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Caen France Normandy Caen

Caen France

William the Conqueror founded Caen in the 11th century. Tragically the only remnants from that era to survive WWII are the ramparts of the castle and the two abbeys. The local limestone was used to build the medieval town and this can be seen in the spires and buttresses of the abbeys. In the centre of Caen are a number of pedestrianised shopping streets linked by bustling boulevards, such as avenue de 6 Juin.

The outskirts of Caen are thriving industrial zones but do not make for a particularly attractive approach to the city.


There is an airport 7km west of Caen at Carpiquet (02 31 71 20 10) with bus services running into town at the place Courtonne. Both the gare SNCF and gare routière are south of the town across the river. The main tram line has been running from the gare SNCF up the av. de 6 Juin to the university since 2002. The tourist office is on place St Pierre (02 31 27 14 14) at the northern end of the av. de 6 Juin.

Map of Caen

Few hotels in Caen have restaurants as well as there are plenty of restaurants in town already. Places to stay are numerous but not particularly inspiring, a knot of them being found west of the castle and tourist office but most are spread across the city. Try the St Jean, 20 rue des Martyrs (02 31 86 23 35) with rooms from €30 to €45, or the Dauphin, 29 rue Gémare (02 31 86 22 26) for €55 75.

The castle ramparts are a good place to begin your tour of Caen as you get a fine view of the whole city. You can also visit the Exchequer within the castle walls, and see the replanted medieval garden with its herbs and medicinal plants. The Musée des Beaux Arts and the Musée de Normandie offer general overviews of European art (Renaissance to modern day) and Norman history respectively for under €10 for the pair.

The Abbaye aux Hommes, whose église St Étienne is the eventual resting place of William, is now home to the Hotel de Ville. In contrast, the Abbaye aux Dames on the other side of town was William's wife Mathilda's attempt to save her soul after marrying her cousin. The église de la Trinité is her church and more interesting than her husband's.

There is a Friday market on the Fosse St Julien, or a Sunday alternative at place Courtonne. Two main eating areas are the quartier Vaugueux, a trendier, cosmopolitan area, and west of the ramparts the rue Gémare and rue des Croisiers have traditional French restaurants. L'Insolité at 16 rue du Vaugueux (02 31 43 87 87) has alfresco dining and offers good seafood dishes for €15 and upwards. La Petite Auberge at 17 rue des Équipes d'Urgence (02 31 86 43 30) is homely with Norman specialities (tripe optional) on menus from + €15.