Caen – City of William the Conqueror
Capital of a region renowned throughout the world, Caen lies only a few kilometres from the English Channel. Due to its geographical position, between land and sea, less than 2 hours from Paris and facing the South Coast of England, Caen is a destination awaiting your discovery.
Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Caen attracts visitors from all over the world who come to discover its Romanesque abbeys, its 11th Century castle and its Memorial Museum. With a good commercial city centre, many welcoming hotels and attractive surrounding districts, Caen is a place where the good life comes easy.
Through the ages the city has retained the splendour and radiance desired by the Duke-King. Following the terrible bombings of 1944 and rising from its ashes like a phoenix (the symbol of its university), Caen has been able to preserve its magnificent architectural heritage which emerged unscathed from World War II.
Enriched with 1000 years of history, the soul of the city is today found nestled in the ancient quarters of its centre and reveals itself to those who take the time to pause there. Narrow streets lined with lively shops, a marina right in the heart of the city and an array of parks and gardens which have long charmed experts, are waiting to welcome you today. Why not stay in one of the many hotels in Caen, or rent a holiday property in the town, or in the surrounding countryside?
Hotels in Caen
Historic Sites around Caen
The Caen Memorial Museum – This peace memorial is a must-see for any visitor to Normandy. It is a moving, emotionally-charged museum, giving you an hour-by-hour account of D-Day. It also recalls the high price paid for Freedom and the fragility of Peace.
New Exhibition from 9th May – Victory! The 65th anniversary of the end of Nazism.
Adult – from €17
Child – under 10 years, Free
Veterans – Free
Caen Castle is one of the largest medieval fortresses of Western Europe and was built by William the Conqueror in around 1060. It is beautifully preserved and gives fantastic views of the city. It houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts with one of the world’s finest collections of European Art and the Musée de Normandie.
The Musée de Normandie provides an excellent and interesting introduction to the history of Caen and of the wider region. The permanent exhibitions cover each of the historic periods from the earliest traces of human activity to the present age. The museum succeeds entirely in its aim of illustrating the life of Normandy through the centuries.
The Jardin des Plantes has been a beautiful botanical haven in Caen for over three centuries. Much more than a quiet and relaxing park, it has been planted as a living museum of the flora of the Normandy region.
5, Place Blot
Tourist Attractions around Caen
The Abbaye-aux-Hommes and the Abbaye-aux-Dames – William the Conqueror and his wife Mathilde built these two beautiful abbeys to atone for the “sin” of their marriage. The Pope had excommunicated them for their marriage because they were distant cousins. Their tombs are located in their respective churches, although William’s coffin and remains were later plundered.
Guided Tours – 2.30pm and 4pm
Opening Hours – 2pm to 5pm
Admission – €2.50
Free for Under 18s
Guided Tours – 9.30am, 11am, 2.30pm, 4pm
The Grand Bunker – Atlantic Wall Museum is a stark reminder of the obstacles which the Allied troops faced as they landed on the Normandy beaches and fought their way inland. The Grand Bunker was the German Headquarters for this stretch of the defences and, now restored, it has become an important museum allowing visitors to see for themselves the scale of the Atlantic Wall.
Avenue du 6 juin, Ouistreham
Adult – €6
Child – €3 (under 12)
The Normandy Beaches are just a stone’s throw away from Caen, and every visitor to the area must surely make their way at least once to one of the most important European sites in modern history. The Beaches are so important that we have created a page especially for them.
Visit the Normandy Beaches Guide
Children's Trail and Parc Festyland
Children’s Trail around Caen – The Caen Tourist Office has produced two booklets full of interesting questions, puzzles and colouring that require the keen eyesight of children between 7 – 14 to find the answers. The two trails which these booklets describe take about 90 minutes to complete.
The Chateau of William the Conqueror
Have fun as you explore Caen
€1 per booklet
Parc Festyland – This theme park is a short drive from Caen and has over 30 attractions to keep the children entertained. The park has a variety of historically themed areas such as Pirates, Vikings and the Middle Ages. Adults €15, Children (under 12) €13. During July and August it is open 7 days, but it does close for some days of the week in other months so check the opening times for any planned visit. – Parc Festyland website
Markets and Shopping
There is a Friday market on the Fossées Saint Julien and a Sunday market at Place Courtonne. Stock up on local specialities such as Calvados and regional cheeses.You can also spend time browsing the variety of shops in the city centre, making sure you take some of the elegance for which France is reputed back home with you.
Why not treat yourself to a meal in one of the high quality restaurants in Caen? There are so many to choose from. Some specialise in traditional French foods, while others provide a more diverse and global menu. Take a look at our selected Restaurants in Caen guide.
Travel to Caen
Ferry Travel to Caen
For Caen, arrive at the Ports of Ouistram, Cherbourg or St Malo with Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth, Plymouth or Poole.
Portsmouth to Cherbourg (five hours crossing)
Portsmouth to Caen-Ouistreham (seven hours crossing)
Portsmouth to Le Havre (six hours crossing)
Rail Travel to Caen
Caen Railway Station, 36 Place Gare, Caen – See map
Car Travel to Caen
Driving from Calais to Caen – approximately 3 1/2 hours