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Boulogne is first and foremost a fascinating and important fishing port with a large number of the residents actually making their living from the wealth of the sea. Not only the fishermen themselves, but the restaurateurs who serve fresh produce, and the market stall holders that sell the seafood. For over 2000 years leaders have wanted to include the town in their holdings as a formidable base from which to defend the French boarders and to embark on many attacks, mainly towards Britain but also further afield. As such there is a great deal of history that can still be experienced on any visit to Boulogne by visiting the museums or just walking in the steps of those who been through this captivating town before. Visitors are drawn from across Europe to enjoy this charming French town but it is particularly popular with the British. With activities that will attract the modern generation, to traditional cultural experiences that will be appreciated across the ages, there is something to enchant every visitor to the delights of Boulogne.
The history of Boulogne
The emperor Claudius used Boulogne as the base from which to invade Britain in the 4th century. At this time the name of the town was Bononia. For many years the English and French have fought over this important port, with the English in occupation from 1544 to 1550, when the Peace of Boulogne ended the long running war when the French bought Boulogne back for 400,000 crowns. In 1805, Boulogne was used by Napoleon to gather ‘La Grande Armee’ that were preparing to invade the United Kingdom. A historic year in the towns history was 1944, In June around 300 planes were sent to bomb the harbour following the D-day invasion. The result was that the harbour and all of the surrounding areas were completely destroyed. In August, Adolf Hitler declared it a fortress but in September it was liberated by the 3rd Canadian Division. The town was rebuilt in the 1950’s and 60’s but the buildings did not carry the style that had preceded them. As such the scene that confronts tourists on arrival to Boulogne is not the picturesque image that many expect to find from such a successful French port.
In the 19th century, Boulogne was a popular port of arrival for the British travelling across to Europe from Folkestone. This was the main rival route for Dover to Calais for both travellers and traders but has been abandoned over recent year, however tourists have continued to travel from Calais down to enjoy the delights of Boulogne. In 2005, Boulogne was pleased to once again welcome a year-round ferry route that bought visitors directly to its port. More people were drawn to the area, as students, with the opening of the University of the Côte d'Opale's Boulogne campus in 1991, on the site of the former St. Louis hospital. Local business prospered as students bought increased business with them. Located in the centre of the town, the main entrance to the university is a dominant architectural feature for the area, and is well worth a look. Over recent years, Boulogne has recognised the importance of the tourist trade to its economic welfare and has made significant investments into public spending. Introducing a pedestrianised shopping area, new road links and building restoration. All have provided a positive result on the area.