The city of Caen near the coast of the English Channel is one that has always attracted a lot of visitors. Located in the region of Normandy, the city is one that is surrounded by history.
From William the Conqueror to WWII, the area is filled with the sights and sounds of the past. It is also one that is known for its food and local specialties and culture that is specific to this region.
If you are looking at Caen as a place to base yourself while you travel around the area, you won’t be disappointed. So let’s have a look at the top places to visit on a day trip from Caen, shall we? Allons-y!
1. D-Day beaches
There is a lot to see in Normandy, but will likely want to pay your respects to the soldiers who fought so bravely on D-Day, a day trip from Paris is quite do-able.
There are many cemeteries, monuments, and museums dedicated to the lives of those soldiers and those living in France at the time. A somber journey, but one that is worth the trip.
One the closest beaches to Caen that Americans will want to visit is Omaha beach which is about a 40 minute drive away.
It is estimated that 34,000 American and Allied soldiers landed here on June 6th, 1944. Between 2,000 – 5,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or were deemed missing along this stretch of Normandy coastline.
You can read more about visiting the D-day beaches here, as well as see tour options to visit the D-day beaches, the Allied cemeteries and more here.
One of the most charming cities in Normandy has to be the small town of Bayeux, about 30 minutes drive away from Caen. With a charming cobblestone streets, small canals, and an impressive gothic cathedral, it is a town where you get a real sense of French history.
It is perhaps most famous for its Bayeux tapestry, an exquisitely stitched medieval tapestry that tells the story of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England in 1066. The tapestry can be viewed in the Bayeux Tapestry museum.
At the local tourist office, you can get a walking tour guide of the old town of Bayeux. The old town is pretty easy to navigate, with markers on the ground and knowledge panels along the way.
The guide will help you find the key landmarks like the Bayeux Tapestry Museum and the Bayeux Cathedral. You can read more about visiting Bayeux here.
The city of Rouen is famous for its large square with many restaurants terraces and shops, with several buildings in that traditional Normand colombage style.
But what really put Rouen on the map, when it comes to tourism in France, is a young girl named Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc). As a young girl, she said she received visions of the archangel Michael instructing her to support the French King Charles VII from the English.
The French King sent Joan on a series of battles, during which Joan was able to lead the French army to victory. However, she was later captured and burned at the stake on 30 May 1431 here in Rouen.
Along with the Rouen Cathedral being one of the most beautiful cathedrals in France, the city is also famous for the Gros Horloge or “Large Clock” which is a complex outdoor astronomical clock and belfry, that was made in the 14th century.
It is a stunningly beautiful city, with a medieval center that feels like you have stepped back in time. It is about 1h30 minutes away from Caen. You can read more about visiting Rouen here.
One of the most beautiful and unique sights in the world, Mont Saint Michel is a vision to behold. Legend has it that the archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert of Avranches in 708 and instructed him to build a church on a large rock.
Surrounded by marshland, it turns the UNESCO World heritage site into an island when the tide comes in. The Abbey of Mont Saint Michel only has 7 monks living there these days, but it is still one of the most spectacular churches in France.
The stunningly beautiful fortress city of Saint-Malo is located in Brittany, on the Atlantic coast of western France. It is about a 2 hour drive from the city of Caen.
Saint-Malo is a seaside town with expansively large beaches, but only when the tide goes out.
Saint-Malo has always been most famous for its ocean tides that go out for miles and miles during low tide, and then come right up to the city walls at high tide.
On April 20, 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier set sail from his hometown of Saint-Malo under a commission from King François I. It was the start of the French colonial expansion, and settlement of lands in the Americas.
Since the mid 19th century, Deauville has been regarded as one of the most prestigious seaside towns in all of France.
As the closest seaside resort to Paris, the town on the Côte Fleurie has long been home to French high society’s homes by the seaside, often referred to as the “Parisian riviera”.
In the early 20th century, the Barrière Hotel Group built two 5-star hotels along with one of the largest casinos in Europe, putting the town of Deauville firmly on the map with the European jet set. You can read more about visiting Deauville here.
The capital of Brittany, Rennes’s history predates the Roman empire. About 2 hours away from Caen, Rennes was a small Gallic village, with Celtic origins as early as 2BC. Those Celtic origins continue to be heard in names of places and people in Bretagne.
The city is famous for being the seat of the Breton Parliament was established in 1485 under the Duchy of Brittany, which Anne of Bretagne fought for and managed to negotiate.
These days the city of Rennes is considered a hidden gem in France, one that voted one of the top places to live in France by a national newspaper.
The heart of the city, this large square holds many restaurants and bars. But probably one of my favorite things to do in Rennes is to visit one of the biggest producers’ market in France, the Marché des Lices. You can read more about visiting Rennes here.
The seaside town of Honfleur is located on the Atlantic coast as well as the mouth of the Seine river, about an hour away from Caen.
With its historic old port sending sailors across the ocean way for centuries, this historic city has now started attracting a different type of sea-lover: the beachgoer.
The historic old town of Honfleur is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its wonderful skyline and delicious Norman specialties. There are also several beaches nearby like the Plage du Butin and Saint-Laurent-sur-mer. You can read more about visiting Honfleur here.
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about the best coastal cities in France. A bientôt!