Bayeux boasts a fabulous historic centre as well as its world-famous, UNESCO-listed tapestry depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The city had the great good fortune to be swiftly liberated by the Allies in June 1944, but its war museum and British cemetery recall the sacrifices made in these parts.
A visit to the Bayeux Tapestry is the highlight for most tourists to the town. Bayeux’s tapestry dominates notions of the place, to be sure, but as you arrive here, it’s the splendid cathedral that dominates the scene and signals that you’re entering a glorious historic city. The grand bishop’s palace beside the cathedral has been turned into a museum. Spectacular historic houses nearby have been converted into fine restaurants and boutiques.
William the Conqueror
A deep historic roots
Capital of the Bessin area, Bayeux has deep historic roots stretching back to Roman times, although what you see only goes back as far William the Conqueror’s reign – the duke, also King of England by the time, was even present at the cathedral’s consecration in 1077.
The Bayeux Tapestry was probably made in southern England. However, Bayeux, which has long been a wealthy trading town, also has a long tradition in many crafts, including lace and porcelain. This was also an important religious centre, and you will encounter the substantial buildings of former monasteries as you wander around the old town.
On the heels of the Allied forces in 1944
Bayeux was extremely fortunate to avoid most of the destruction and tragedy following D-Day that other Normandy towns suffered. For a very brief moment, Bayeux was capital of Free France and General Charles de Gaulle came to give a stirring speech here, arriving hot on the heels of the Allied forces in June 1944.
Bayeux has its own substantial war museum and British and Commonwealth war cemetery, while the D-Day beaches and many further related World War II museums and memorials lie close by. So do some fine beaches and the lively fishing port of Port-en-Bessin. In the countryside nearby, grand châteaux and abbeys also call for a visit.