Rich in history and firm in character, welcome to Caen, the rare jewel of Normandy. After Rouen and Le Havre, this beautiful city is the third-largest in Normandy. William the Conqueror founded Caen in the 11th-Century and has since witnessed some significant events in history.
Its historical portfolio includes the Battle for Caen in World War 2 and the siege by King Edward III in the 100 Years’ War, among others. When you visit, you will find an impressive range of iconic monuments and sites marking the city’s lush history. With museums, abbeys, and churches.
Below Are Some Interesting Things to Do When you Visit Caen:
See Beautiful Art at Mémorial de Caen
Established in 1988, this place sits on an underground bunker from which Wilhelm Richter, the German general, designed the defense mechanism of Normandy’s beaches on the famous D-Day. Visitors can walk through the 70-meter-long tunnel and then proceed to bigger World War 2 exhibits.
This place tags itself as a “museum for peace”, with a concise message of hope. The galleries chronicle the build-up to the armed struggle, the French occupation, holocaust, and then the after-war period. Visitors will also find newer exhibitions on the Cold War, with artifacts like a piece of the Berlin Wall and an East German Trabant vehicle.
It is noteworthy that the Mémorial de Caen was opened on the 44th anniversary of D-Day. The memorial, which commemorates the horrid events that happened in World War 2, also doubles as a war museum. On June 6, every year, the museum organizes a commemoration service in the gardens to respect the fallen Allied soldiers and Resistance fighters. It is located at Esplanade Général Eisenhower, Caen.
Marvel at the Glory of Abbey of Sainte-Trinité
The Abbey of Sainte-Trinité is a Norman Romanesque monastery that was founded by Matilda of Flanders in the middle of the 11th-century. She was the wife of William the Conqueror, and her tomb is in the church. A simple black stone marks it with Latin writings done at the time of her death. This is unlike her husband’s tomb at the city’s Abbaye aux Hommes, which is frequently updated.
The abbey’s church happens to be the sole part that is open to visitors. Get close to the sculpted capitals in the choir; one of the displays William the Conqueror handling two lions on leashes, tokens of his efforts during the first crusade.
Meet Royalty at Château de Caen
Right at the city center is the Château de Caen, hemmed by modern after-war architecture built-in 1060 by William the Conqueror. The castle was used as a place of assembly for Norman Dukes and English Kings and was a significant English citadel during the Hundred Years’ War.
In the course of World War 2, Château de Caen was also deployed as barracks. This explains why it took heavy hits during the war. Michel de Boüard, a Caen native, decided to rebuild the Château de Caen in 1946. Efforts were made to restore the castle’s glory and display the city’s history and heritage.
Visitors not only come to sightsee at the castle, but they also relax and have fun with its museums, café, and large lawns too. The castle is located at Caen, 140000.
Visit the Great Abbaye aux Hommes
Another of William the Conqueror’s mark on Caen is the architectural masterpiece, the Abbaye aux Hommes. Also dubbed the Abbey of Saint- Etienne, the church which was built in 1066 used to be a Benedictine monastery.
Now, the church serves as part of Caen’s city hall and hosts the former Duke of Normandy and King of England William’s grave. Made with the city’s stone, a Jurassic limestone, the church is the prime of Romanesque architecture, which further influenced English Abbeys.
The buildings here are gothic in that they remain unscathed despite the French Revolution and World War Two. Visitors also often check out the Abbaye aux Dames when they visit the splendid Abbaye aux Hommes. The Abbaye aux Dames is just 2 km away from where Matilda of Flanders rests. It is located in Esplanade Jean-Marie Louvel, Caen.
Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen
About 350 works are displayed in the Castle of Caen, the city’s fine arts repository prompting you on an extraordinary journey of discovery through 14th-century French and European art to the present time.
With works by Nicolas Poussin and Rubens and Tintoretto and Veronese, the galleries at Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen (Museum of Fine Arts of Caen) are well furnished. Art enthusiasts will find this museum particularly interesting, especially students of romanticism and realism. Visitors will also see a nouveau contemporary wing and sculpture garden with pieces by Huang Yong Ping and Antoine Bourdelle.
With the museum’s permanent collection, temporary exhibitions and artist ateliers are also organized. Visitors can purchase tickets at the entrance. It is located at Le Chateau, Caen 14000.
Go Cultural at Musée de Normandie
Located within Château de Caen is this impressive museum, also known as the Museum of Normandy. This art repository centers on the area’s history and culture and displays ethnological and archeological assemblages.
Musée de Normandie takes visitors through a timeline of the area, from its Gallic roots to the Romans and further, through temporary and permanent exhibitions. Visitors will find 7,500year-old ceramics in the prehistory area of the museum. Another thing to discover in the section is arrowheads and tools from a pace in Vierville and Neolithic burial materials uncovered in Ecajeul.
At classical history, the area is the Mother Goddess of Saint-Aubin-Sur Mer exhibit. This is a massive and delicately carved Roman sculpture uncovered in 1943 in a well. Visitors can also learn more about how in the 10th-century, the Vikings made their way to Normandy and the traditional Norman costume with savoir-faire and interesting exhibits on cheese-making and cider.
See the Magnificent Église Saint-Pierre
The city’s grotesque and renaissance church is recognized by its flying spire, 76 m in high and fixed after a devastating blow in World War Two. The church was built in many stages from the 13th-century to the 16th-century.
At Église Saint-Pierre’s north end is a rose window known for luminesces of its stonework. When you step inside, take time to discover the brilliant grotesque vault in the choir and the late-gothic mobile chapels.
Walk in the Timber-Framed Houses
A reason why there are less timber-framed houses in the city as other French medieval cities owing to an event that occurred in the 6th-century. In 1524, the Norman Parliament prohibited the timber-framed style of construction because it was deemed a fire hazard.
However, there are just two examples visitors will see, and they are both big: Maison des Quatrans is close to the church of Saint-Pierre. It is Caen’s oldest house and was built by a wealthy tanner.
At 5 and 54, Rue Saint-Pierre are four-story 1400s colombage houses, and they are supported by high street shops but with terrific timber carvings.
Be Amazed by La Colline aux Oiseaux
Translated to ‘Bird Hill’, Colline aux Oiseaux is a fantastic park well-groomed in the northwest of Caen. This park climbs up a hill, giving ravishing views of the city. Visitors will see the features of the park-like an animal farm, labyrinth, and a rose garden.
The landscapers they will see have a natural approach to tendering the gardens, with the use of organic mulch and ladybugs to combatant aphids. La Colline aux Oiseaux is near the Caen Memorial, and as such, it is the idyllic destination to wander or enjoy a meal after the visit.
Families and couples will particularly like La Colline aux Oiseaux. The park is located at Avenue de l’Amiral Mountbatten.
Love Nature at Jardin des Plantes
Another thing worth doing in the interesting city of Caen is to visit the Jardin des Plantes. This botanical garden is a delight to lovers of flowers and plants. In the garden’s plethora of features are 8,000 plant species which are planted in 5000 square meters of plots, arboretum, medicinal garden, and many other horticultural collections, all delicately arranged.
The initial glass greenhouses and iron were unfortunately misplaced in the war but replaced in 1988. In the garden’s upper section is a tree park where visitors will see a Japanese pagoda tree that dates back to 1750.
Shop Into the Vauguex District
This place is a small but enchanting pedestrian-only district that is marked with shops and restaurants. The Vauguex District endured the war much to many people’s surprise. In fact, it is among the very few remaining parts of Caen that look like the city before 1944.
Relax at Riva Bella Beach
For visitors looking to have a feel of natural features in the summer sun, the Riva Bella Beach is their best bet in Caen. The city’s closeness to the Channel means you can enjoy the beach. Summer is the period to get the beach gears ready. Riva Bella is just about 20 km away, and it attracts visitors from all parts of the country.
With sunbathers hoping to relax are outdoor activity lovers who are kayaking, sailing, boat surfing, etc. And if you are not big on water sports, there are non-water-based activities. Things like horseback riding, beach volleyball, bicycle rentals, and mini-golf. The trail along the coast makes for a great bike riding for professional and amateur riders.
Experience the Caen-ish culinary Excellency
After a busy day of touristy discoveries, it is only ideal for relaxing with a fantastic treat of local Caen delicacies. Tripes a la mode de Caen, prepared with the four parts of a cow’s trotter and stomach.
Apples are definitely used to brew the area’ popular cider, with the apple brandy Calvados. At a restaurant, you can order a grignette alongside wine as you immerse your sight in the amazing scenery of the city.
Things To Do In Caen – Summary
Do not forget for a second that you are in France, regardless of which city you are in. In Caen, there are lots of things to see and do when you visit. As you prepare to visit, prepare to be thrilled because you will be.