Normandie Tourisme
Soaring church towers have embellished Caen’s skyline since William the Conqueror’s time. The castle, now home to major museums, was a key medieval Norman fort. In World War II, D-Day operations kicked off just down the Orne River, British airborne troops famously securing the vital Pegasus Bridge. Caen’s vast war museum is now also dedicated to peace, and the Orne used by yachts heading for Caen’s central marina and lively centre.

In Caen...

So much history...

Caen lies close to the D-Day landing beaches, to its own ferry port of Ouistreham (with regular connections to Portsmouth), and to beaches and resorts where you can enjoy traditional seaside fun. Caen even has its own yachting marina, the Bassin Saint-Pierre, reaching into the heart of town.

Historically, it was due in large part to William the Conqueror that Caen grew into a great city beside the Orne. William’s wife, Matilda of Flanders, was also involved. Each ordered a grand abbey, the Abbaye aux Hommes for William, the Abbaye aux Dames for Matilda, both hugely impressive places to this day. In between them, the many-turreted castle was one of the most important in the duchy of Normandy; now, its walls conceal two museums.

During the Hundred Years War, Caen was violently attacked by English forces. In the second half of that conflict, English troops occupied the town for a long period, but the results were not all negative, as Caen University was founded at this time and the city retains a reputed university to this day.

Famously, the first crucial, successful action of the Allied D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944 was when British airborne forces secured the bridges downstream of Caen, between Bénouville and Ranville. Bénouville Bridge has gone down in history as Pegasus Bridge, after the emblem of the troops who took the crossing.

Unfortunately, Caen would not be liberated rapidly. After bitter fighting and terrible destruction, Caen was liberated on 9 July 1944. Much of the town had been destroyed. That said, some of Caen’s grandest monuments survived and much of the town was rebuilt in fine Caen stone – by the way, the Tower of London, ordered by William the Conqueror in the 1070s, was built in large part from Caen stone. All told, Caen’s city centre was well restored post-war. It makes an attractive place to visit, with plenty of museums, shops, restaurants and gardens, plus the liveliness of a university town.


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Practical information

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Caen Memorial