Five things not to miss in Caen, Normandy
Life & Style

Five things not to miss in Caen, Normandy

LYING close to the shores of lower Normandy, Caen is a city that was severely destroyed during WWII, yet still exhibits the architectural beauty and cultural offerings that you might desire for a weekend away.

Celebrating 70 years since the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy, it’s a great time to visit the region of Calvados, with plenty of gatherings, shows and events to choose from.

Coupled with the introduction of Flybe’s new flight route from London’s Southend Airport, Caen is a very convenient destination that’s located only an hour across the English Channel.

The city boasts an array of Gothic-designed buildings and tempting French cuisine, and by strolling along the cobbled streets of Calvados’ capital you’ll also see evidence of the scars left behind by the city’s historical battles.

There’s so much to do and see in the city, so here are the top five attractions that you shouldn’t miss…


1. William’s Castle

A picturesque way to spend the afternoon or even the early evening is to visit William’s Castle. Fascinatingly, it was only discovered in 1944 after the houses that originally stood around it were bombed. It has spacious grounds at the foot of the castle’s hill, where you can have a picnic or relax after an exhausting day of sightseeing.

You can also walk up the path towards the entrance of the castle, where you’ll find even more lush greenery to enjoy. If you head all the way to the top there's a viewing area where you’ll be find magnificent panoramic views of the entire city; it’s well worth climbing and provides a romantic setting at sunset.

During the day there are also several museums to visit within the ramparts of the castle, and could be useful shelter if the weather turns.


caen memorial-n The Caen Memorial contains interesting and in depth exhibitions that explain world wars since 1918

2. Caen Memorial

This lies on the outskirts of the town and was constructed as a memorial to peace, explained through themed exhibitions on world conflicts since 1918. You could spend a day wondering chronologically through the museum and its dedicated spaces to pre and post 1945.

As part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the D-Day landings, an underground bunker was added as a new attraction. On the first floor there is also a D-Day room that explains the contribution of each country that was involved in the landings and the Battle of Normandy.

The 100 Photos Exhibition showcasing the ‘Shots of War’ by former soldier Tony Vaccaro provides a fantastic insight into events at the height of WWII, with vivid and powerful images bringing to life the moment the German soldiers surrendered. (


mens abbey caen-n The Men's Abbey is surrounded by stunning gardens and contains magnificent courtyards where you could spend a few hours

3. Abbaye aux Hommes

The ‘Men’s Abbey’ was founded by William of Normandy in 1063. It’s beset with beautiful gardens that lie before the grand entrance of the abbey, recreated to reflect how it would have looked in the 18th century.

Along with the grandeur of the abbey’s Norman Romanesque architecture, it’s the story of William’s desire to marry his fifth cousin Matilda of Flanders that drove him to construct the building in an act of redemption that makes the visit all the more symbolic.

You could spend a few hours here enjoying the magnificent courtyards within the abbey, viewing some of the paintings that were spared during the war when the compound was used as a hospital, and visiting William’s grave in the chancel.


cathedral bayeux-n The stained-glass windows in the Cathedral in Bayeux are a great attraction

4. Walking tour of Bayeux

This medieval town is located approximately 15-20 minutes from Caen by car. The best way to enjoy the architecture of the Old Town is to follow the self-guided tourist trail that is marked across the area with information panels.

Visit the beautiful Gothic Cathedral, learn about contemporary history at the Battle of Normandy Memorial and take a 20-minute audio tour of the Bayeux Tapestry (

If you want to try a unique way of touring Bayeux, you could take a horse-drawn carriage or board the little train, ‘p’tit train’, that takes you passed the notable landmarks and gives you a great overview of the city. (

caen restauant-n Le Volet Qui Penche is located by the river and is a great place to try the local produce

Dine at: Le Volet Qui Penche –This restaurant lies beside the River Aure and it really is a great find. It offers intimate and authentic dining and you can request to sit at the back by the windows overlooking the river. You can either pop in just to try the local pear cider, or visit the restaurant for dinner and sample something from the daily changing menu of locally sourced produce. (

Stay at: Villa Lara (4 star) is a relatively new hotel, and boasts 28 rooms that each offer fantastic views of the cathedral. (


5. British War Cemetry, Bayeux

This is the largest of the 18 Commonwealth military cemeteries in Normandy and contains the graves of 4144 Commonwealth soldiers  who died during World War II, including many Irish Guards who are also buried here.

If you walk through the peaceful grounds you’ll come across a Memorial that has been erected in memory of those who fought to liberate Europe, and written on the front in Latin, it explains how in 1944, the British came to free the homeland of William the Conqueror.  ([email protected])


For film fans: If you travel to the region of Calvados between 5 – 14 September, you’ll be visiting right when the 40th American Film Festival also descends on Deauville. The festival showcases the greatest treasures of American film-making, and you might get lucky and catch a glimpse of a few Hollywood names!

For more information visit (