An Interesting Weekend Plan in Caen, Normandy’s Sweetheart


Updated On: November 09, 2023 by   Yasmin ElwanYasmin Elwan

Yes, Paris is lovely, but have you seen Caen? France never disappoints when it comes to charm, and Caen is great proof of that. This city’s interesting past, which can be traced back to the 10th century, makes it an essential destination for every avid history buff. With its stunning architecture and scenic surroundings, Caen is a true gem of the region of Normandy. 

The city of Caen is a fascinating blend of modernity and history, having bravely weathered the destruction of war and emerged even stronger. It’s actually the city that William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda once called home and is also the final resting place for both of them. The noble Romanesque abbeys in Caen are a testament to their legacy before the Norman Conquest of England.

Where is Caen Located? And What are the Best Ways to Reach It?

Perfectly situated in the heart of Normandy, 200 km northwest of Paris, Caen is a prime location for exploring the region’s most popular attractions. Just a short drive away, visitors can discover the historic Bayeux and its world-renowned tapestry, as well as the D-Day Landings Beaches that played a pivotal role in World War II.

For those seeking a taste of the region’s culinary delights, the picturesque Pays d’Auge is a destination that should not be missed, known for its delectable cider and cheese. With so much to see and do in the surrounding area, Caen is the perfect base for your Normandy adventure.

Located just two hours away from Paris by train, Caen is a city that can be easily reached in multiple convenient ways. Additionally, the city is only a short 15-minute drive from the cross-Channel port of Ouistreham, which provides regular ferry trips to Portsmouth in the UK. If you’re planning a trip to the enticing city, you’ll be pleased to know that it also has its own airport located in the nearby town of Carpiquet. 

Caen will allow you to experience the ultimate seaside adventure with a lot of scenic beaches and charming towns within reach. Indulge in traditional seaside activities and immerse yourself in the local culture for an unforgettable vacation. 

On top of all of that, Caen’s Bassin Saint-Pierre, located in the centre of the city, is a must-see for sailing lovers. This stunning marina offers a unique opportunity to explore the town’s scenic beauty while enjoying a leisurely boat ride.

How to Enjoy Your Visit to Caen: the Top Attractions of the City

In fact, Caen offers a plethora of exciting sightseeing options for you to explore! This city’s stunning landmarks and rich history have captivated people from all corners of the globe.

An Interesting Weekend Plan in Caen, Normandy's Sweetheart

The Memorial of Caen

The Mémorial de Caen is a must-see for any history lover or anybody interested in learning more about the events that influenced the 20th century. Situated near the beautiful D-Day Landing beaches, this site offers a unique, immersive experience that will transport you back to the Battle of Normandy.

The place features museum exhibits tracing the gloomy chapters of the twentieth century, from the start of World War II to the conclusion of the Cold War. Explore the trail like never before with the guided tours that delve deep into the history of World War II. Enhance your experience by taking a guided tour of the historic D-Day Landing beaches or exploring the charming city of Caen on a guided city tour.

The Memorial of Caen An Interesting Weekend Plan in Caen

Abbey of Sainte-Trinité

Formerly a women-only convent, the Abbey of Sainte-Trinité (the Holy Trinity) also goes by the name Abbaye aux Dames. Both the Abbaye aux Hommes (‘Men’s Abbey’) and the Abbaye aux Dames (‘Women’s Abbey’), formerly the Abbey of Saint-Étienne, were built as Benedictine monasteries in the late 11th century. 

As you approach the entrance of this majestic structure, your eyes will be drawn to the impressive towers flanking the façade. These towers serve as a grand entrance to the aisles beyond, beckoning you to explore the wonders that lie within. The central bay’s pediment mirrors the stunning design of the nave roof. The central portal’s tympanum features images of the Holy Trinity and the four symbolic beasts of the Apocalypse.

The construction of this magnificent building began all the way back in 1062. It took nearly 70 years to complete, with work starting from the rear and finishing in 1130. When Matilda passed away in 1083, she was buried beneath a slab of black marble in the choir.

Abbey of Sainte-Trinité An Interesting Weekend Plan in Caen

Château de Caen

Caen’s fortress, constructed by William the Conqueror in 1160, has stood as a massive landmark in the Middle Ages; even now, the park where the donjon and numerous buildings formerly stood gives visitors a good idea of the site’s immensity. The relics of William’s residence, along with the towering walls and two impressive gatehouses, still stand as stunning fragments of history.

Step back in time to the 1400s and explore the remarkable defences that were used during the Hundred Years’ War. From the ramparts, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking view of Caen that will leave you in awe. With its expansive grounds, two museums, and cafe, it is currently a popular gathering spot for Caen residents.

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen

Discover the rich history of French and European art at the Château de Caen’s fine arts museum. With a collection of 350 works spanning from the 1300s to the present day, visitors are taken on a journey of artistic exploration. Marvel at the stunning pieces on display and immerse yourself in the beauty of the art world.

The 19th-century French art scene was a treasure trove of masterpieces by big shots like Delacroix, Boudin, and Courbet, allowing one to delve deep into art’s fascinating and inspiring history. 

Delacroix’s masterpieces are a treat for the eye for those who love the romanticism movement, whereas Boudin’s landscape paintings are a sight for sore eyes for those who appreciate the beauty of French landscapes. On the other hand, the paintings of Courbet provide a glimpse into the works of the realism movement. 

You can’t leave the place without checking out the latest addition to the museum’s premises: the modern wing and the picturesque sculpture garden adorned with masterpieces by renowned artists such as Antoine Bourdelle and Huang Yong Ping.

The Normandy Museum

The Normandy Museum

The Normandy Museum (Musée de Normandie), located within the magnificent Château, boasts an impressive collection of archaeological and ethnological artefacts that offer a glimpse into the region’s fascinating past. With its captivating exhibits, you will get a deeper understanding of the unique heritage of Normandy. 

From its Gallic roots to the Romans and beyond, the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibits take visitors on a journey through time. In the prehistory section, you can feast your eyes on ceramics as old as Methuselah, along with tools and arrowheads found at a site in Vierville. Not to mention you can also find Neolithic burial items that were discovered in Ecajeul.

The museum also has a classical history section where you can admire The Mother Goddess of Saint-Aubin-Sur Mer, a massive and skillfully carved Roman sculpture found in a well in 1943. You will also love the exciting displays on the evolution of cider and cheesemaking that provide more insight into the 10th-century Viking settlement of Normandy, as well as mediaeval Norman dress and customs.

La Colline aux Oiseaux

La Colline aux Oiseaux

It’s time to unwind in La Colline aux Oiseaux, a breathtaking floral park spanning over 17 hectares right in the heart of Caen. What was once a city dump is now a beautiful oasis dedicated to peace, making this green space a true success story. 

The Colline aux Oiseaux park in Caen is a remarkable tribute to the historic D-Day Landings, created on its 50th anniversary. Explore a variety of enchanting gardens at the park, including an enjoyable boxwood and yew maze, vibrant perennial plants, and experimental floral gardens bursting with colour and fragrance. 

You don’t want to miss the breathtaking beauty of the rose garden, featuring a stunning collection of over 15,000 roses and 570 varieties which range from the Middle Ages to the present day. That’s not everything—the mini-golf course and the charming Terrasse tearoom and restaurant give you more reasons to head to the park for a relaxing break. 

Jardin des Plantes

Jardin des Plantes

The 8,000 plant varieties at Caen’s botanical garden, spread out across 5,000 square metres of tranquil plots, are an additional incentive to visit the city on a sunny day. This jaw-dropping garden also features a greenhouse, a medicinal garden, and other horticultural collections.

The old iron and glass greenhouses were tragically destroyed during the war, but in 1988 they were replaced with an exotic greenhouse housing a nationally-recognised collection of Rhipsalis cacti, peperomia succulents, and sansevierias, all of which are indigenous to southern Asia and Africa. Up yonder in the gardens lies a picturesque tree park where you can find a Japanese pagoda tree that’s been around since 1750 and a redwood planted way back in 1890.

Where to Eat

After a long day of touring, your stomach must be growling. The happy news is you are in France! This means that your taste buds are going to be in heaven. Here’s where you can eat when you are in Caen:

A Contre Sens

A Contre Sens

Just a stone’s throw from the château, you’ll find a stunning and classy eatery, A Contre Sens. The Michelin-starred restaurant owned by Chef Anthony Caillot and his wife Cindy is known for its delectable dishes that put a contemporary spin on classic recipes.

Step into a charming world of stone walls, comfortable purple chairs, and art-adorned walls. Here, foodies with a discerning palate can indulge in seasonal delicacies like succulent fish cooked to perfection in salted butter, served with a medley of vegetables, spices, and a foamy broth. And if that’s not enough to tantalise your taste buds, the pork on the bone, rubbed with a blend of spices and served with parsnips and onions, will surely leave you craving more. 

You can’t leave the restaurant without trying the irresistible desserts, including the mouth-watering hazelnut cake topped with creamy chestnut frosting. 

The restaurant’s doors are open for hungry guests Wednesday–Saturday from 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM to 11:30 PM. Looking to dine out on a Tuesday? Make sure to plan for the evening, as this restaurant only opens its doors from 6:00 PM to 11:30 PM. And if you’re hoping to visit on the weekend, keep in mind that they take both Saturday and Sunday off. 

Le Bistrot Saint Michel

Le Bistrot Saint Michel

Diners may enjoy a contemporary take on all their favourite French classics in a sleek, grey and raspberry-coloured setting that specialises in traditional food with a modern twist at Le Bistrot Saint Michel. This outstanding restaurant serves only the highest quality fare to its patrons; thus, the chef uses only the freshest, in-season ingredients. 

Green lentils with poached egg and chorizo, lamb chops with crushed parsnips, turbot with a white wine sauce, and the fish of the day are just some of the delicious alternatives available to visitors in a vibrant yet peaceful ambience accompanied by classical or jazz music. Don’t forget to save room for a sweet treat like fruit, chocolate, or cheese after dinner.

You can satisfy your cravings at Le Bistrot Saint Michel with its delectable lunch offerings every Sunday from noon to 2 PM. For dinner, the restaurant is open from 7 PM to 10 PM every Monday through Saturday. Wednesday and Thursday are the days when it takes a break and closes its doors.

Crêperie L’Avalou

Crêperie L'Avalou

It would be a crime not to taste the excellent crêpes at Crêperie L’Avalou in Caen while in France. Buckwheat flour is the secret ingredient behind the salivating crêpes that you simply can’t resist. These crêpes are not only delicious but also gluten-free, making them a perfect treat for everyone to enjoy. In this cosy eatery, reminiscent of a bistro in the French countryside, guests can enjoy both savoury and sweet options. 

The crêperie uses only the freshest ingredients, including organic eggs, and serves a variety of delectable dishes. Some examples include the Casamance, which comes with chicken, yams, and peanuts; the Vénitienne, which has gorgonzola cheese, Italian ham, and grains; and the Pasta, which features a crêpe (or galette) shaped like fettuccine and topped with smoked salmon, Provencal cream, and sesame.

Where to Stay in Caen

When it comes to accommodation, people’s preferences vary; some travellers look for luxury despite the price, while others prefer budget-friendly options. Whatever standards you have for accommodation, you will find what you want in Caen.

Campanile Caen Centre Gare

Campanile Caen Centre Gare

Campanile Caen Centre Gare is conveniently located near Caen Train Station, the city’s historic district, the Orne Quay, and the port. The hotel is located 18 km from the beach, the seaside towns, and ferry terminals to England. Exploring Caen and its surroundings is a breeze from this perfectly located spot.

Guests are welcome to experience the ultimate comfort at Campanile Caen Centre Gare, where every inch of the hotel has been modified with a fantastic renovation. Stay cool and refreshed with their fully air-conditioned rooms. In addition, the hotel offers a variety of amenities to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable, leaving you feeling delighted. 

Indulge in a luxurious stay with their top-notch amenities, including complimentary WiFi, modern-styled family rooms, smoke-free rooms, private parking, accessible facilities for guests with disabilities, 24h front desk service, excellent room service, tea/coffee makers in every room, a cosy bar and a delicious breakfast buffet that will leave you wanting more.

Best Western Plus Le Moderne

The Best Western Plus Le Moderne is a smoke-free hotel conveniently located in the heart of Caen, only 1.5 km from the railway station and 6 km from Carpiquet Airport. The Caen Abbeys are a 5-minute stroll from the hotel, while the Château Ducal is only a 2-minute stroll away.

An Interesting Weekend Plan in Caen, Normandy's Sweetheart

You may adjust the temperature to your liking in each room of the Best Western Plus Le Moderne. Each room has its own private bathroom and is fully insulated against outside noise. The stunning, unique decorations of the rooms are one of the reasons why this hotel stands out.

Every morning, a tasty buffet breakfast will be waiting for you on the first floor in the cosy breakfast room. Within just a short 3-minute stroll from the hotel, you’ll find a delightful array of traditional restaurants and enticing pizzerias. If you are looking for some retail therapy or a fun night out, you will be pleased to know that charming bars and shops are nearby.

While the area in front of the hotel is pedestrian-only, visitors can still drop their bags here before finding parking elsewhere. Public parking is located about a minute away at Parking Republique, and private parking is offered onsite for a fee and upon arrangement.

Ace Hôtel Caen Nord Mémorial

Ace Hôtel Caen Nord Mémorial

If you’re looking for a hotel in Caen that allows pets, consider the Ace Hôtel Caen Nord Mémorial. Onsite private parking is free, and free WiFi is accessible throughout the whole building. The Ace Hôtel Caen Nord Mémorial is ideally located between the Memorial of Caen (just 1.1 km away) and the Botanical Garden of Caen (2.4 km away). 

The property boasts a round-the-clock front desk, always ready to lend a helping hand. Guests can enjoy their favourite shows on a sleek flat-screen TV in every room. Furthermore, you can enjoy the luxury of your own personal bathroom in every room. You’ll be sitting pretty with complimentary toiletries and a hair dryer at your fingertips. 

France is full of captivating cities, including the underrated Caen. The city is home to plenty of amazing attractions that tell an interesting tale of a long history. Foodies will also appreciate Caen’s culinary offerings. So, make sure to include this special city on your itinerary if you are going to France. Need more inspiration on what you can do in France? You should check out Connolly Cove’s recommendations: Paris: The Best City Break in France | 7 Top Places To Visit In The Stunning Lorraine, France!

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