ages Boulogne was the capital of an eponymous county, founded in the mid-9th century. An important Count, Eustace II, assisted William the Conqueror in his conquest of England. His wife founded the city's Notre Dame cathedral, which became a site of pilgrimage from the 12th century onwards, attended by fourteen French kings and five of England. It was an important whaling center prior to 1121. [12] The city survived on herring fishing and received its municipal charter from Count Renaud of Dammartin in 1203. [9]

The area was fought over by the French and the English, including several English occupations during the course of the Hundred Years War. In 1492 Henry VII laid siege to Boulogne before the conflict was ended by the Peace of Étaples. Boulogne was again occupied by the English from 1544 to 1550. In 1550, The Peace of Boulogne ended the war of England with Scotland and France. France bought back Boulogne for 400,000 crowns. A culture of smuggling was present in the city until 1659, when French gains in Flanders from the Treaty of the Pyrenees moved the border northwards.

Napoleonic period

The Column of the Grande Armee commemorates Napoleon's gathering of 200,000 soldiers near Boulogne for a proposed invasion of the United Kingdom. His statue is at the top. Boulogne Colonne 01.JPG
The Column of the Grande Armée commemorates Napoleon's gathering of 200,000 soldiers near Boulogne for a proposed invasion of the United Kingdom. His statue is at the top.

Boulogne received its current status as a subprefecture of the Pas-de-Calais department in 1800 due to the territorial re-organisation in Revolutionary France. Three years later, it was given the title of an Imperial City (Ville Impériale). [9]

The 19th century was a prosperous one for Boulogne, which became a bathing resort for wealthy Parisians after the completion of a railway line to the French capital. [9] In the 19th century, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne was reconstructed by the priest Benoît Haffreingue, who claimed to have received a call from God to reconstruct the town's ruined basilica. During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon amassed La Grande Armée in Boulogne to invade the United Kingdom in 1805. However, his plans were halted by other European matters and the supremacy of the Royal Navy.

A nephew of Bonaparte, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, later Napoleon III, returned to France in secret from his exile in Britain, passing through Boulogne in August 1840. He was later jailed for trying to lead a revolt in Strasbourg.

World wars

A "special pass" issued for travel within Boulogne by the British Red Cross in May 1917, during World War I Memorabilia relating to H.G. Bagster, item 2.jpg
A "special pass" issued for travel within Boulogne by the British Red Cross in May 1917, during World War I

During the First World War, this was the entrepôt for the first unit of the British Expeditionary Force to land in France and for many others thereafter. Boulogne was one of the three base ports most extensively used by the Commonwealth armies on the Western Front throughout the First World War. It was closed and cleared on 27 August 1914 when the Allies were forced to fall back ahead of the German advance, but was opened again in October and from that month to the end of the war, Boulogne and Wimereux formed one of the chief hospital areas.

Until June 1918, the dead from the hospitals at Boulogne were buried in the Cimetiere de L'Est, one of the town's cemeteries, the Commonwealth graves forming a long, narrow strip along the right hand edge of the cemetery. In the spring of 1918, it was found that space was running short in the Eastern Cemetery in spite of repeated extensions to the south and the site of the new cemetery at Terlincthun was chosen. [13] It also was the site of an Allied (French and British) armaments production conference.

German invasion barges in Boulogne Harbour during the Battle of Britain in summer 1940 BoulogneBarges1940.jpg
German invasion barges in Boulogne Harbour during the Battle of Britain in summer 1940

On 22 May 1940 during the Battle of France, two British Guards battalions and some pioneers attempted to defend Boulogne against an attack by the German 2nd Panzer Division. Despite fierce fighting, the British were overwhelmed and the survivors were evacuated by Royal Navy destroyers while under direct German gunfire. [14] On 15 June 1944, 297 aircraft (155 Avro Lancasters, 130 Handley Page Halifaxes, and 12 De Havilland Mosquitos) of the Royal Air Force bombed Boulogne harbour to suppress German naval activity following D-Day. Some of the Lancasters carried Tallboy bombs and the harbour and the surrounding area were completely destroyed. In August 1944 the town was declared a "fortress" by Adolf Hitler but it succumbed to Operation Wellhit, the assault and liberation by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in September. In one incident, a French civilian guided the Canadians to a "secret passage" leading into the walled old town and by-passing the German defenders. [15]

To replace the destroyed urban infrastructure, affordable housing and public facility projects in functional, brutalist building styles were carried out in the 1950s and 60s.


Pedestrian street in the city centre. Boulognesurmer centreville thiers.jpg
Pedestrian street in the city centre.


Boulogne-sur-Mer is in Northern France, at the edge of the Channel and in the mouth of the river "Liane". In a direct line, Boulogne is approximately at 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Calais, 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Folkestone, 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Lille and Amiens, 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Rouen and London and 215 kilometres (134 miles) from Paris.

Boulogne is a relatively important city of the North, exercising an influence on the "Boulonnais" territory (74 towns and villages which surround Boulogne). The coast consists of important tourist natural sites, like the capes Gris Nez and Blanc Nez (which are the closest points of France to England), and attractive seaside resorts like Wimereux, Wissant, Hardelot and Le Touquet. The hinterland is mainly rural and agricultural.


Gare de Boulogne-Tintelleries Gare de Boulogne-Tintelleries (France).jpg
Gare de Boulogne-Tintelleries

Boulogne is close to the A16 motorway (Paris-Amiens-Calais-Dunkerque). Metropolitan bus services are operated by "Marinéo". The company Flixbus propose a bus line connecting Paris to Boulogne. There are coach services to Calais and Dunkerque.

The city has railway stations, which the most important is Boulogne-Ville station, located in the south of the city. Boulogne-Tintelleries station is used by regional trains. It is located near the university and the city centre. The former Boulogne-Maritime and Boulogne-Aéroglisseurs stations served as a boat connection (to England) for the railway.

Boulogne has no cross channel ferry services since the closure of the route to Dover by LD Lines in 2010.

The regional trains are TER Hauts-de-France run by SNCF. The principal service runs from Gare de Boulogne-Ville via Gare de Calais-Fréthun, Gare de Calais-Ville to Gare de Lille-Flandres.


Walk along the beach. Boulognesurmer borddemer.jpg
Walk along the beach.

The city is divided into several parts :


Boulogne-sur-Mer has an oceanic climate that has chilly winters not far above freezing and cool summers tempered by its exposure to the sea. Considering its position, the climate is quite cold in relation to south and east coast locations in England year round. Precipitation is also higher than in said southern English locations.

Climate data for Boulogne-sur-Mer (1981–2010 averages)
Record high °C (°F)15.0
Average high °C (°F)6.8
Average low °C (°F)2.9
Record low °C (°F)−13.4
Average precipitation mm (inches)67.9
Average precipitation days13.09.510.
Average snowy days3.
Average relative humidity (%)87858481818182818283858783.3
Source 1: Météo France [16] [17]
Source 2: (humidity and snowy days, 1961–1990) [18]


The Belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boulogne beffroi.JPG
The Belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne towers over the city. Boulogne Basilique 001.jpg
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne towers over the city.
Entrance to the Chateau de Boulogne-sur-Mer Boulognecastle.JPG
Entrance to the Château de Boulogne-sur-Mer

Boulogne's 12th-century belfry is one of 56 listed Belfries of Belgium and France, all in northeastern France and Belgium, with shared World Heritage Site status because of their architecture and testimony to the rise of municipal power in the region. [19] It is the oldest building in the upper city of Boulogne, and currently serves as the home to a museum of Celtic remains from the Roman occupation. Founded as the Count's dungeon, the top floor was added in the 13th century. Damage by a fire in 1712 was built over by 1734. [7]

Other than the belfry there are also the following sights:

Official website: Tourism in Boulogne sur Mer
Official website: Tourism in Boulogne sur Mer and the Boulonnais region


Boulogne-sur-Mer is an important fishing port, with 7,000 inhabitants deriving part, or all, of their livelihoods from fishing.

IFREMER (the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea) and the Pasteur Institute are located in Boulogne Port.

Certain brands, including Crown and Findus, have regional offices in Boulogne.



In 1905, the first World Esperanto Congress was held in Boulogne-sur-Mer, where the historic Declaration of Boulogne was ratified. L. L. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto, was among the attendees. In 2005, there was an anniversary celebration to mark the centenary with more than 500 attendees.


List of Mayors
2014–2020 Frédéric Cuvillier PS Deputy, Minister
2012–2014Mireille Hingrez-Céréda PS  
2004–2012 Frédéric Cuvillier PS Deputy, Minister
1996–2004Guy Lengagne PS Deputy, Minister
1989–1996Jean MuseletConservative 
1977–1989Guy Lengagne PS Deputy, Minister
1945–1977Henri Henneguelle PS  


In 2018, 40,664 people lived in the city, while its metropolitan area had a population of 160,130. [3]

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 10,137    
1800 10,685+0.75%
1806 13,257+3.66%
1821 17,728+1.96%
1831 20,874+1.65%
1836 25,732+4.27%
1841 29,145+2.52%
1846 30,994+1.24%
1851 30,783−0.14%
1856 34,739+2.45%
1861 35,349+0.35%
1866 38,492+1.72%
1872 38,514+0.01%
1876 40,075+1.00%
1881 44,842+2.27%
1886 45,916+0.47%
1891 45,205−0.31%
1896 46,807+0.70%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 49,949+1.31%
1906 51,201+0.50%
1911 53,128+0.74%
1921 55,336+0.41%
1926 52,839−0.92%
1931 51,854−0.38%
1936 52,371+0.20%
1946 34,885−3.98%
1954 41,870+2.31%
1962 49,281+2.06%
1968 49,276−0.00%
1975 48,440−0.24%
1982 47,653−0.23%
1990 43,678−1.08%
1999 44,859+0.30%
2007 43,840−0.29%
2012 42,785−0.49%
2017 40,874−0.91%
Source: EHESS [20] and INSEE (1968-2017) [21]


Boulogne-sur-Mer hosts one of the oldest Universités de l'été – summer courses in French language and culture. It is known as the Université d'été de Boulogne-sur-Mer.

The Saint-Louis building of the University of the Côte d'Opale's Boulogne campus opened its doors in 1991, on the site of the former St. Louis Hospital, the front entrance to which remains a predominant architectural feature. Its 6 major specialisms are Modern Languages, French Literature, Sport, Law, History and Economics. The university is situated in the town centre, about 5 minutes[ clarification needed ] from the Boulogne Tintelleries railway station.


Public primary and secondary

Private primary and secondary


Two health centres are located in Boulogne, the public Hospital Duchenne and the private Clinique de la côte d'opale.


US Boulogne play their home football matches at the 14,500-seat Stade de la Liberation. Boulogne-sur-Mer Stade de la Liberation (5).jpg
US Boulogne play their home football matches at the 14,500-seat Stade de la Libération.

Boulogne's football club, US Boulogne Côte d'Opale (US refers to Union Sportive), is one of the oldest in France due to the city's proximity to England, founded in 1898. The club currently[ when? ] play in the third tier, the Championnat National, and host home matches at the 14,500-capacity Stade de la Libération. [22] Boulogne native and FIFA World Cup finalist Franck Ribéry began his career at the club. [23]

Basketball teams in Boulogne include Stade Olympique Maritime Boulonnais and ESSM Le Portel of Pro A (first-tier men's professional basketball league in France).



As an international maritime port on the English Channel (La Manche), the town of Boulogne-sur-Mer has European and American influences in local cuisine. They include:

Notable people

Born in Boulogne

Boulogne-born footballer Franck Ribery. Franck Ribery 20120611.jpg
Boulogne-born footballer Franck Ribéry.

Others associated with Boulogne

Baldwin I of Jerusalem, son and brother of Counts of Boulogne, ruled the Holy Land in the 11th century. Baldwin 1 of Jerusalem.jpg
Baldwin I of Jerusalem, son and brother of Counts of Boulogne, ruled the Holy Land in the 11th century.

International relations

Boulogne-sur-Mer is twinned with:

See also

Related Research Articles

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  23. Franck Ribéry – Archived 6 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  24. "British towns twinned with French towns [via]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.

Further reading