As the capital of Lower Normandy, Caen is a thriving university city with exceptional historical heritage.
© Pierre Jeanson
William the Conqueror lent the town his favour in the 11th century and commissioned many of the city's most famous sites including the Abbey aux Hommes and the Abbey aux Dames, where his wife Mathilde is buried. Caen was rebuilt after the War, it is only two hours away from Paris and has regular ferries to Portsmouth. The city has something to offer everyone!
Worth a visit
- Caen Memorial : After visiting the D-Day Beaches, a visit to the Caen Memorial, a museum for Peace, is a must. On 6th June 1944 Allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches to storm occupied Europe. The thousands of white crosses which fill the cemeteries in the region are mute witnesses to the violence of the battles which followed. In 1988, on the very soil where the battles were fought, the Caen Memorial was inaugurated. It is designed around the battle of Normandy, but above all it is intended to be an international cultural centre dedicated to peace. The displays are superbly presented, using modern design techniques which make wide use of film. The room devoted to D-Day is particularly fascinating because it uses a large screen, divided into two, to follow the landings simultaneously from the Allied and German viewpoints. The Nobel Peace Prize gallery celebrates all the winners of the Prize since it was founded.
- Juno Beach Centre : Situated at Courseulles-sur-Mer, this is the only museum on the landing beaches which is devoted to the memory of the role played by Canadian troops during the Second World War. 2,872 Canadians are buried in the Canadian cemetery at Cintheaux.
- Abbaye aux Hommes : To regain the favour of the Pope, who disapproved of his marriage to his distant cousin, the Princess of Flanders, William the Conqueror began the construction of the Abbaye aux Hommes in 1066. It was begun in the Romanesque (Norman) style, but completed in the 13th century in the gothic style. It harbours William's the tomb. The Abbey is a remarkable architectural masterpiece, whose elegant lines mingle the simple Norman style with gothic inspiration and the classical majesty of conventional manors.
- Abbaye aux Dames (place de la Reine Mathilde) : built between 1060 and 1080 by Queen Mathilde, this Abbey is the counterpart of the Abbaye aux Hommes. The 11th century Church of the Holy Trinity, which was refurbished in the 12th century, is a fine example of Norman Art. The superb crypt, with its barrel vaults supported by 16 close-ranked columns, is worth a visit. Queen Mathilde is buried at the heart of the church.
- The Castle was built by William the Conqueror. It was damaged during the bombings in 1944 and restored after the war. Today it houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of fine Arts) and the Musée de Normandie (Normandy museum), the salle de l'Échiquier (Treasury Chamber) and Saint-George's Church.
- Hôtel d'Escoville : This former private house, now the headquarters of the Tourist Office, is one of the most typical examples of early Renaissance architecture in Caen.
- Église Saint-Pierre (church of Saint Peter) : this parish church is remarkable for its luxurious ornamentation. It was begun in the 12th century and completed in the 16th century in the Renaissance style.
- Le Jardin des Plantes (botanical gardens) : In the heart of the city, the Jardin des Plantes owes its originality to Gallard de la Ducquerie, who in 1689, when Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, acquired a garden and filled it with rare plants. Today it is a place to relax or play, where visitors can discover more than 2,000 different species of plants.