Montreuil-sur-Mer is a lovely old town with a fortified citadel, old streets, good hotels, restaurants, and wonderful surrounding countryside. Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Calais (about an hour's drive), it's easy to reach from the U.K. It's also only a two-hour drive from Paris, and is accessible by train. So it makes a perfect short break. And to round it all off, Montreuil is a good base to explore more of Nord Pas-de-Calais and cities like Arras.
- Population 2,133
- Les Hauts de France Region (formerly Nord Pas-de-Calais Picardie)
- Department: Pas-de-Calais (62)
Tourist Office 11-13 Rue Pierre Ledent, 62170 Montreuil, France—Check with the tourist office for additional local information.
How to Get There
By car—Montreuil-sur-Mer is southeast of Le Touquet Paris-Plage on the D901 between Le Touquet Paris-Plage and Hesdin.
- From the UK—take the Dover-Calais ferry, then the A16 to Boulogne. Exit at junction 28 onto the D901 directly to Montreuil.
- From Paris—take the A16 to Boulogne and exit at junction 25 for the D901 to Montreuil (210 kilometers/130 miles, taking around two hours).
By train—From Calais-Ville, take the TER service to Boulogne-Ville. Take the TER Line 14 towards Arras for Montreuil-sur-Mer stations, which is a few minutes' walk to the ramparts.
A Fascinating History
In the 10th century, Montreuil was the only seaport owned by the King. Located on the coast, it became a wealthy port shipping cloth, grain, and wine for northern Europe.
In the 13th century, Philippe Auguste built a château here, though now only the ruins remain within the Citadel. During the 15th century, the river silted up, which left the former port high and dry 15 kilometers inland.
Montreuil-sur-Mer became an equally important stop for pilgrims. During the Middle Ages, monks from Brittany kept the relics of their founder, St. Guenole, here. The pilgrims brought fame and wealth to the city.
It remained a vital defense against the Spanish who ruled the nearby Artois and Flanders region but finally succumbed in 1527. Then in the 17th century, Louis XIV brought in his prolific engineer and fort builder, Vauban, who added to the fortifications.
But this was the end of its strategic importance, and it remained a sleepy small town, untouched by modern developments, leaving it a peaceful place to visit today.
In 1837, Victor Hugo stopped in Montreuil on his way back to Paris and so liked the town that he based some of the action in Les Misérables here. Jean Valjean becomes Mayor of Montreuil; the Hôtel de France is still here, and the runaway cart that crushed an onlooker was witnessed by the author. You can see Les Misérables in July and August at a wonderful two-hour son-et-lumière show based on the novel.
Where to Stay
There's plenty of good accommodations in Montreuil-sur-Mer, with the Château de Montreuil the top choice for many. There are also some good alternatives just outside the town.
Attractions in Montreuil-sur-Mer
Walking the old streets is one of the pleasures of Montreuil and going past the former great townhouses built by aristocrats as country retreats during the 18th century. Don’t miss L’Hôtel Acary de la Rivière (1810) in Parvis Saint Firmin, and L’Hôtel de Longvilliers (1752) in Rue de la Chaîne.
The Tourist Office organizes various guided tours.
Open—March, October, and November: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. April to September: 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission—Adults 4 euros, children 2 euros. Built-in 1585, the Citadel (La Citadelle) was the main defense of the town. You enter the complex through a brick gateway and can then wander around the towers, chapel, remains of the 13th-century castle, and ramparts. An exhibition in the vaulted cellars of the main tower shows Montreuil’s involvement during World War I and is well worth a visit (the steps are narrow down to the cellars).
Le Musee de France Roger Rodier
Open—March, November, December: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. April to September: 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission—Adult 3 euros, children 1.50 euros. The place to go to see the influence of the church and its importance on the town in a rich collection of sacred treasures. There are also paintings of the town and surrounding countryside from the Etaples School of Painting.
St. Saulve Abbey
Visit this 12th-century church built on the site of a monastery for the ecclesiastical treasures from the 13th to the 17th centuries that are kept here. The organ, built-in 1806, is an imposing sight, as are the remarkable 18th-century paintings in the Notre Dame Chapel.
Where to Eat
The Château de Montreuil is the best place for a top meal with the Michelin-starred owner/chef. The restaurant is pretty with views out to the garden. Menus from 28 euros (lunch) and a 3-course a la carte meal is 78 euros. A real treat and well worth the price.
Check out the other good restaurants in Montreuil.
- Vinophile 2 Rue du Grand Sermon—Very good selection of wines, spirits, and Champagnes as well as kitchenware and foods like foie gras in their delicatessen.
- Fromagerie Caseus 28 Place du Général de Gaulle—Specializing in the cheeses of northern France, this is a wonderful shop with a knowledgeable staff, and they will vacuum pack cheeses if you’re traveling.
- Pierru Laurent 14 Rue Pierre Ledent—An Artisan chocolate maker and patissier where you can find a selection of top chocolates that make great gifts.