As the visitor approaches, Bayeux’s cathedral spires dominate the horizon. This medieval town with its cobbled streets, many restaurants and museums is also home to the world famous Bayeux Tapestry which is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Tapisserie de Bayeux © Ville de Bayeux
Once the ancient Gaul capital of the Bajocasses tribe, Bayeux has always played a key religious role in the area with the consecration of Notre Dame Cathedral by William the Conqueror in 1077. Other fine architectural buildings include the Hôtel-Dieu, the Benedictine monastery and Ursuline convent. In more recent history, the town became the provisional capital of France in 1944 and this episode of the Second World War is remembered at the Général de Gaulle Memorial.
The old town has retained its Middle Age character, with the cathedral at its very heart, and the narrow streets invite the visitor to browse in the shops or to linger in the town’s many bistros. Bayeux’s museums are the place to take in the work of the town’s traditional craftsmen renowned for their skills in the areas of embroidery, lace and porcelain.
Worth a visit
- The Tapestry : is a unique linen canvas with wool embroidery which is an impressive 70 metres long and 50 centimetres high. It was commissioned towards the end of 11th century by Bishop Odon, the brother of William the Conqueror, to decorate the cathedral. The tapestry is one of a kind and this historical document tells the story of the conquest of England by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, including famous scenes of the Battle of Hastings. After plunging into the Medieval world through film and displays, the visit ends in a darkened room with the tapestry itself. Audio guides are available in English for adults and children.
- Old Bayeux and the Notre-Dame Cathedral : the town centre has retained its medieval structure, around the magnificent cathedral, consecrated by William the Conqueror in 1077.
- Conservatoire de la Dentelle : the Lace Conservatory’s role is to preserve and promote traditional lace-making skills which go back over 300 years (website in French)
- Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum : the museum retraces the key events that led to Bayeux becoming the first town in France to be liberated, on the morning of 7 th June 1944 .
- General De Gaulle Memorial : De Gaulle's headquarters of liberated France's first authority were in Bayeux.
- The Public Park with its "weeping beech", one of France's "Most Remarkable Trees"
- Le P'tit Train is the little train which runs from April to the end of September and takes the visitor on a 35 minute journey through the old town and past the main sites. Starting point outside the Tourist Office.