Destination Normandy: Why Not Choose… Caen?
Ideally located between the picturesque Normandy countryside to the south and the charming Côte Fleurie (Flower Coast) to the north, the city of Caen invites you to discover its amazing historical heritage, its beaches... and of course its gastronomy! Come and discover a city that, despite the trauma of World War II, has been able to reinvent itself to deliver a message of peace to the whole world.
From the Middle Ages to the Landings: a City Full of History and Emotion
Start your discovery of Caen by diving deep into the Middle Ages, back to the days of William the Conqueror. A visit to the Château Ducal (Duke’s Castle), with its ramparts, keep and stunning views of the city, is absolutely essential. Within the ramparts, you will find two large museums: the Musée de Normandie (Normandy Museum), which traces the life of the region from prehistoric times to the industrial revolution, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), with its extensive collection of European paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries.
As you leave the park of the château, take a stroll through the bustling and charming Vaugueux district, whose cobbled streets and many newly established restaurants perfectly combine history and joie de vivre. Then take the time to discover the marina and walk along the Quai Vendeuvre next to the Bassin Saint-Pierre.
Marked by World War II, the city of Caen is inseparable from its Peace Memorial, which offers a journey throughout the 20th century. A wonderful message of peace.
Right next to the Memorial, the Colline aux Oiseaux floral park is an immense green space dedicated to peace, inaugurated on the 50th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
Finally, take advantage of your visit to Caen to go to Bayeux, half an hour's drive away, and visit its famous Tapestry Museum. This incredible embroidery measuring 70 m long and 50 cm high offers a unique depiction of medieval Europe.
Top 10 Must-Sees
Château de Caen: built in around 1060 by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England, the Château Ducal is one of Europe’s largest fortified enclosures. The ramparts, Porte des Champs, the vestiges of the great keep, the Hall of the Exchequer and Saint George’s Church are testimony to the glorious past of the Château.
Musée de Normandie: located within the Château Ducal, this museum is the result of archaeological and ethnographic work undertaken after World War II. It houses all the finds made on the site since the excavations carried out in 1944. Migratory flows, conflicts, wars, revolutions... the museum describes the life and the important events that have marked the region of Normandy.
Musée des Beaux-Arts: the fine art museum located in the heart of the Château de Caen, in a contemporary building, houses one of the largest collections of European artwork in France, with some 350 paintings dating from the 14th century to the modern day.
Abbaye aux Hommes: the abbey church, a masterpiece of Norman Romanesque architecture, influenced the construction of abbeys in England, particularly with its three-level elevation and harmonious façade. The chancel, altered during the 13th century in a Gothic style and in perfect harmony with the nave, has housed the tomb of William the Conqueror since 1087.
Abbaye aux Dames: consecrated in 1066 under the name of the Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity), this Benedictine abbey was home to young girls from the Norman aristocracy up until the French Revolution. Over the centuries, the convent gradually deteriorated; at the beginning of the 18th century, the abbess Madame Froulay de Tessé undertook its reconstruction, which took almost a century (1702-1788).
Port de Plaisance: located in the heart of the city centre of Caen, on the Bassin Saint-Pierre, the marina is the ideal stopover to discover the city, its historic districts and its shops. A stone’s throw from Caen’s old town and the Château, this is a haven of peace on a human scale.
Peace Memorial: from the origins of World War II to the end of the Cold War, the visitor displays of the Caen Memorial tell the terrible story of these parts of the 20th century. Initially dedicated to the Battle of Normandy, the museum has since expanded to cover the entire 20th century.
Colline aux Oiseaux Floral Park: a former quarry that became a city landfill from 1923 to 1973, Colline aux Oiseaux has been gradually developed into a landscaped park. Take a stroll through the many themed gardens, including an exceptional rose garden, and discover the animals of the region in the Normandy farm.
Landing Beaches: all along the Normandy coastline, from Cherbourg to Ouistreham via Bayeux, the five landing beaches – Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach – form a circuit that retraces the events of 6 June 1944.
Bayeux Tapestry Museum: the precision and detail of the Bayeux Tapestry provides a unique depiction of medieval Europe. It measures 70 m long by 50 cm high. It first describes Harold’s journey to Normandy with all its adventures, then shows Harold’s return to England and his coronation, and finally the preparation of the expedition organised by William, the crossing of the Channel and the Battle of Hastings.
Noble Produce for Sophisticated Dishes
With its lashings of butter and cream, Normandy cuisine is not known for being diet friendly. But it is precisely this famous produce that gives it all its flavour! Cheeses, especially Camembert, Livarot, Pont-l'Évêque and Neufchâtel, can be found in all good restaurants. And the humble apple, the undisputed queen of the region, comes in a thousand and one delights: alcohol (cider, Calvados, Pommeau), as an accompaniment to meat, and of course in desserts. Another speciality not to be missed: Teurgoule, cinnamon-flavoured baked rice pudding cooked over low heat for hours.
September: Presqu'île en Fête
Exhibition of old ships, sports activities on land and water – children’s regatta, “kayak polo”, introductory sessions – shops and craftsmen on the Quai Vendeuvre, concerts, street art shows and fireworks on the Bassin Saint-Pierre are all part of these port festivities.
September to February: Territoires Rêvés
Since 2016, the Musée des Beaux-Arts and Frac Normandie Caen have created a themed journey from their intertwined collections. Under the title “Territoires Rêvés”, the new exhibition is a collection of 35 works with a special focus on natural and urban landscapes.
October: Nördik Impakt
This electronic and independent culture festival is organised by ArtsAttack!, the association that manages the Le Cargö concert hall. It stands out in particular through the locations used, ranging from an apartment to the biggest halls in Caen to bunkers converted into clubs.
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